After many visits to the Library of Congress located on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, where the only way I could view the Reading Room was from a balcony, it was thrilling to finally walk through the Reading Room and the Main Card Catalog area during the bi-annual Open House. The staff and volunteers provided a lot of interesting information and the card catalog was such a throwback to my high school days.
The Library of Congress originally began inside the US Capitol in 1800 but now consists of three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson Building (1897) is the original building and is separate from the other two, the John Adams Building (1938) and the James Madison Memorial Building (1981). The library collection includes more than 158 million items consisting of more than 36.8 million books and other print materials in 470 languages. It is the largest rare book collection in North America, has over 68.9 million manuscripts and is the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.
The Library is the research arm of Congress and is recognized as the National Library of the United States. As the world’s largest library, it’s a fantastic resource to scholars and researchers. The material is open to those age 16 and older without charge but there are caveats. Check here for information on how to research at the library.
As a book lover, the Library fascinates me. In 2013, the staff responded to more than 636,000 congressional reference requests as well as provided to Congress approximately 23,000 volumes from the Library’s collections. It also registered 496,599 claims to copyright.
During your visit to the Library of Congress, don’t miss the Gutenberg Bible which is on display year-round. The bible is the first important book printed in Western Europe using movable metal type and signaled a turning point in the art of bookmaking.The Gutenberg Bible was completed around 1455 at Mainz, Germany and sparked the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world by providing the written word to all people including commoners.
Next time the Reading Room will be open to the public will be President’s Day ~ February 16, 2015.