Welcome to the Library of Congress, the world's largest library. With more than 147 million items on the equivalent of 900 miles of bookshelves, you're going to need help finding what you want. Let us help you. Please select from any of the links below for further information.
You Need to Know:
What's in the World's Largest Library
The collection of nearly 147 million items, in more than 470 languages, includes more than 33 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 65 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; more than 5 million maps; 14 million prints and photographs; 17 million microforms; 6 million pieces of sheet music; 3 million recordings; the world’s largest collection of legal materials; a vast collection of incunabula, monographs and serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports, and other printed material.
Where the Library’s Collections are Housed
The Library’s collections are housed in a variety of physical locations, including:
- The Jefferson building, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
- The Madison building, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
- The Adams building, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
- Ft. Meade, Maryland
- Landover, Maryland
- Culpeper, Virginia.
Getting a Copy of an Item in the Collections
The storage facilities housing the collections are not open to the public (with the exception of general and reference collections housed in the reading rooms). To obtain a copy, you must submit requests to Duplication Services for copies of materials from those areas.
- In order to identify what the Library has and what you need, please consult the Library’s online and card catalogs, reference sources, and reference librarians. We recommend you start with our online guide "Guide to the Collections". This will provide a summary of the types of materials (e.g., photographs, maps, newspapers etc.) in the Library’s vast collections and will direct you to additional resources as necessary.
- Once materials are identified, you need to submit an online request, or contact our Customer Service Center for help placing an order.
What You Should Know Before Ordering
There are known factors that can affect your order. We will process your order as expediently as we can, but getting a copy of something in the Library’s collections depends on 3 key factors:
- Location: The collections are housed in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Depending on location, levels of request, and associated cost, Duplication Services initiates daily (on Capitol Hill), weekly (Landover, MD) and monthly (Culpeper, VA) trips to the collections securely stored in different locations.
- Format: The collections are comprised of materials in a variety of very different formats. For example, what is generally referred to as a photograph may be an original negative, a glass negative, a nitrate negative, or a copy negative. Each format requires us to follow specific preservation, storage, handling, and scanning procedures. Other collection formats and types include microfilm, maps, manuscripts, prints, books, newspapers, and architectural blueprints, all protected for future use by the Library’s policies and procedures, and all requiring variations in approach to duplication.
- Availability: Materials may not be available for a variety of reasons. They may be: on loan to other libraries or for exhibitions; in use by Members of Congress and congressional staff; in use by other researchers or staff; or undergoing preservation treatment.
How Long An Order Takes
The time taken to complete an order varies according to the format of the collections, the format of the copy, the condition and location of the collections, and the type of delivery requested. The quickest orders are those involving readily available materials in good condition, which are scanned and sent to the customer via email. The orders that take the longest to fulfill are those involving materials stored in the Library’s off-site locations, are in poor or fragile condition, require special handling and formatting, and are sent to the customer via standard shipping.
|Paper or digital photocopies of general and special collections||Capitol Hill
Ford Meade, MD
|Varies from general collections available in reading rooms to cool-temperature storage for special collections. Condition varies.||Requires on-site scanning following preservation handling policies and procedures||Please allow 2-3 weeks from the date you submit an order to completion.|
|Digital scans of most photographic and paper-based formats (e.g., books, maps, manuscripts etc.)||Capitol Hill
Ford Meade, MD
|Cool-temperature storage, and individual materials packaged to protect collections. Condition varies.||Requires on-site scanning following preservation handling policies and procedures||Please allow 2-3 weeks from the date you submit an order to completion.|
|Digital scans of nitrate negative photographic materials||Culpeper, VA||Special cool-temperature storage vaults; and individual materials packaged to protect collections||Requires on-site scanning following preservation handling policies and procedures||Please allow 2-3 months from the date you submit an order to completion.|
|Microfilm positive of original materials||Capitol Hill
Ford Meade, MD
|Special cool-temperature storage vaults. Condition varies depending on collection||Requires on-site microfilming if collections are significant and/or brittle||Please allow 6-12 months from the date you submit an order to completion.|
|Duplicate reels of existing microfilm||Capitol Hill||Special cool-temperature storage vaults. Conditions varies depending on previous usage of microfilm reels to make duplicate reels||Requires off-site processing by third-party vendor||Please allow 1-2 months from the date you submit an order to completion.|
The Quality of a Copy
The quality of the media used is of a high standard for scanning, photocopying, and printing, but the image produced can vary depending on the quality and condition of the original materials being copied.
|Format||Media Quality||Image Quality||Image Management|
|High resolution digital scan||High resolution scans adhere to preservation standards established by the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI).||The image on the scan varies depending on the type and condition of the material being copied. If the original image, page, or film is dark, discolored, or blemished, this will appear in a copy.||Our specialists will make limited adjustments to brightness and contrast to enhance the accessibility of the image or text. But in making a copy faithful to the archival record, we do not alter the image in any significant way.|
|Photocopy (digital or paper)||Copies adhere to standard paper photocopy quality, or standard PDF resolution.||The image on the photocopy varies depending on the type and condition of the material being copied. If the original image, page, or film is dark, discolored, or blemished, this will appear in a copy.||Our specialists will make limited adjustments to brightness and contrast to enhance the accessibility of the image or text. The quality is sufficient for reference purposes.|
|Microfilm||Microfilm duplication adheres to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines.||The quality of the microfilm image varies depending on the extent of previous usage of microfilm reels to make duplicate reels. For example, a popular newspaper on microfilm may have been accessed numerous times to make copies for customers. However, the quality is sufficient for reference purposes.||Our specialists will make limited adjustments to brightness and contrast to enhance the accessibility of the image or text.|
The Cost of Copying
Unlike many other services provided by the Library of Congress, Duplication Services is a program that is legislatively required to cover its expenses through fees. As a cost-recovery operation, we are required to charge for our services so that we can pay salaries, purchase duplication equipment and supplies, and provide the customer, accounting, and shipping services necessary to fulfill public orders.
We are a cost-recovery operation, but we are not a commercial operation. In charging for our services, we aim to provide the greatest access to the collections and content of the Library of Congress at the most affordable price. We aim only to recoup our costs and provide for standard re-investment in improving the program. We are not a profit-driven entity.
The typical completion of any single order, involves all of the following steps:
- Customer service and order management
- Bibliographic and cataloging search and confirmation
- Additional research if materials are incorrectly identified or stored
- Retrieval of materials stored in Capitol Hill, Washington DC; Ft. Meade, Maryland; Landover, Maryland; or Culpeper, Virginia
- Identification and retrieval of specific item requested within collections stored by shelf, box, folder, and page
- Additional research if materials are not immediately available or incorrectly stored
- Review by custodial and/or preservation staff to approve duplication of unusual, unique, or brittle materials
- Production associated with scanning, capture, duplication or printing of a digital file, photograph, microfilm, photocopy, or print
- Quality assurance
- Shipping and handling
- Billing and payment transaction
We are proud to support the mission of the Library of Congress, and look forward to helping you access the collections of the world’s largest library.
See our Customer Service page if you need any assistance.