Library of Congress

Library of Congress in the United States


The Library of Congress has the largest collection of materials in the U.S., and possibly the largest collection of legal materials too. The Library of Congress Web site ( posts in formation about the library, including its formidable online catalog.

If you have a question, you can call the Library’s general Reference Desk (202-707-5222) or their Legal Reference Desk (202-707-5080).

Catalog: The LOC posts an catalog that is comprehensive starting in 1968. Earlier records have been entered selectively. To do a thorough search of pre-1969 materials requires looking through the Main Card Catalog located on the first floor of the Jefferson Building.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): See the separate entry for “Congressional Research Service Reports.”

Copyrights: The U.S. Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress. For copyright information, see “Copyrights.”

Document Delivery: The Library has a Duplication Services department (202-707-5640), but they take four to six weeks to make photocopies. In other words, unless you can easily get to the Library, most of the time you’ll have to hire a document retrieval service or find another source. Companies that regularly make copies at the Library of Congress include National Corporate Research (800-494-5225), Penco (800-690-7362 or 703-912-9080), Independence Legal Support (240-392-0017 or, and FSI Research (202-257-7722); for other companies, see “Washington, D.C. Document Retrieval.”

Interlibrary Loan: The Library of Congress is a “lender of last resort.” That is, you should try to borrow materials from other libraries first. If you can’t find something they have anywhere else, though, the Library of Congress will lend to other libraries. The Library posts the relevant policies, contact information and ILL news.

The first step to borrowing from the LOC is to visit First Time Registration for ILL and fill out an online registration form. Once you are registered, you can place orders directly, and the LOC will send out materials when they are ready. For faster service, you can can hire a document retrieval service, such as National Corporate Research (800-494-5225), Penco (800-690-7362 or 703-912-9080), FSI Research (202-257-7722),Independence Legal Support (240-392-0017 or, or a competitor. You can find a few other companies in the “Washington, D.C. Document Retrieval” entry.

Legislation: The Library also runs the Thomas web site, which posts bills, Congressional Committee information, the Congressional Record and more useful information about Federal legislation. The Library is developing a successor to Thomas called

The Organisation

The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States, offering diverse materials for research, including the world’s most extensive collections in areas such as American history, music, and law.

The Library of Congress was established by Act of April 24, 1800 (2 Stat. 56), appropriating $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress . . . .” The Library’s scope of responsibility has been widened by subsequent legislation (2 U.S.C. 131-168d). The Librarian, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, directs the Library.

The Library’s first responsibility is service to Congress. As the Library has developed, its range of service has expanded to include the entire governmental establishment and the public at large, making it a national library for the United States and a global resource through its Web site at



The Library’s extensive collections are universal in scope. They include books, serials, and pamphlets on every subject and in more than 470 languages, and research materials in many formats, including maps, photographs, manuscripts, motion pictures, and sound recordings. Among them are the most comprehensive collections of books outside Asia and the former Soviet Union; the largest collection of published aeronautical literature; and the most extensive collection of books in the Western Hemisphere.

The manuscript collections relate to various aspects of American history and civilization and include the personal papers of most of the Presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. The music collections contain volumes and pieces—manuscript and published—from classic works to the newest popular compositions. Other materials available for research include maps and views; photographic records; recordings, prints, drawings, and posters; government documents, newspapers, and periodicals; and motion pictures, microforms, audio and video tapes, and digital and online materials.

Reference Resources

Admission to the various research facilities of the Library is free. The Library’s reading rooms are open to persons age 16 and older. Readers must register by presenting valid photo identification with a current address. For some collections, there are additional requirements. While priority is given to inquiries about special materials or to unique resources, the Library provides helpful responses to all inquirers. Online reference service is also available through the “Ask a Librarian” Web site at


With the enactment of the second general revision of the U.S. copyright law by Act of July 8, 1870 (16 Stat. 212-217), all activities relating to copyright, including deposit and registration, were centralized in the Library of Congress. The Copyright Act of 1976 (90 Stat. 2541) brought all forms of copyrightable authorship, both published and unpublished, under a single statutory system which gives authors protection upon creation of their works. Exclusive rights granted to authors under the statute include the right to reproduce and prepare derivative works, distribute copies or phonorecords, perform and display the work publicly, and in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission. Works eligible for copyright include literary works (books and periodicals), musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures, sound recordings, vessel hull designs, mask works, and architectural works. The Copyright Office serves as a National registry for creative works, registering more than 500,000 claims annually. It is also a major source of acquisitions for the Library’s collections. Most paper information is also accessible online at

