Main Reading Room. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C., Carol Highsmith, photographer

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Questions

  1. What materials are in the Library of Congress collections?
  2. Where are the Library of Congress collections stored?
  3. How do I find out if the Library of Congress has the materials I need?
  4. Can I read the full text of books and journals listed in the Library of Congress online catalog?
  5. Does the Library of Congress have the full text of any of its collections available on the Internet?
  6. How can I read a book that is not available at my library but is listed in the collections of the Library of Congress?
  7. Can I ask reference questions of the Library of Congress via email, letter, or telephone?
  8. Where can I find the full text of Congressional bills online?
  9. Who is eligible to do research at the Library?
  10. Where can I find out about Library policies, hours, services, and other information before coming to the Library?
  11. How do I get to the Library of Congress?
  12. Do I need to register or pay a fee to use the Library?
  13. Where do I go to begin to do research in the Library?
  14. Does the Library offer any courses or training for researchers?
  15. Once I've found materials in the catalog, where do I go to see them?
  16. Can I set aside materials to use over more than one day?
  17. Can I go into the stacks to browse or retrieve materials?
  18. Are there restrictions on what sort of items I can bring into the reading rooms?
  19. What online databases and indexes does the Library make available to researchers on site?
  20. Can I make photocopies of materials at the Library?
  21. Can I borrow materials from the Library?
  22. Does the Library provide computer facilities for word processing and other applications?
  23. Is there any place in the Library where I can get change for photocopying or telephones?
  24. How can I identify and locate publisher addresses for books and/or journals?
  25. Can I buy a book from the Library of Congress?
  26. How do I obtain information on an ISBN number or an ISSN number?
  27. Can the Library of Congress tell me how much my book is worth

Answers

  1. What materials are in the Library of Congress collections?

    The Library has in its collections well over 100 million items, in hundreds of different languages and virtually every format--not just books and journals, but also prints, drawings, government documents, photographs, microforms, films, sound and video recordings, manuscripts, and other formats. As large and diverse as the Library's collections are, it does not have every book ever published. While virtually all subject areas are represented in the collections, the Library does not attempt to collect comprehensively in the areas of clinical medicine and technical agriculture, which are covered by the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library, respectively. Researchers should also note that the Library of Congress is distinct from the National Archives, which is the major repository for the official records of the United States government.

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  2. Where are the Library of Congress collections stored?

    Because of the extraordinary size and diversity of the Library's collections, there is no one place for researchers to access them. Most (but not all) of the Library's collections are located in the three main buildings of the Library--the Thomas Jefferson Building, James Madison Building, and John Adams Building--near the U.S. Capitol. (The collections of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are housed elsewhere; consult their web page for more information.) Researchers coming to the Library can access materials in over 20 public reading rooms in the Jefferson, Adams, or Madison Buildings, depending on the format, subject, or language of the materials they are using. Most researchers use more than one reading room during their stay here. An annotated list of the Library's reading rooms is available on the Library of Congress website, as is the full text of Information for Researchers, a Library publication introducing prospective researchers to Library policies and services.

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  3. How do I find out if the Library of Congress has the materials I need?

    There is no one resource which lists all of the Library's holdings. Most of the Library's books, journals, and microforms from 1968 to the present are listed in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. The online catalog also has partial listings of some of the Library's non-book collections (e.g. manuscripts, sound recordings, sheet music), and partial listings of pre-1968 books, journals and microforms. Library of Congress materials are also listed in online bibliographic databases (e.g. OCLC), which are available at local libraries; consult your local librarians for more information on these services.

    Not all of the Library's collections are listed in the online catalogs. The online catalog has only partial listings for non-book materials, and for books and monographs older than 1968. For older books, monographs, and serials, off-site researchers can consult the various editions of the National Union Catalog and the National Union List of Serials, which list the holdings of many U.S. research libraries including the Library of Congress. The National Union Catalog is available at many local libraries.

    The Library's main card catalog, which lists book and journal holdings to the end of 1980, is located in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building (LJ 100), and can only be searched on site. This is at present the most reliable source of information for books and journals older than 1968. Many of the Library's non-book materials are listed in catalogs available only in the appropriate Library of Congress reading room; consultation with reference staff in the reading room is necessary to locate materials. A list of the Library's reading rooms, with information about their collections and links to their web pages, is available on the Library of Congress website.

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  4. Can I read the full text of books and journals listed in the Library of Congress online catalog?

