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Telephone and City Directories in the Library of Congress:
Current Directories

By Barbara B. Walsh, Reference Specialist
Research Guide No. 42



The Library of Congress makes available to the public an extensive collection of current and non-current telephone, city, and reverse telephone (criss/cross) directories for the United States and many foreign countries. These directories are available in a variety of formats and locations. For information on a particular type of directory, consult the table of contents above and then refer to the appropriate section of the finding guide. For further information, please consult the reference librarians in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (LJ G42) or in the Main Reading Room (LJ 100).


U.S. Telephone Directories

Current U.S. telephone directories (white and yellow pages) are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by state, shelved before the city and reverse telephone directories for that state.

Since many of these directories contain listings for more than one community, you may need to consult two reference tools in order to determine which telephone book contains the listings for a particular community. The first tool to examine is the Community Cross-Reference Index, found on the consulting table adjacent to the U.S. directories. It consists of two sections: a "Community Index" which identifies the directory in which a specific community's listing can be found; and "Directory Coverage", a list of all the communities covered by a specific directory. If you cannot find a listing for a community in the Cross-Reference Index, consult the card catalog, which is located near the directory collection. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: blue is for the U.S. telephone directory catalog.

U.S. City Directories

The latest editions of city directories are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by state, shelved after the telephone directories and before the reverse telephone directories for that state.

Since many of these directories contain listings for more than one community, you should examine the card catalog, which is located near the directory collection on Deck 46, to determine which city directory contains the listings for a particular community. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: pink is for the city directory catalog.

City directories often provide additional information about individuals such as place of employment and name of spouse. The entries are arranged alphabetically by last name and also by address and telephone number. City directories are compiled through door-to-door surveys and are published at irregular intervals.

Researchers should be aware, however, that there are no current city directories for many major U.S. cities--among them Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Therefore, some editions shelved on Deck 46 may be many years out-of-date.

U.S. Reverse Telephone Directories

Current U.S. reverse telephone directories are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by state, shelved after the telephone and city directories for that state. A list of current reverse telephone directories is found in the card catalog, located near the directory collection on Deck 46. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: green is for the reverse telephone directory catalog. Reverse telephone directories (often called street address or criss-cross directories) are usually published annually for major metropolitan areas. Listings are based on telephone directories and are arranged both by address and telephone number. There is no listing by name. For an online inventory of the Library's U.S. Criss Cross and Street Address Directories, please consult Reverse Directories in the Library of Congress: A List of Holdings from the 19th & 20th Centuries.

Foreign Telephone Directories

Many current foreign telephone directories are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by country, and are shelved following the United States directories. An incomplete list of current foreign telephone directories is found in the card catalog, located near the directory collection on Deck 46. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: yellow is for the foreign telephone directory catalog. Some recent foreign directories are available in the appropriate area studies reading rooms. For European telephone directories, please see European Address/Telephone Directories at the Library of Congress: Indexes and Digitized Versions.

Foreign City Directories

The Library has a few current foreign city directories. Unlike the directories described in previous sections, they are housed in the closed stacks and have call numbers. To determine whether the Library has a directory for a certain city, search in the Main Catalog and the Library of Congress Online Catalog using the following search strategy: NAME OF CITYand subdivision DIRECTORIES. Then request the directory in the Main Reading Room or the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room by filling out a call slip. One should be aware, however, that for many foreign city directories the latest edition may be many years out-of-date. For European telephone directories, please see European Address/Telephone Directories at the Library of Congress: Indexes and Digitized Versions.

Canadian City Directories

Directories for most Canadian cities are treated differently from other foreign directories. Although they are housed in the closed stacks, they do NOT have call numbers and should be requested by filling out a call slip using "City Directory" as the call number, the town and/or province and CANADA as the title, and the years needed as the volume numbers. For specific information about the Library's holdings of city directories for Canada, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, consult the City Directory Finding Guide kept at the Reference Desk in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room.

U.S. and Foreign Telephone Directories on the Internet

An alternative to searching current telephone directories is provided by numerous online databases searchable over the Internet. For the U.S., try Anywho.com or Switchboard.com. A site called Infobel.com provides links to many online foreign directories.

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  January 8, 2014
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