The joint library of the National Museums of Kenya and the East African Natural History Society (Nature Kenya) was established in 1910 with the aim of maintaining a reference collection for research. It is a Special Research Library which is recognized as one of the best Natural History Libraries in Africa having won several awards.

Today, the Library is a modern state of the art facility located on the ground floor of the prestigious Heritage Centre Building with a serene reading atmosphere all aimed at ensuring that readers can access information in different formats.

Some History of the Library
In over one century of existence, it has not always been smooth sailing for the library. In February 1998, when the library was still housed on the ground floor of the Nairobi National Museum building, a water tap in one of the offices upstairs was left running leading to flooding on the ground floor. This affected 573 books, 17 of which were badly damaged. The rest were restored thanks to the efforts of the team of archivists, librarians and a conservator.

In September 2005, the provision of library services was disrupted when the library was forced to relocate to pave way for the renovation and expansion of the Nairobi National Museums. Consequently, the library collection was temporarily boxed and stored in the former Heritage Shop and later transferred to the former Large Mammal Hall.

To facilitate the provision of library services, limited space was made available at the Natural Sciences Building Seminar room where only the most heavily used books could be accommodated using compact shelving. The rest of the books, all periodicals and reprints remained in boxes for about 2 years as the construction work of a new library building continued.

On 9th October 2007, the library finally moved into its current location in a new purpose built library on the ground floor of the Heritage Centre Building and opened its doors to the public.

From humble beginnings, the library has grown tremendously in terms of space, collection size, collection format, relevance, technology, staffing and membership

The collection covers all academic disciplines with particular focus on areas relevant to NMK and NK’s mandates such as anthropology, archaeology, botany, entomology, environmental biology, natural science, ichthyology, ornithology, museology and others. Its key role is to collect, organize, preserve, disseminate and enhance access to information and improve access to specialized information for NMK and NK’s aims and objectives. Special collections include: Archbishop of East Africa Right Reverend Leonard Beecher’s Collection, Prof. Jack Harris’s Collection, Nature Kenya’s Conservation Action’s Section and Belcher Birds Collection.

In addition to these special collections, the library holds, over 30,000 books, 30,000 reprinted works, over 500 audio visual materials and over 60,000 periodicals including journals.

The newspaper collection dates back to the 1980s and has over 28,000 issues which can be used as a resource for primary or secondary research.

Children’s Corner
The library has introduced a well-equipped children’s corner where children of all ages may cultivate the all essential reading habit and hopefully aspire to be future natural history researchers or environmental champions. The children’s section is well stocked with useful books in all subjects. Parents are encouraged to take advantage of this new product in the museum library by registering their children as members at a minimal fee. For more information, contact us on email address :

Should the rich ocean of information become overwhelming, the library has a lounge where visitors and members are welcome to take a break from research by reading newspapers, filling out crosswords or watching some television. Newspapers and television can also be valuable research tools. With prior arrangements, discussion groups can be held to further research.

Closed Access Materials
In closed access, the library has a collection of rare books such as check lists for amphibians and reptiles, game animals, fish, worms, rotifers & protozoa and many more.
A collection of thesis provides insight into some of the research that NMK scientists have carried out throughout the years.

Library Facilities
Computers, Internet Services, Scanners, Public Access Catalogue to enhance information retrieval, Compact/Rolling Shelves for the perseveration of rare collections. A ramp is provided for the physically challenged clients.

Success Stories
One of the library’s success stories is the digitization of the Journal of East African Natural History Society ( ) and other Nature Kenya books. The library also digitized the SWARA magazine for the East African Wildlife Society, and Tanganyika Notes and Records for the University of Dar es Salaam.

Electronic Resources
Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Research for Life ( ), NMK researchers have online access to over 700 journal titles and other academic and professional peer-reviewed content.

More online content is available to NMK researchers through a participating agreement with Journal Storage (JSTOR ), which is mainstreaming Science Technology and Innovation (STI) by providing researchers with access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.
Additionally, NMK’s MOU with the Biodiversity Heritage Library ( ) is contributing to improving research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.

Library clientele comprise NMK staff, affiliates working at any of the museums, Museum Board of Governors, Nature Kenya and Kenya Museum Society members, Librarians from established libraries and at a minimal fee, the general public.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library Africa, an affiliate of the global Biodiversity Heritage Library
Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC)
Kenya Library Association

User services
• Internet
• Reference Service
• Digitisation
• Inter-Library Loans
• Current Awareness Service (CAS)
• Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI)
• Lending
• Binding
• Typing/Printing
• Television watching & Daily Newspapers
• Purchase of books

National Museums of Kenya Library
P.O. Box 40658 00100
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 3742131/4

Opening hours
Monday – Friday 8.30am – 5.00pm
Weekend & Public Holidays Closed