Smithsonian Libraries: Bestselling Author Katherine Neville Talks Hidden Wonders and Adopt-a-Book Program

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Six years ago, I became the first author ever appointed to serve on the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Libraries, in Washington, D.C.

Even though I recognized what a great honor it was to be invited onto the board of this prestigious and unique institution, I never realized how wonderful it would be for me, personally, to be plunged into this world of fascinating rare books. Like most authors who write bestsellers with historic plots, I love real history coming alive before my eyes: our Smithsonian Libraries comprise the most important museum library system anywhere in the history of the world, chock full of amazing books and documents that we can actually hold in our hands, share with others — and most importantly — rescue for future generations.

The name “Smithsonian” is known by all, and on hearing it, we picture the famous “Castle” on the National Mall in Washington D.C. But the castle is just one of the Smithsonian Institution’s many museums and research centers, scattered all the way from the Tropical Research Center at the Panama Canal to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in New York – not to mention all the museums planted around D.C., like the National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the new African-American History Museum, the Freer/Sackler Oriental History Museums, and so on.

There is a hidden secret that almost nobody knows. It is this: 

Inside 21 of each of those Smithsonian museums and research centers is a fabulous library! And all 2 million books in those libraries belong to us — The American People!

The most exciting program that we have recently created is our “Adopt-a-Book” program. What is it?

Adopt-a-Book permits anyone, anywhere in the world, to “rescue” a rare book from oblivion or save it from disintegration. Here’s how:

There are two categories of books in the Adopt-a-Book program:

  1. Books that we need to buy for the Library, in order to build or to “fill in the blanks” in our important collections;
  1. Books that we already own, that we want to preserve, so they won’t be lost to history forever. (These books are restored in our state-of-the-art conservation laboratory, unequaled in the world.)

NASA Food TechBut, the best part is that we, the American people, not only own these books, we can ADOPT the books, and we can have our personal participation, and our names, forever associated with them! After you adopt a book, a book plate with your name is placed inside it, and you receive a beautiful certificate  showing you are the benefactor of this important piece of our history. Adopting a book is a wonderful thing for children to give their parents/grandparents, and vice versa. It is also an enduring gift for people who have everything.

Because I worked with many friends in the early days of space science, I adopted a book that the National Air and Space Library wanted to acquire, about the value of space technology to modern industry here on earth.

To see what fascinating books are still available for you to adopt, please visit

Have fun!



Katherine Neville _Author_Photo

Katherine Neville‘s award-winning first novel, The Eight (1988), launched her literary career and was recently voted, in a national poll by the noted Spanish journal El Pais, as one of the top ten books of all time. Her books have been translated into 40 languages in more than 80 countries, and have pleased tens of millions of readers around the world.

She is also one of 32 sponsoring co-founders of the International Thriller Writers organization, and an annual co-chair of the Authors Guild Foundation, a member of the Monticello Cabinet, and she has been a keynote speaker or invited guest at diverse venues like the Today Show, the Ateneo de Madrid, the Voice of America, the Turkish Culture Ministry in Ankara, the World Affairs Conference in Boulder Colorado, the Orkney Science Fair in Scotland, National Public Radio, PBS, The Kennedy Center Irish Festival, The Library of Congress, and The Smithsonian Associates program. She lives in Virginia, Washington DC and Santa Fe, NM.

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