The Linda Hall Library

Portrait of Linda Southall Hall
Linda Southall Hall.

The non-profit, privately funded Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri, houses scientific, engineering, and technology resources from the United States and some international works from the 15th century to the present. The library presents technical programs, has digital displays, allows researchers to study there, and provides fellowships for scholars using the collections. It also provides regular library services, such as an online catalog, reference services, and interlibrary loan. It is also a United States Patent and Trademark Resource Center.

Portrait of Herbert Hall
Herbert Hall. Credit:

Grain merchant Herbert Hall and his philanthropist wife, Linda, amassed a fortune but did not have any direct heirs. In their wills, they stated that their home be used as a library that was open to the public and that it be named after Linda Hall. Since the wills did not specify what type of library should be formed, the Trustees, who were five business men, decided to hire a national library consulting firm. The consultants recommended a scientific library and named Joseph Shipman, a librarian and former chemist, as the first director in 1945.

Portrait of Joseph C. Shipman.
Joseph C. Shipman. Credit:

Mr. Shipman studied the holdings of other nearby libraries and determined that Linda Hall Library should not collect works on business, clinical medicine and dentistry. Three important acquisitions increased the collections of the Linda Hall Library:

  • the 1947 purchase of scientific resources of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, which was founded in 1782
  • the 1985 transfer of serials and other works by the Franklin Institute from Philadelphia
  • the 1995 transfer from Manhattan of the Engineering Society Libraries that included serials, monographs, and conference proceedings from AIME, IEEE, ASME, ASCE, and AIChE

Because of the growing collections, more space was needed besides the original mansion. The Main Library was opened in 1956, with two significant additions in 1995 and 2007. The History of Science Center and offices were moved to the original library building. In 1964, a new History of Science Center was built on the site of the original mansion; the new Center includes architectural pieces from the first library.

The Linda Hall Library offers lectures, exhibitions, and borrowing privileges for residents near its facility. Other researchers may travel and do research; the History of Science Center requires advance notice.

Online resources include: catalog, exhibitions, search engine for “difficult to find engineering papers”, and digital collections site. Scholars can apply for fellowships who use this library’s resources for their research or who are interested in the History of Science.

The Library continues to grow its collection. There are 48,000 journals and about 500,000 monographs. Besides engineering, physics, and chemistry, the library also has important works in aeronautics, astronomy, earth science, environmental science, infrastructure studies, life sciences, and mathematics.

Lisa Browar, President of the Linda Hall Library, writes in the 2015-2016 Annual Report “where the future of other libraries is in electronic information, the Linda Hall Library’s future remains secure as a print based library of contemporary and historic scientific literature. The Library continues to augment its print holdings with scientific serials and other research materials once held by the libraries that have had to remove them to make way for repurposed learning environments. The Linda Hall Library’s retention of historic printed information will assure its continued survival and use for generations of scholars to come.

The Linda Hall Library similarly finds opportunity in a world challenged to promote science literacy among adults.”

The references listed below provide more details about this unique library.


About the Library. . Accessed 10 March 2018.

Browar, Lisa. “Letter from the President.” Biennial Report of the Linda Hall Library Trust and Affiliates 2015-2016. . Accessed 12 March 2018.

Christiansen, Donald. “What Happened to the Engineering Societies Library?” IEEE*USA InSight. 20 April 2017. . Accessed 12 March 2018.

History of the Linda Hall Library Research Guide. . Accessed 10 March 2018.

Shipman, Joseph. “Linda Hall Library.” College and Research Libraries, vol. 16, no. 2, 1955, . Accessed 10 March 2018.


AIChE – American Institute of Chemical Engineers

AIME – American Institute of Mining Engineers

ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers

ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers

IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers


Isabel Altamirano, Engineering and Chemistry Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology

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