The Library of Congress restricts access to its storied main reading room, above. Only researchers and those with appropriate Reader Identification Cards may use the room.

Photograph by Cisse Brimberg, National Geographic
  • On April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress was established in Washington, D.C. President John Adams signed the legislation and offered $5,000 to purchase the first set of books. The books were originally stored in the U.S. Capitol. However, in August 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops burned down the building. This destroyed the library’s collection of 3,000 volumes. Less than one year later, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s personal library—6,487 books. This collection was the start of what soon would be the largest library in the world.
    Today, the Library of Congress is the home of more than 142 million books, maps, photographs, recordings, and manuscripts. It is one of the largest cultural institutions in the world. The Library of Congress adds 10,000 items each day. It has more than 1,056 kilometers (650 miles) of bookshelves. The library contains materials in 470 languages, with roughly half its resources made available in languages other than English.
    The Library of Congress also has many offices abroad. This allows for the collection, cataloging, and preservation of resources from more than 60 countries including India, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, and Pakistan. The Library of Congress is currently working on the development of a World Digital Library, in the hopes that people around the world will have direct access to these materials. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Capitol Noun

    official building used by the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

    catalog Verb

    to list or order by type.

    digital Adjective

    having to do with numbers (or digits), often in a format used by computers.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    legislation Noun

    law, legal act, or statute.

    library Noun

    place containing books and other media used for study, reference, and enjoyment.

    manuscript Noun

    written material.