    The files available through the online catalog provide bibliographic information only. The full text of books and journals is not available through the catalog. However, the Library does make available the full text of some materials via the Internet (see question "5" below).

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  5. Does the Library of Congress have the full text of any of its collections available on the Internet?

    The American Memory project to present digitized versions of American historical materials provides many examples of texts, photographs, sound recordings, and other materials from our collections. Many Library of Congress publications are available in full text online, such as the Handbook for Latin American Studies and Federal Research Division Country Studies/Area Handbooks. Some of the Library's exhibitions are also available on the Internet. Very occasionally, you may also find links in catalog records to the full text of resources which have been digitized by other institutions. However, these are only a small percentage of the Library's total holdings. Also, the Library provides full text of many bibliographies and guides to its collections.

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  6. How can I read a book that is not available at my library but is listed in the collections of the Library of Congress?

    Many of the items listed in the Library of Congress catalogs are available in other libraries. You can ask your local librarian about interlibrary loan service from participating libraries. Your library may be able to borrow a book from the Library of Congress provided it is not available at any other libraries.

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  7. Can I ask reference questions of the Library of Congress via email, letter, or telephone?

    Yes, the following provides guidance on our policy and ways to communicate with us. The Library of Congress encourages researchers to use local library resources first. Your local library will often be able to respond to your query more quickly than the Library of Congress, and is better able to identify and respond to your specific and ongoing needs. In most cases, you will find that the information you need is available at your local library. Once you have exhausted local and regional resources, you may seek the assistance of the Library of Congress by using our Ask A Librarian service. If you do not have Internet access, you may request the Library's assistance by writing correspondence to the following address:
           Library of Congress
           101 Independence Ave. SE
           Washington, D.C. 20540

    For security reasons, all U.S. Postal Service and private carrier mail is being screened off-site prior to arrival at the Library. This often causes delays in responding to print correspondence. For this reason, we recommend that researchers use the online Ask A Librarian service. The Library refers telephone reference questions to local libraries, which in most cases will have the resources to answer those questions. Researchers with questions regarding the Library's collections, services, and programs may call the Library of Congress operator at (202) 707-5000.

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  8. Where can I find the full text of Congressional bills online?

    The Library of Congress maintains the THOMAS legislative database. The full text of bills is available for the 101st Congress, 1989-90, to the present, although bill status and summaries are available going back to the 93rd Congress (1973-74). (The full text of Congressional reports is also available from the 104th Congress, 1995-96, to the present).  For bills from previous Congresses and for government documents, reports prior to the 104th Congress, and Congressional hearings, visit a Federal Depository Library in your area. There is a database of Federal Depository Libraries, searchable by state or area code, available at the Government Printing Office website. Also, your local librarian can give you the location of the depository library in your Congressional district. There you can speak with a government documents librarian.

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  9. Who is eligible to do research at the Library?

    The Library is open to all researchers above high school age (16 years or older) possessing a valid photo identification (e.g. driver's license, passport) with a current address. However, the following policies and limitations apply to minors age 16 and above:

    • The minor’s research project may not be part of a classroom assignment, i.e., a student may not be given an assignment that requires the use of Library of Congress reading rooms or Library collections. The Library’s web page is available to all for this purpose.
    • Groups of minors touring the Library, or those visiting Washington, D.C. as part of other tours may not have access to Library reading rooms. Exhibition halls are open to all.
    • Although a Reader Identification card will be issued to a minor working on a research project, it should be noted that the card does not permit patrons to access all materials in all Library reading rooms. Managers of individual reading rooms may have additional requirements to use their collections.

    Students under the age of 16 who have a compelling research need to use the Library’s collections may petition the Associate Librarian for Library Services for admittance to Library reading rooms.

    In virtually all cases, high school projects can be completed using local libraries or interlibrary loan; the Library encourages high school students to use these resources in their research.

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  10. Where can I find out about Library policies, hours, services, and other information before coming to the Library?

    The Library has over 20 public reading rooms organized by subject, language, or format of material. Hours and policies vary for each. Each reading room has a web page with information on its hours, access policies, and its collections. You can view a consolidated list of reading room hours or listen to a recorded announcement of reading room hours at (202) 707-6400. You can also find out about the Library in published sources such as the American Library Directory (New York: R.R. Bowker, published annually). Such sources are widely available in local libraries.

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  11. How do I get to the Library of Congress?

