Reading Room Holdings
The Library of Congress
on Capitol Hill comprises three buildings: the Jefferson Building (LJ), Madison Building (LM), and Adams building (LM). Together, these three buildings house approximately 20 public readings rooms, each dedicated to offering collections and services in specific formats, subjects, or languages. A complete list of reading rooms, along with their hours of operation, is available here.
This page describes, at a broad level, the types of baseball-related materials researchers can expect to find in the Library's reading rooms. An overview of relevant subscription databases available through all Library reading rooms is available elsewhere on this guide. Inquiries about materials held in a specific reading room or division can be submitted to the Library through its Ask a Librarian service.
On-site Research at the Library of Congress
Baseball researchers visiting the Library for the first time will need to register on-site for a Reader Identification card in LM 140. Once registered, readers can then visit the appropriate reading room to conduct research. Please note that the Library of Congress is a closed stack library. Except for reference materials on open shelves in the various reading rooms, material must be requested using the automated call slip feature available through the online catalog.
Prospective researchers should review the following Web pages before visiting the Library:
The majority of Library users not conducting original baseball research will rely primarily on materials from the General Collections, which consist of the Library's book and bound periodical collections published after 1800. Material in the General Collections can be requested either in the Main Reading Room in the Jefferson Building or the Science, Technology and Business Division on the 5th floor of the Adams Building. Almost all of the Library’s baseball books have call numbers beginning with the letters GV and are shelved in the Adams Building. It is always much faster to request books in the building in which they are located, avoiding having them sent to a different building. For books whose call numbers do not begin with GV, consult either a reference librarian or staff at the circulation desk for the location.
It is important to note that the Library makes a distinction between newspapers and periodicals (alternately called serials or magazines). All newspapers (except those in non-western alphabets) are kept in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room (LM 133). This reading room also has unbound, current periodicals, usually no more than two years old. Once periodicals are bound, they are housed in the General Collections stacks (Jefferson or Adams Building, depending on call number). Microfilms of newspapers are in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. Microfilms of serials are in the Microform Reading Room (LJ 139). Some titles (e.g., Sports Illustrated) are available both as a bound paper copy and on microfilm, and may also be available through one of the Library's subscription databases.
Baseball Materials in Library Reading Rooms
Main Reading Room
The Main Reading Room reference collection has the best open-shelf baseball collection available for consultation, but due to space limitations, it is by no means exhaustive. Titles include Anton Grobani's Guide to Baseball Literature; Myron J. Smith’s Baseball: A Comprehensive Bibliography and its two supplements (the updated 2006 edition, titled The Baseball Bibliography, is available to request); Total Baseball; Neft and Cohen's The Baseball Encyclopedia; Philip J. Lowry's Green Cathedrals; The Ballplayers: Baseball Ultimate Biographical Reference, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary; and several baseball quotation books. Additional baseball titles available in the reference collection can be browsed through the online catalog.
American Folklife Center
The American Folklife Center houses the Fay Vincent Oral History Project Collection, a collection of 66 video recordings of 36 oral histories conducted by Fay Vincent and others with retired professional baseball players and other people associated with the game, including interviews with former players in the Negro League. Two books compile interviews from this collection: The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk about the Game They Loved (2006), and a sequel, We Would Have Played for Nothing: Baseball Stars of the 1950s and 1960s Talk about the Game They Loved (2008).
Geography and Map Reading Room
This reading room has a large collection of fire insurance maps. These were published by the Sanborn and Baist companies, among others. They are large-scale maps of cities throughout America and have very detailed information on home and building construction materials. Most of these cities had a ballpark. They are especially useful, for example, in researching how a stadium may have been rebuilt after a fire.
Manuscript Reading Room
The papers of Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and Arthur Mann are held in the Manuscript Reading Room. Their collections include the papers of many Supreme Court justices, which would be useful to those interested in baseball’s antitrust exemption or Curt Flood, for example. Several of the reading room's finding aids are available online.
Microform Reading Room
The Microform Reading Room houses books and periodicals that have been microfilmed for preservation purposes. Titles include Reach Official American League Baseball Guide, Sporting Life, The Sporting News, Baseball Magazine, and USA Today Baseball Weekly. The Library’s collection of doctoral dissertations is accessible through this reading room.
Motion Picture and Television Reading Room
Houses baseball films and videos in the Library’s collections. An appointment for viewing is necessary. Contact the reading room directly for details prior to coming to the Library.
Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room
Perhaps the most important resource for baseball research at the Library of Congress is its extensive collection of American newspapers. The Library has all major US dailies, including every 20th century Major League city and most from the 19th century as well. In many cases, depending on the year, there may be more than one paper for each city. Coverage for minor league cities, particularly the low minors, is more problematic. State libraries are usually a more consistent source for papers from smaller cities. The collection also includes an excellent collection of African-American newspapers. A list of current newspapers received can be accessed here. A selected number of newspapers from 1836-1922 are available online through Chronicling America.
Performing Arts Reading Room
The Performing Arts Reading Room is shared by the Music Division and the Recorded Sound Reference Center of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. The Music Division has custody of the Library’s baseball sheet music, some of which is available online. The Recorded Sound Section services the Library's audio recordings. These include game broadcasts and baseball music and can be on LP, tape, CD, etc. The Recorded Sound Reference Center should be contacted prior to coming to the Library, as an appointment for listening is required and restrictions apply.
Prints and Photographs Reading Room
Houses more than 14 million images, including photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. Many of these images are now available online. The book Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress (New York: Smithsonian Books/Harper, 2009), is a visual history of baseball that draws upon the collections of the Prints and Photographs Division.
NOTE: Much of the information on this page is reprinted or based upon, with permission, Library of Congress reference librarian Dave Kelly's 2001 guide, "Baseball Research at the Library of Congress."