The Library of Congress is the library of the American people. It ranks alongside the British Library in London as the biggest in the world, with over 150 million items in its collection. While the general public can't borrow books from the library, it has become the de facto national library, promoting literacy and American literature throughout America and the world. It is the "library of last resort", meaning any library in America needing a book it cannot find elsewhere can request it from the Library of Congress, which by law must receive two copies of everything published in the country.
Thomas Jefferson sold his entire book collection to the library to restock it after it was burned down by the British in 1812, and so the main library building is named after him in his honour. This building is right behind the US Capitol Building which used to house the library. It's a grand building, outclassing the New York Public Library. The only criticism people could level at the building after it was completed was that it was too impressive. Decorated with works commissioned from over 50 American artists the building threatened to outshine its more important neighbour.
This was definitely my favorite place on Capitol Hill. The architecture is absolutely beautiful! It was more intricate and in a different style than I'd seen anywhere else in Washington, D.C. You also get to see some books of historical significance, like some of Thomas Jefferson's library and a Gutenberg Bible. If you want to go into the Reading Room, you will need a library reader card. It doesn't take long to obtain one and it's definitely worth it. The dome is really pretty and there are statues of historical figures around it. I picked out a huge book about foreign cultures when I was there, but ended up being unable to read it because I was staring at the amazing architecture of the dome and the room the whole time!
The family spent seven weeks in Washington, DC and part of Virginia. It is unbelievable what one can do with seven weeks; but even that seemed little when compared to the many attractions of the area. One attraction of interest was the Library of Congress; it is the national library of the United States of America. It is incredibly vast with all sorts of books, maps, photos, films, music, musical instruments, folk music recordings, manuscripts, and personal letters and papers its collections. The library is the mecca of all books. Instituted for Congress in 1800, it remains the single most powerful tool for Congress. Only Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress, high ranking members of government and Library employees can check out books. It is the congressional library and has all books ever published; at least that is what they say. It has an incredible collection of books that are available upon request. Access to the main reading rooms is restricted to researchers and patrons who have access. Access is by having a library card issued by the library, it is of course accessible to all and is a cultural repository for the world.
There are really just two reasons you may want to visit the Library of Congress : to see the many exhibits of cultural artifacts from the collections or to actually use the library for personal research. A legal library card issued by the library is required for personal research. You can get the library card by applying for one at Madison Building. The process was simple; show a valid identification (passport or driver’s license), get paperwork to fill in, proceed to step two (fill out a computer information form and submit), step three get photo taken and card is issued. The team at the Madison building is very efficient and pleasant.
The Library is rather big; consisting of three city block-sized buildings on Capitol Hill. The James Madison Building where library cards are issued was opened in 1980. The Thomas Jefferson Building, facing the U.S. Capitol was opened in 1897 and is the most visually recognizable by visitors and lastly, the John Adams Building which was opened in 1939. All three are open to the public but you will want to remember that the exhibits, great hall, and the interactive visitor center are in the Jefferson Building.
Every floor, ceiling and wall in the library is a work of art. The familiar feeling of being inside the Sistine Chapel or the Basilica of St. Peters in Rome literally filled us up; that’s how beautiful the library is. One gets that feeling of new yet old. It is by far the most beautiful building interior the family has seen in all of Washington. The art and different quotes on the walls of the upper floor are fascinating
Music performances in the Coolidge Auditorium and film series in the Pickford Theater are also held at the Library. The first lady is scheduled to do a reading at the library before the end of summer. Check the Library's web site for current exhibits and schedule of other activities.
My family and I, drove down to Washington with the mind to tour the Library of Congress and City Hall. It was an incredibly hot day, so we did not spend much time outside except walking from the parking garage to the Library. We got there an hour and a half before the library was due to close. We went through security and checked with the front desk for information on where and how to get library cards. Mark and I had agreed we would get the library cards before we could tour, and so we did. That part was interesting in itself. Apparently if you want a library card you have to walk almost a quarter mile (perhaps a little exaggerated) to the Madison Building. Once we were there though, the process was simple; show a valid identification (passport or drivers license), get paperwork to fill in, proceed to step two (fill out a computer information form and submit), step three get photo taken and card is issued. The team at the Madison building was incredibly efficient and pleasant except for the gentleman who took my photo, he looked like he did not like his job much or did not like my look. I could not tell which one it was, but I could care less.