    The Library's three main buildings--the Thomas Jefferson Building, James Madison Building, and John Adams Building--are located on the 100 and 200 blocks of Independence Avenue SE in Washington D.C. Maps and floor plans for the Library of Congress are available online.
    Directions to the Library of Congress and information about public transportation options are available on the Library's Visitors Web site (because parking facilties near the Library are extremely limited, researchers are encouraged to use public transportation).

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  12. Do I need to register or pay a fee to use the Library?

    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. More information on how to obtain a card is available online.

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  13. Where do I go to begin to do research in the Library?

    If after you have gotten your Reader Identification Card you are uncertain where to go to start your research, you may seek reference assistance in the Main Reading Room (Room 100 in the Jefferson Building). There are Research Guidance Volunteers in LM140 who can assist a researcher find his/her initial path to research his/her subject. Many first-time researchers are referred to the Main Reading Room to get oriented and plan their research in consultation with a reference librarian. You may be referred to another reading room, depending on the subject of your research, or the format or language of the materials you are using. In fact, many researchers need to visit reading rooms in all three of the Library's main buildings to complete their work.

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  14. Does the Library offer any courses or training for researchers?

    The Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library offers a general research orientation to the Library on most (but not all) Monday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and on some Monday evenings from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. The orientations are held in Room G07 of the Jefferson Building. A schedule and overview of the research orientation classes is available online. The schedule for research orientations can also be heard on a recorded message at (202) 707-4608. Advance registration is required for all classes; to register, call (202) 707-3370 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or register online.

    Some Library of Congress reading rooms also offer research orientations or tours specific to their collections and services. Links to information about these sessions, including schedules and registration information appears at the bottom of the Classes for First-time Users page.

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  15. Once I've found materials in the online or card catalogs, where do I go to see them?

    With a few exceptions, the Library's collections of books, journals, and other materials are in closed stacks, and must be retrieved.  Researchers may request materials using an online automated call system or may fill out paper call slips to request the materials they need. Most of the Library's general collection of books and journals is in the closed stacks of the Jefferson and Adams Buildings; specialized collections of books and other materials are in closed stacks in all three main Library buildings, or are stored off-site. Delivery times vary with the different reading rooms, ranging from a few minutes to the next business day. You should consult the various reading room home pages for more information on delivery of materials. If you are not certain where to request materials, consult a reference librarian.

    All of the reading rooms have reference collections on open shelves, where researchers may retrieve materials for themselves and use them in the reading room. However, these materials represent only a small fraction of the Library's holdings. In some cases, researchers may call ahead to have materials retrieved from the closed stacks before their arrival at the Library (e.g. if they have to coming from outside the metropolitan Washington D.C. area, or if they have a large amount of material to be retrieved). More information on advance reserves is available online.

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  16. Can I set aside materials to use over more than one day?

    After materials are returned from use in the reading rooms, it takes up to one week before they are reshelved and ready for retrieval again. However, researchers may hold up to five books for seven days in the Reserve areas. Such areas are located in the Main Reading Room; adjacent to the Book Service Desk on the fifth floor of the Adams Building; and in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room. Each three-day reserve slip must be completed with the researcher's name and the date of the first day of reserve. Other reading rooms may allow researchers to reserve materials for future use. For more information, consult the appropriate reading room home page.

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  17. Can I go into the stacks to browse or retrieve materials?

    Access to the closed stacks is not permitted under any circumstances, except to authorized Library staff. Only the reading room reference collections are on open shelves.

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  18. Are there restrictions on what sort of items I can bring into the reading rooms?

    All of the Library's reading rooms have some restrictions as to what items a researcher may bring with them as a means of enhancing the security of the collections used therein; the Personal Belongings Restrictions  web page provides general guidelines on personal property restrictions in all Library buildings as well information on slightly modified restrictions for the Adams building.  However, because specific policies differ for the various reading rooms, researchers should consult the various reading room home pages for more details. Cloakrooms are provided on the ground floor of the Jefferson Building (LJ G08 and adjacent to the Visitors' Center) and the first floor of the Madison Building (LM 140). Some reading rooms also provide lockers for researchers to secure their belongings.

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  19. What online databases and indexes does the Library make available to researchers on site?

