The Ethics Library was established at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics in 1973 with funding from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation to support research projects at the Institute, such as the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Bioethics and the NLM-sponsored compilation of the annual Bibliography of Bioethics and its counterpart database, BIOETHICSLINE.
In 1985 this growing information resource was awarded a competitive five year grant by the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health to become the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature (NRCBL), dedicated to collecting and organizing the burgeoning bioethics literature, and providing reference services. The original grant was extended for three years, and eventually converted to an NLM contract that continued through 2009.
A grant from the predecessor of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NIH) provided for the establishment of the National Information Resource on Ethics and Human Genetics on September 1, 1994. The NHGRI supported this resource until July 31, 2011.
The library continues as the Bioethics Research Library at Georgetown University. Its holdings represent the world’s largest collection related to ethical issues in medicine and biomedical research. This collection functions both as a reference library for the public and as an in depth research resource for scholars from the U.S. and abroad.