Wander logo

The Library of Congress

The Largest Library in the World

By John LimboPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Located in Washington DC, the library contains a collection of over 160 million items. It is a vast archive of the history of the United States. There are over 70 special collections that include rare manuscripts, maps, photos, music, films, and much more.

The library's primary mission is to research inquiries made by members of Congress, which are carried out through the Congressional Research Service. It also houses and oversees the United States Copyright Office. The library is open to the public for research, although only high-ranking government officials and library employees may check out books and materials.

Established in 1800 primarily as a reference library for legislation, the Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Recognized as the largest and most comprehensive library in the world, it houses more than 164 million volumes of reference materials in more than 450 languages that transcend origins, formats, and subjects. All of the three buildings of the library in Capitol Hill are open to the public which allows tours, research, or simply recreational reading. Aside from extensive books and materials, the monumental structure of its buildings and awe-inspiring interiors of its halls and reading rooms are already worth a visit.

One of the Library of Congress’ divisions is the Prints and Photographs division. This collection of pictures, numbers more than 15 million. Among the rarest pictures in their collection, they have the migrant mother, the iconic woman representing the entire Great Depression of the late 1920s. The pictures bring people together. They invite you in to look around and explore worlds that you might never be able to see in person.

Another division of the Library is the Geography and Maps division. This division has 5.5 million maps, 8,000 Atlases, and, 500 globes. Some of the maps in their collection are rare maps such as the Lewis and Clark maps, George Washington maps, and many other historical maps of the United States of America. They even have the first map that shows the name America on it.

The collection of maps and globes of the Library of Congress reminds every citizen of the United States that we are part of the bigger, broader world. And as we look at some of this cartographic evidence of the changes over time. A realization that we as a nation have changed over time.

Another part of the Library of Congress is the Music Division. There are about 24 million items in the music collection. They have Stradivari instruments. They also have the original Rhapsody in Blue. Most importantly, the division has the original edition of the Star-Spangled Banner music, which tells us more about who we are, and tells about our past and our future.

The next division of the LOC is the reference and reader services in the rare book and special collections division of the library of Congress. This collection holds over 800,000 items. They have everything from medieval manuscripts early printed, and books from the libraries of Thomas Jefferson. One of the most famous books inside the Library of Congress is one of the manuscripts of the Gutenberg Bible, the first-ever book printed using movable type press. The division believes that it is important to have a record of the past so that we know how we came to be where we are today, both in terms of ideas and in terms of history, politics, art.

And then there is the serial and government publications division. This collection is massive. They have 800,000 reels of microfilm. This division has about 7.2 million loose issues of the newspaper and approximately 42,000 volumes of mound newspaper pages. The Library of Congress also has about 140,000 issues of comic books. One of the great things about reading newspapers is that you get a sense of what it's like to be an American. You are reading how people lived in the past, the history itself recorded in the pages of these documents. Collections are a way of adding memory and remembrances. All of the collections give meaning and context to the human experience and the history of culture.

The library is open for academic research to anyone with a Reader Identification Card. One may not remove library items from the reading rooms or the library buildings. Most of the library's general collection of books and journals are 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. Access to the closed stacks is not permitted under any circumstances, except to authorized library staff, and occasionally, to dignitaries. Only the reading room reference collections are on open shelves.

The Library of Congress is also one of the most visited buildings in Washington DC. Every year, thousands of tourists, especially educational tours of various student groups from different parts of the United States of America. If your class has not been to Washington DC yet, do not miss seeing the largest library in the world.


About the Creator

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.