Extension of Service

The Library offers duplication services; the sale of sound recordings, cataloging data and tools; the exchange of duplicates with other institutions; development of classification schemes; preparation of bibliographic lists for Government and research; maintenance and publication of cooperative publications; and publication of catalogs, bibliographic guides, and lists, and texts of original manuscripts and rare books. It has items for circulation in traveling exhibitions; books in Braille, as well as “talking books on the Internet, and books on tape. The Library distributes electronic materials and provides research and analytical services for a fee. The Library also manages the following programs: centralized and cooperative cataloging; cataloging-in-publication for unpublished books; interlibrary loan system; and the U.S. International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) Center.

Furthermore, the Library provides for the following: the preparation of bibliographical lists responsive to the needs of Government and research; the maintenance and the publication of cooperative publications; the publication of catalogs, bibliographical guides, and lists, and of texts of original manuscripts and rare books in the Library of Congress; the circulation in traveling exhibitions of items from the Library’s collections; the provision of books in Braille, electronic access to Braille books on the Internet, “talking books,” and books on tape for the blind and the physically handicapped through more than 100 cooperating libraries throughout the Nation; the distribution of its electronic materials via the Internet; and the provision of research and analytical services on a fee-for-service basis to agencies in the executive and judicial branches.

American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center was established in the Library of Congress by Act of January 2, 1976 (20 U.S.C. 2102 et seq.). It supports, preserves, and presents American folklife by receiving and maintaining folklife collections, scholarly research, field projects, performances, exhibitions, festivals, workshops, publications, and audiovisual presentations. The Center administers the Veterans History Project, which records and preserves the first-person accounts of war veterans. It collaborates with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to maintain the Civil Rights History Project and its resulting collection of interviews with leaders and participants in the Civil Rights movement. The Center also maintains and administers the American Folklife Center Archive, which is an extensive multi-format collection of ethnographic materials from this country and around the world, and serves as the national repository for folk-related field recordings, manuscripts, and other unpublished materials. The Archive also contains the collections of StoryCorps, a program to record and collect oral histories from people from all walks of life.

The Center’s reading room contains over 4,000 books and periodicals; a sizable collection of magazines, newsletters, unpublished theses, and dissertations; field notes; and many textual and some musical transcriptions and recordings. Information about the Center’s blog, social media, publications, and collections is available online at

Center for the Book

The Center was established in the Library of Congress by an Act of October 13, 1977 (2 U.S.C. 171 et seq.), to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries, and to encourage the study of books and print culture. The Center promotes and explores the vital role of books, reading, and libraries, nationally and internationally. As a partnership between the Government and the private sector, the Center for the Book depends on tax-deductible contributions from individuals and corporations to support its programs.

The Center’s activities are directed toward the general public and scholars. The overall program includes reading promotion projects with television and radio networks, symposia, lectures, exhibitions, special events, and publications. More than 80 national education and civic organizations participate in the Center’s annual reading promotion campaign.
The Center provides leadership for 52 affiliated State centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners. It oversees the Library’s Web site, administers the Library’s Young Readers Center and its Poetry and Literature Center and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. The Center also administers the position of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council. More information on the Center and the Library’s literacy promotion activities is available online at

National Film Preservation Board

The National Film Preservation Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 (102 Stat. 1785) and reauthorized by the National Film Preservation Act of 2005 (2 U.S.C. 179l note), serves as a public advisory group to the Librarian of Congress. The Board works to ensure the survival, conservation, and increased public availability of America’s film heritage, including advising the Librarian on the annual selection of films to the National Film Registry and counseling the Librarian on development and implementation of the national film preservation plan.

