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Library of Congress

The Library of Congress

Written by Scott Messmore
The Library of Congress is the largest collection of knowledge the world has ever known. And the majority of the collections isn't even in the English language. Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the oldest cultural institution in the United States. The first goal of the Library of Congress is to provide information to members of Congress in
the performance of their duties. The Library of Congress is open to all members of the public above high school age. Books and other materials cannot be taken from the Library of Congress and a short registration form is required to use the collections. The Library of Congress stacks are not open to the public, staff will retrieve material for researchers. The size and scope of the collections at the Library of Congress is almost unimaginable.

530 Miles of Shelves at the Library of Congress

Nearly 119 million separate items occupy 530 miles of shelving with millions and millions of books, maps, photographs, sound recordings, rare books, telephone books and much more. The Cartography
Library of Congress
Section holds 4.5 million items. More than one million doctoral dissertations are at the Library of Congress along with the world's largest collection of comic books. The newspaper collection is also the most extensive in the world with papers dating back to the late 1600s. The Library of Congress has been a forerunner in recording folklore of common citizens. The Library of Congress has more recordings of spoken American Indian languages and music than any other organization. The Print and Photography Division has nearly 14 million images of all types, ranging from the American Civil War to arts and entertainment and poster art. The historical papers of the presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge are also stored at the Library of Congress.

Jefferson's Library

The modern Library of Congress is based on the collection of former president and author of the
Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. In 1815, Congress decided to purchase Jefferson's private library of more than 6,000 volumes after invading British troops burned Washington D.C. during the War of 1812. After another fire destroyed much of the Jefferson book collection in the 1850s, many of the books were replaced. The Library of Congress is assembling Jefferson's library once again for the Library's Bicentennial celebrations in 2000. The Library of Congress exhibit will show visitors which books were actually owned by Thomas Jefferson, which were replaced after the 1851 fire and how many still need to be added to the collection. The Jefferson Library exhibit
Library of Congress
will show the wide range of talents of the man. Jefferson was a politician, patriot, author and architect. Jefferson was also a man who wrote of the evils of slavery and yet owned many slaves who worked on his plantations. Visitors will be able to see a rough draft of the original Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's letters of instruction to Lewis and Clark before the set out to explore the western territories and accounting books kept by the Jefferson family from their Monticello homestead.

Hours of Operation and Location

Visitors can take tours of the Library of Congress from Monday to Saturday, starting in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson building. Tours start at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. For tour information, call 202-707-4684. For group tours of 10 to 60 people, call the visitors services office at 202-707-0190. Group
Library of Congress
tours are offered only from Monday through Friday. The Library of Congress consists of three buildings, the Thomas Jefferson Building (the main library), the James Madison Building and the John Adams Building. The Thomas Jefferson Building is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Researchers can use the Library of Congress materials in the Jefferson Building from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The James Madison Building is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. The John Adams Building is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A cafeteria is located in the James Madison Building and coffee shops are in the Adams and Madison Buildings.

For tour information, call 202-707-4684.

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Last Updated: September 23, 2015