The library of congress is the mecca of all books. Instituted for Congress in 1800, it remains the single most powerful tool for Congress. Only Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress, high ranking members of government and Library employees can check out books. It is the congressional library and has all books ever published; at least that is what they say. It has an incredible collection of books that are available upon request. Access to the main reading rooms is restricted to researchers and patrons who have access. Access is by having a library card issued by the library.
Specialty books like the collection of Bibles intrigued me greatly. Mark and I have planned to return every so often until we have seen all sections of the library. Exhibits like Jefferson’s library and Carl Jung’s Red book are nothing short of outstanding!
Every floor, ceiling and wall in the library is a work of art. I felt like I was in the Sistine Chapel or the Basilica of St. Peters in Rome literally; that’s how beautiful the library is. One gets that feeling of new yet old. It is by far the most beautiful building interior I have seen in all of Washington, and I have seen quite a few. The art on the walls and different quotes on the walls of the upper floor are fascinating.
With library cards in hand, we had access to the main reading room, not just seeing it through sound proof glass on the balcony above. Because we had little ones with us, we did not see much or stay to read. We have planned a three hour visit next time; I cannot wait to read some of the old bibles and visit the rare books section of the library. The depth of the collection it represents makes this library a work to marvel at. Tours are available at no fee, take time to go on one of them to get the best out of your visit. It is a big library with so much to see and read.
Because it is a library, I can see why many tourists would overlook it. But it is not just any library, it is ‘the’ library; the national treasure of the United States. It is intriguing, fascinating, marvelous, beautiful, weird (I heard someone refer to it so), you will love it. No photographs allowed in the reading rooms.
Admittance is Free!
Operating Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
What a absolutely beautiful building. The wall and ceiling paintings and sculptures carved into the pillars and stairways are stunning. What is great about this building is it belongs to US Congress and any U.S. citizen. Yet, it is Free for everyone to get in and explore pretty much the whole building. I highly suggest you take one of their FREE tours because you learn so much from them and will make sure you see the items that are most significant, although it was all wonderful. There are many wonderful rooms with significant exhibits such as Exporing The Early Americas (the first map with the name America on it), Bob Hope Exhibit (brings back some wonderful memories of a great man), The Creating The United STates Constitution(Jefferson Book Collection ~Awesome), and one that touches my heart is The Last Full Measure (Civil War ambrotype and tintype photographs). Oh, you get to peak from above the library room, which by the way, anyone can get a library card too;)
You will have to go through security screening in and out!
While it is true that the National Library is the largest library in the world with over 90 million archived materials and serves as the research arm of the United States Congress, even these impressive facts miss the sheer beauty of the building's exquisite interior. As the oldest federal cultural institution it has a storied past from Thomas Jefferson selling his massive personal collection of books to the United States to give the then new enterprise a massive boost to losing over half of its collection to a massive fire some 50 years after its inception. Originally part of the Congressional building of the day, it was decided to build it a separate and much safer (read, fire-proof) house of its own.
A good friend who had recently visited DC prior to us suggested we not miss this national treasure and she was very much right. It was perhaps our favorite place in DC. It's a magnificent and elegant building and one cannot help being in awe walking around its various rooms and hallways. It's one of the more impressive man made things I have seen in the US. It is open to the public for free and you can even use its resources by applying for a free library card. Free tours are even given. Amazing.
Since the beginning of this nation, there has been an understanding that an education public would be required to achieve the national ideals. While they didn't all agree on everything else, this was common. The Library of Congress was created in 1800. Then on August 24, 1814, British troops burned the Capitol building. At that time, the Library was located in the Capitol. This act destroyed the 3,000 volumes of the collection. On January 30, 1815, Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950. From this the collection has grown to 142 million items, including; books, music, recordings, maps, and images.
Unless you're a scholar, you'll not be able to easily access the reading room or stacks, but you can use their 'digital library' right from your computer. Just used this link and you'll be there.
She's a grand ol' dame. The Library of Congress. THE LARGEST LIBRARY IN THE WORLD. Across the street from the United States Capital Building. Books...beyond belief. Maps...beyond belief. Recordings...anything published. BUT...outside of the building are some of the most incredible bas relief sculptures, architectural details and flags.