National Sound Recording Preservation Board

The National Recording Preservation Board, established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 (2 U.S.C. 1701 note) reviews nominated sound recordings for inclusion in the National Recording Registry and advises the Librarian on the inclusion of such recordings in the Registry to preserve sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. The Board comprises three major components: a National Recording Preservation Advisory Board, which brings together experts in the field; a National Recording Registry; and a fundraising foundation, all of which are conducted under the auspices of the Library of Congress. The Board implements a national plan for the long-term preservation and accessibility of the Nation’s audio heritage. The national recording preservation program sets standards for future private and public preservation efforts in conjunction with the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, VA.


The Library provides technical information related to the preservation of library and archival material. The Library’s Preservation Directorate includes three preservation science laboratories, a Center for the Library’s Analytical Science Samples, and a Collections Recovery Room. Information about publications and about various preservation and conservation topics is available online at

Sources of Information

Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Braille and talking books and magazines, including music materials, are distributed through more than 100 regional and subregional libraries to residents of the United States and its territories who are blind or have a physical disability. Eligible Americans living abroad are also able to participate. Users may also register for the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) online service, enabling them to use the BARD mobile app to read on smart devices. Information is available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Cataloging Distribution Services

Cataloging and bibliographic information in the form of microfiche catalogs, book catalogs, magnetic tapes, CD-ROM cataloging tools, bibliographies, and other technical publications is distributed to libraries and other institutions. Information about ordering materials is available from the Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20541-4910. Phone, 202-707-6100. TDD, 202-707-0012. Fax, 202-707-1334. Email, Card numbers for new publications and Electronic Preassigned Control Numbers for publishers are available from the Cataloging in Publication Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.


Persons seeking information on conducting business with the Library of Congress should visit the Library’s Web site:

Copyright Services

Information about the copyright law (title 17 of the U.S. Code), the method of securing copyright, and copyright registration procedures may be obtained by writing to the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20559-6000. Phone, 202-707-3000. Registration application forms may be ordered by calling the forms hotline at 202-707-9100. Copyright records may be researched and reported by the Copyright Office for a fee; for an estimate, call 202-707-6850. Members of the public may use the copyright card catalog in the Copyright Office without charge. The database of Copyright Office records cataloged from January 1, 1978, to the present is available online at


Employment inquiries should be directed to Human Resources Services, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20540-2200. Vacancy announcements and applications are also available from the Employment Office, Room LM-107, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20540.

Duplication Services

Copies of manuscripts, prints, photographs, maps, and book material not subject to copyright and other restrictions are available for a fee. Order forms for photo reproduction and price schedules are available from Duplication Services, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20540-4570. Phone, 202-707-5640.

Federal Agency Research Services

Federal agencies can procure research and analytical products on foreign and domestic topics using the collections of the Library of Congress through the Federal Research Division. Science, technology, humanities, and social science research are conducted by staff specialists exclusively on behalf of Federal agencies on a fee-for-service basis. Research requests should be directed to the Federal Research Division, Marketing Office, Library of Congress, Washington.


Library of Congress publications are available online. The Library of Congress Magazine (LCM) is published 6 times a year and may be viewed online at The calendar of public events is also available online at and is available by mail to persons within 100 miles of Washington, DC. To be added to the calendar mailing list, send a request to Office Systems Services, Mail and Distribution Management Section, Library of Congress.

Reference and Bibliographic Services

Guidance is offered to readers in identifying and using the material in the Library’s collections, and reference service is provided to those with inquiries who have exhausted local, State, and regional resources. Persons requiring services that cannot be performed by the Library staff can be supplied with names of private researchers who work on a fee-for-service basis. Requests for information should be directed to the Reference Referral Service, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC. Questions may also be submitted online at the “Ask a Librarian” Web site.

Research and Reference Services in Science and Technology

Requests for reference services should be directed to the Science, Technology, and Business Division, Library of Congress, Science Reference Section, 101 Independence Avenue SE., Washington, DC

See Also

Congressional Research Service Reports

Finding the law: Library of Congress in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to library of congress, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines library of congress topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.

Library of Congress

In Legislation

Library of Congress in the U.S. Code: Title 2, Chapter 5

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating library of congress are compiled in the United States Code under Title 2, Chapter 5. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Congress (including library of congress) of the United States. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the general topic (in this case, Library of Congress of the US Code, including library of congress) by chapter and subchapter.



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