Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics received an $8.1 million federal award and five year contract from the National Library of Medicine last month intended to enhance the institute’s bioethics library and outreach services.

The grant will be given out over the next five years, including $1.4 million in 2005. The National Library of Medicine, which provided the grant, is the largest biomedical library in the world. It bestowed the grant largely to continue the operations of the Kennedy Institute’s National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature in Healy Hall, the largest collection of bioethics materials in the world.

LeRoy Walters, senior professor of Christian ethics at the institute and professor of philosophy at Georgetown, said the institute also plans on using the money to extend outreach programs such as a toll-free telephone number.

The institute fills requests that come through a National Library of Medicine service that allows people to submit requests for journal articles. The institute attempts to fill requests that the NLM cannot and plans to use part of the award money to fulfill requests more efficiently to scholars worldwide.

“Things are not gathered and shelved,” Walters said. “We want to make people aware, through international databases, of our bioethics databases.”

The institute’s main purpose, according to Walters, is to gather a comprehensive collection of books, journal articles, audio-video resources, legislation, court decisions and government reports.

Walters said that people come from all over the world to visit the institute’s library, which is the largest collection of its kind in the world. This “Mecca for bioethics literature” is open to the public and all are welcome to use its resources, Walters said.

Controversial topics such as euthanasia and feminine and reproductive rights are researched through the institute, and according to the institute’s Web site the library is “non-partisan and materials representing a wide variety of theoretical and theological commitments share shelf space.”

The institute, which has been developed over the past three decades, is a top resource for those researching and studying ethics of all types, including business and professional ethics.

It was founded in 1971 with a grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. The institute also sponsors several publications, including the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Feminist Approaches to Bioethics and The Newsletter of the Network on Ethics and Intellectual Disabilities.

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