    The Library subscribes to a large number of online subscription databases which offer indexes to journals, information on library holdings, and other resources in a wide range of subject areas. Workstations for searching these services are available in all of the Library's reading rooms. The Library also subscribes to a number of Internet-based databases and full-text journal services, which are searchable on any of the public Internet workstations in the Library's reading rooms.  Patrons onsite using their personal laptops or other wireless-enabled devices to connect to the Library's wireless network are also able to access these services. The Library does not offer access to these services off-site, but they are widely available at public and academic libraries.

    Some of the reading rooms have CD-ROM databases and other online subscription services, including titles served in the Microform and Machine Readable Collections Reading Room, full-text journals in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room, and Technical Report titles available through Science Reference Services.  Science Reading Room database titles are all listed on the appropriate reading room home page. Other reading rooms may have their own CD-ROM and other database resources; consult the appropriate reading room home page for more information. Please note that these resources are available only on site.

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  20. Can I make photocopies of materials at the Library?

    The Library's reading rooms have differing policies regarding the photocopying of materials. Some reading rooms restrict self-service photocopying on certain categories of material, based on preservation and security policies. It is best to consult staff in the appropriate reading room for specific information on its photocopying policy. Self-service debit card-operated copiers are available to serve researchers in most reading rooms. Prices vary depending on the material to be copied and the machine to be used. To purchase a debit card for copying, a one-dollar bill may be required on some machines; value can be added to these cards with any denomination up to $22. To add value with a credit card or corporate check, researchers must visit the Duplication Services counter Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.

    The Library's Duplication Services can provide a wide range of reproductions of items from the Library's collections. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright law and certain other restrictions; however, every effort will be made to fulfill requests. Please provide specific citations (title, author, number of pages, and LC call number) for materials you wish copied. The Duplication Services is open 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. ET Monday through Friday. Further information about products, services, and prices can be obtained by contacting:
           Duplication Services
           Library of Congress, John Adams Building, Room LA-128
           Washington, D.C. 20540-4917
           Phone 202-707-5640 | Fax 202-707-1771 |  Web Contact Form

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  21. Can I borrow materials from the Library?

    The Library of Congress does not loan materials to individuals, who must use Library materials on site. In certain instances, the Library sends out materials to local libraries on interlibrary loan. This process must be initiated at your local library.

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  22. Does the Library provide computer facilities for word processing and other applications?

    While researchers may bring laptop computers into the Main Reading Room and some of the other public reading rooms, the Library does not provide computing facilities for word processing and other software applications. Computer workstations in the public reading rooms are for catalog, database, and Internet searching only.

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  23. Is there any place in the Library where I can get change for photocopying or telephones?

    Some of the vending machine areas have change machines primarily for $1 bills. The Duplication Services Public Counter (Room 128, Adams Building) is the only place in the Library where you can get change for bills larger than $5. Please note that the Duplication Services Public Counter is only open 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. ET Monday through Friday. During evenings and weekends, there is no place in the Library where you can get change for bills larger than $5.

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  24. How can I identify and locate publisher addresses for books and/or journals?

    Local libraries have specialized reference sources in their collections which identify the addresses of publishers. Speak with your local librarian for specific sources.

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  25. Can I buy a book from the Library of Congress?

    The Library of Congress does not sell books from its collections. See your local librarian or a book dealer in your area to find information on how to purchase books; or consult an online database with information on purchasing books, such as Bookfinder.com. The Library does photocopy materials from its collections within copyright guidelines; see above under question "20" for more information on photocopying materials. The Library's sales shop sells Library of Congress publications and other items.

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  26. How do I obtain information on obtaining an ISBN or an ISSN?

    Information about ISBNs may be obtained from the R.R. Bowker Company, 630 Central Avenue, New Providence, NJ 07974. Tel: 877-310-7333 Fax: 908-665-2895. Information about ISSN numbers may be obtained from the National Serials Data Program, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4160. The telephone number is 202-707-6452. Recorded information is available at this telephone number 24 hours a day.

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  27. Can the Library of Congress tell me how much a book is worth?

    The Library of Congress does not provide individuals with information on the current market value of books. Such a search would require extensive examination of published sources, and the results would not necessarily indicate the price that the item in your possession would bring in the market. Standard reference sources on book prices, available in most large libraries, contain records of auction sales and may list pertinent transactions. See a reference librarian at your local library for assistance.

    Many used and rare book dealers often provide valuation of books. Internet book databases such as Bookfinder.com also provide price information for used or rare books. More information on rare books and book values can be found on the "Your Old Books" website, maintained by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

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