Don’t underestimate the resources of the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress. Here are a few statistics:
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 38 million books and other printed materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 70 million manuscripts.
The Library receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 12,000 items to the collections daily. The majority of the collections are received through the Copyright registration process, as the Library is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. Materials are also acquired through gift, purchase, other government agencies (state, local and federal), Cataloging in Publication (a pre-publication arrangement with publishers) and exchange with libraries in the United States and abroad. Items not selected for the collections or other internal purposes are used in the Library’s national and international exchange programs. Through these exchanges the Library acquires material that would not be available otherwise. The remaining items are made available to other federal agencies and are then available for donation to educational institutions, public bodies and nonprofit tax-exempt organizations in the United States.
Here is a breakdown by category:
24,189,688 cataloged books in the Library of Congress classification system
14,660,079 items in the nonclassified print collections, including books in large type and raised characters, incunabula (books printed before 1501), monographs and serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports, and other printed material
- 3,670,573 audio materials, (discs, tapes, talking books, other recorded formats)
- 70,685,319 manuscripts
- 5,581,756 maps
- 17,153,167 microforms
- 1,809,351 moving images
- 8,189,340 items of sheet music
15,071,355 visual materials including:
- 14,290,385 photographs
- 107,825 posters
- 673,145 prints and drawings
3,392,491 other items, (including machine-readable items)
Users of the Library’s research areas, including Computer Catalog Centers, and Copyright Office public service areas are each required to have a Reader Identification Card issued by the Library. Cards are free and can be obtained by completing a registration process and presenting a valid driver’s license, state-issued identification card, or passport. Researchers must be 16 and above years of age at time of registration. Questions should be directed to 202-707-5278.
A Reader Identification Card is a permanent card which remains valid for two years. To ensure patron information has remained unchanged, at the end of the two year period, each reader must renew their card in person by returning to the Reader Registration Station and presenting a valid form of identification.
One area I am always interested in is the policy on copying records. Here is a screenshot of the explanation of copying and printing services with a link to the page.
Here is a further copy of the portion of the list that qualifies the use of cameras.
For me, the most valuable collection on the Library of Congress website is the Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers.
Every genealogist should become familiar with this website. You will find a wealth of resources and hopefully an incentive to visit the library in Washington, D.C.