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Washington D.C.


District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)

Library Of Congress

The library's collections include over 14 million books and 36 million manuscripts, including the personal papers of most U.S. presidents
The library's collections include over 14 million books and 36 million manuscripts, including the personal papers of most U.S. presidents

 
 
The Library of Congress was created in 1800 to provide "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." Over the succeeding years, and supported largely by funds appropriated by Congress, it has grown to become the national library of the United States, serving all government branches and the public at large.

Since the 1870s it has also administered the American copyright system. It publishes the National Union Catalog--a cumulative record of the books housed in 2,500 libraries in the United States and Canada--which serves as a basic bibliographic and catalog source; prints and distributes cataloging data for subscriber libraries; and has developed and popularized a numerical system of subject classification. The library's Congressional Research Service prepares reports on any topic at the request of a member of Congress.

The library's collections include over 14 million books and 36 million manuscripts, including the personal papers of most U.S. presidents up to Calvin Coolidge. It also holds maps, music, art prints, photographs, motion pictures, videotapes, newspapers, pamphlets, recordings and other materials--for a total of more than 88 million items.

Because of its copyright function, it receives a copy of every book copyrighted in the United States. The American Folklife Center, administered by the library, collects and preserves American folklore; it supports research projects and presents performances and exhibitions of folk music, arts, and crafts.

The library was originally housed in the Capitol, and most of its books were destroyed when the British shelled the building during the War of 1812. The major step in rebuilding the collection was taken in 1815, when Congress purchased the 6,000-volume personal library of Thomas Jefferson. With the purchase of the books of Dr. Otto H.F. Vollbehr in 1930, the library more than doubled the size of its collection of incunabula, which is now the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The main Library of Congress building was erected in 1897; the library also occupies the Thomas Jefferson building, formerly called the annex, and the new James Madison building.

The post of Librarian of Congress, appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, has often gone to eminent scholars and artists, as well as to professional librarians. Recent Librarians of Congress include Archibald MacLeish (1939-44), L. Quincy Mumford (1954-74), Daniel J. Boorstin (1974-87), and James H. Billington (1987- ).

Address:

Open Mon-Fri 8:30am-9:30pm;
Sat & Sun 8:30am-5pm
Phone: 202-707-5000 or -5558

 
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Source: Washington DC CTC
Last modified: 20100219
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