For me, the Library of Congress is famous for its ornate reading room -- an architectural homage to research that my brother farted loudly in while returning a legal book. For everyone else, the Library of Congress should be a place to go see some of the world's most precious books. You can see a Gutenberg Bible and a Mainz Bible, both printed before 1500. You can see one of the oldest ,maps in the world that depicts the Americas. You can see Thomas Jefforson's original library, highlighting certain rare books in his collection. Importantly, some of these works are put in a broader, narrative context to make them even more meaningful
This was visually the most beautiful place I visited in DC. The detail in design and architecture was really amazing. During our visit we were able to view Thomas Jefferson's library collection of books. The book titles ranged from medical to law books. Some classic fiction books. There were thousands of books he had and seems to have been preserved very well. We saw the reading room which is actually used by the public. Also, one of the very few institutions that have a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, also has a copy. A definite place to see. There is no cost to see the library, see their website for hours.
After the enactment of the copyright law of 1870, which requires all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work, the Library of Congress became overwhelmed by the volume literature it was accumulating, and in 1873 Congress authorized a competition to design plans for the new Library. The result is the current building and when it opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897, it was hailed as a glorious national monument and "the largest, the costliest, and the safest" library building in the world.
The building itself is worth a visit with all of its ornate columns, arches, and mosaics. The availability of reading material is another reason for spending time here. But there are always several temporary exhibitions on different subject matters. Documents and diaries of the Spanish Conquistadores in the New World have recently been shown. In the basement there is a great display of photos, radio scripts, and memorabilia from the Vaudeville era- Marx brothers, Ira Gerswhin, Bob Hope, etc. with some very silly and politically incorrect material from that era.
I would dare say that a visit to the Library of Congress will be a pleasant surprise to anyone who takes the time to enjoy its charms.
We did not have enough time to visit the Library in detail. However, we took a rest from hiking and spent time to marvel at its architecture.
Library of Congress is situated a block east of the Capitol and has about 100 million items, including 26 million books, 36 million manuscripts and maps, photographs, sheet music and musical instruments. It is the largest library in the world. Books from the Library were used to light the 1814 Capitol fire, after which President Jefferson sold his collection to the library to get the numbers back up. The best part of the library is the 1997 Jefferson Building, with its vaulted ceilings and ornate decorations.
There are a lot of great exhibits at the Library of Congress (where else can you see a Gutenberg Bible?) but waiting in line outside to get in is a drag. If you're going during a popular time, it's well worth your while to go in via the "back door," which in this case is across the street.
This route does take a bit of an adventurous spirit, as it's easy to get lost...it really isn't for tourists, but for researchers using the Library, so the path isn't super easy to follow. Regardless, here's what to do:
If you're facing the front of the main Library of Congress building--the one with the big rotunda--look at the big building across the street to your right (at First Street and Independence Avenue SE). That's where you're going; it's the Madison Building. Cross the street, go through the metal detector, and ask the security guards how to get to the tunnel...or if you just want to go for it, turn left after you get inside and go down the corridor until you see a stairwell. Go down to the basement and look for signs to the Jefferson Building--yes, that's the one with the rotunda--and take the tunnel. Now you're in the basement at the back of the main building. Start exploring!
Of course, you can't get into the main rotunda or any of the reading rooms unless you have a Reader Identification Card. You can get one near the entrance to the Madison Building, so that's another reason to go in that way. It's the first room on the left once you're inside. Anyone over 18 can get a card upon presentation of any government-issued picture identification, such as a driver's license.
After you're done seeing everything, make sure you go out the main exit--which takes you past the long line of tourists still waiting to get in...
During the War of 1812, the British Army took Washington and burned it. The new library, built in 1800, was not spared. However, after the war former President Thomas Jefferson bequeathed his personal book collection to the new, rebuilt library. These 6,487 volumes outnumbered those of the original library.
So began the world's largest library. It now comprises over 29 million books, 12 million photographs, 58 million manuscripts, 2.7 million recordings, and much more.
It's housed in the Thomas Jefferson Building, completed in 1897. It was restored in 1984. This imposing structure is beautiful inside and out. Some parts are closed to the public, reserved for official use only. But one can visit most of the building, including the magnificent Great Hall.
Be sure the visit some of the exhibits, such as the Bob Hope exhibit and the collection of cartoons by Herb Block.
The Library of Congress comprises of 3 buildings, the Adams, Jefferson and Madison. From the outside along 1st St., which is all we were able to see because it was closed when we went, the Jefferson building makes the other two pale in comparison. It is spectacular! Beautiful Renaissance-style archetecture made of white Italian marble, ornate carvings and a fountain featuring the Roman god Neptune, it is definitly a sight to behold.