Top of page

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is the Library of Congress?

    The Library serves as the research arm of Congress and is recognized as the national library of the United States. Its collections comprise the world's most comprehensive record of human creativity and knowledge. Open to those ages 16 and older without charge or special permission, it is the world's largest library and a great resource for scholars and researchers.

  2. Where are the books?

    Books and other materials are shelved in three buildings on Capitol Hill, our Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va. and other off-site storage facilities. All Library stacks are closed

  3. Does the Library have a copy of every book published in the United States?

    No, but it does have millions of books and printed materials, maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, and other special collections. Get more detailed statistics.

  4. How does the Library acquire its holdings?

    The Library receives new materials through exchange with libraries in this country and abroad, gifts, materials received from local, state and federal agencies as well as foreign governments, purchase, and copyright deposits. Thousands of items are added to the collections of the Library each working day. Selection officers review materials and decide which should be kept and added to the permanent collections. Copyright deposits make up the core of the collections, particularly those in the map, music, motion picture, and prints and photographs divisions.

  5. Who is in charge of the Library of Congress?

    The Library is directed by the Librarian of Congress, who is appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by a vote of the Senate. Since the Library's founding in 1800, there have been 14 Librarians of Congress, including the incumbent, Carla Hayden, who was sworn in on September 14, 2016.

  6. How does Congress use the Library?

    Thousands of requests are received annually by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), one part of the Library that directly serves Congress. Staffed by specialists on a wide variety of topics, CRS supplies Congress with unbiased information on a wide variety of subjects. Another division of the Library that works closely with Congress is the Law Library of Congress. With collections in foreign, international and comparative law, it serves as the foreign law research arm of Congress.

  7. When was the Library built?

    After its founding in 1800, the Library was housed in a boarding house and later in the U.S. Capitol building. Its first permanent, dedicated location — now called the Thomas Jefferson Building — was opened in 1897. The John Adams Building was completed in 1939 and the James Madison Memorial Building in 1980. The Library's Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpepper, Va., was opened in 2007.

  8. Who designed the Jefferson Building and how much did it cost?

    Its construction was based on a design, submitted in competition, by architects John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz. The building cost almost $6.5 million, $213,443.40 less than expected.

  9. Who were the artists for the Jefferson Building?

    More than 50 American sculptors, painters, and mosaic artists contributed their talents to the building. It was intended to be a showplace for the art and culture of the young Republic and remains one of the most admired buildings of the period.

  10. What can tourists see at the Library of Congress?

    The highlight of a visit to the Library of Congress is the glorious Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, which rises 75 feet from marble floor to stained glass ceiling. Marble columns, staircases, mosaics and paintings make this one of the most beautiful public buildings in America. Visitors may also view special exhibitions drawn from the Library's collections.

  11. How can I see the Main Reading Room and Great Hall?

    By taking free, guided tours offered several times a day, you can see both the Great Hall and, from the Visitors' Gallery located just off of the Great Hall, you will be able to view the Main Reading Room from above. You also have the option of walking around on your own, using a self-guided brochure. Read more about visiting the Library.

  12. How do I find out about exhibitions and other public events at the Library?

    The Library's calendar of events lists events and continuing exhibitions. You can also call (202) 707-8000 for a recorded listing of special events. Receive event announcements via e-mail.

  13. May I take photographs, film or video recordings in the Library?

    Photography is allowed in the public areas of the Jefferson Building. Flash photography is prohibited as posted in several areas: the Ceremonial Office, the exhibitions where original collections are on display and the Main Reading Room overlook. The use of photographic equipment, including tripods and selfie sticks, is prohibited without a photography and/or videography permit. Permits are not given for birthday, wedding and/or engagement photoshoots. All persons interested in photographing at the Library of Congress are required to follow the Photography and Video Guidelines (PDF, 52KB). News media and commercial productions, including photography shoots requiring location agreements, potentially intrusive professional equipment such as tripods, or interference with Library operations must contact the Office of Communications (, 202-707-2905) for approval and permits.

  14. Who can use the Library and check out books?

    The Library of Congress is a research library, and books are used only on the premises by members of the public. Anyone age 16 and older may use the collections. All patrons using the Library's reading rooms and/or collections must have a reader card with a photo on it. Learn more about how to research at the Library.

  15. Where can I see the most treasured documents of the Library of Congress?

    Some of the most historic and treasured items from the Library's vast collection are on display within the exhibitions in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building. Ongoing displays include the map that first used the term "America" for the New World, Thomas Jefferson's original library (the basis for the Library of Congress), and the Gutenberg Bible. Learn more about exhibitions at the Library. View the Library's digital collections.

  16. How may I make a gift to the Library of Congress?

    Throughout its history, the Library has been enriched by private citizens through the donation of collections, including manuscripts, books, audio, video, and film recordings, photographs and prints, maps, and musical scores, as well as financial gifts. If you are interested in making a gift please explore these options for supporting the Library.

  17. Where is the nearest Metro stop?

    Capitol South Metro, served by the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines, is near the corner of 1st and C Streets SE. Metrobus stops are located near the Library grounds, and schedules can be obtained at the Capitol South subway station. More information about getting to the Library.