The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and the main research center for Congress. The U.S. Copyright Office is also located in the library.  Founded in 1800, the library has millions of books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, drawings and 800 miles of bookshelves. Half of the library’s book collections are in foreign languages. The books are shelved in three buildings. The manuscript division holds papers from 23 Presidents. They have the Gutenberg Bible, one of the rarest books in the world. The library also collects documentation on  American Indian music and spoken word. It’s free to visit and use and a great resource for scholars and researchers. Since it's a research library, the books are only allowed to be used on the premises. Anyone over the age of 16 may use the collections, you just have to get a free reader card with your photo on it. 

When I was a kid my mother used to always take me to the Library of Congress to study as we lived nearby and I haven't been back in many years. On my recent visit to the Thomas Jefferson Building, the highlight was the Great Hall which is 75 feet tall made of a marble floor and has a stained glass ceiling. It's a beautiful building with marble columns, staircases, mosaics and paintings. The building was full of tourists, many taking the free guided tours offered several times a day. 

Some of the most historic items in the Library's collection are on display in the halls of the Thomas Jefferson Building. You can see the "original rough draft" of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's First Inaugural Address,  handwritten speeches from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, oral accounts from 9/11 First Responders and an Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible which measures 2 x 3 feet when open with 160 illuminations. Alexander Hamilton's papers are available online. 

President Jefferson signed into law legislation to establish a permanent building for the Library of Congress and also a permanent Librarian of Congress was appointed to oversee the Library. Two years ago Carla Hayden, became both the first female and first black person to hold the position of Librarian of Congress.

The Jefferson Building has a coat check and lockers to keep your bags. They also have wifi. The Library buildings are fully accessible and wheelchairs are provided at the Jefferson Building ground floor information desk. 

Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20540
Monday - Saturday 
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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