Good Legislation mural in Main Reading Room Lobby by Elihu Vedder

Back to Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can I contact the Law Library?
  2. Can I ask a librarian at the Law Library a question?
  3. Can I get information on foreign, comparative, or international law?
  4. Can I get legal advice from a legal reference librarian?
  5. Can I use the Law Library?
  6. How can I find out if the Law Library has what I need?
  7. Can I borrow a book from the Law Library?
  8. Are the Law Library’s holdings available online?
  9. What online databases are available at the Law Library?
  10. The book I want to see is a “rare book.”  Can I access it?
  11. Can I go into the stacks to browse or retrieve a book?
  12. How can I consult material in the Law Library's Global Legal Resource Room?
  13. Can I order a book to be held for me in advance?
  14. Can I set aside materials to use for more than one day?
  15. Does the Law Library provide training for researchers?
  16. Can I photocopy materials at the Law Library?
  17. Can I use Law Library computers for word processing and other applications?
  18. Do the materials published on the Law Library's website represent the official opinion of the Library of Congress and the US Government?

How can I contact the Law Library?

Ways of contacting the Law Library are listed here.

Can I ask a librarian at the Law Library a question?

The primary mission of the Law Library of Congress is to serve Members of the Congress and, thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public.  A staff of law librarians and foreign law specialists are available to help you in accordance with this mission.  We encourage you to use local and online resources first.  For further assistance, our staff will respond to your reference and information needs to the extent possible.  You may direct questions to us online, by phone, or by mail.

Can I get information on foreign, comparative, or international law?

Congressional and other government requests get priority, but the foreign law research staff is available for reference assistance with foreign, comparative, or international law questions. Readers are encouraged to check online resources and especially the Library of Congress catalog first. Select online resources are available on the Global & Comparative Law Resources and Legal Reports webpages. You may direct questions to us electronically, by phone, or by mail.

Can I get legal advice from a legal reference librarian?

Only licensed attorneys are allowed to give legal advice.  The reference librarians can help you locate materials to enable you to research your issue.  For complex legal matters, it is best to speak with an attorney.

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Can I use the Law Library?

The Law Library is open to all researchers 18 years or older who have a reader identification card.

How can I find out if the Law Library has what I need?

Most of the Law Library’s books, journals, and microform holdings are listed in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.  Some of the Law Library’s holdings are listed in finding aids available only in the Law Library Reading Room, and consultation with a reference librarian may be necessary to locate such materials.

Not all items in the Law Library’s collections are guaranteed to be available when requested.  Items are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Requests from Congress and the Supreme Court take priority.  Items may not be reserved in advance.

Can I borrow a book from the Law Library?

The Law Library of Congress will lend certain materials to participating libraries but not directly to individuals.  Researchers should consult with their public or institution’s library to arrange for loans.  For more information on the Library’s interlibrary loan practices, visit the Interlibrary Loan page.

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Are the Law Library’s holdings available online?

While most of the Law Library’s holdings are not online, the Library’s free digitized collections are available through the Digitized Material webpage and the Digital Collections: Law webpages. Additionally the Find Legal Resources webpage contains information on various subscription legal databases and free e-resources available through the Library. The Library of Congress Online Catalog is a catalog of bibliographic records for the print and microform collection, not a full-text database. 

What online databases are available at the Law Library?

A detailed list of legal databases can be found in the Databases & eResources page.

The book I want to see is a “rare book.”  Can I access it?

Selected Law Library holdings are deemed “rare books,” and are treated with special care. These include all items with an imprint date earlier than 1801, and other holdings warranting exceptional treatment. Rare book service is available on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Access to rare materials is by appointment only. For more information, visit the Rare Book Collection page.

Can I go into the stacks to browse or retrieve a book?

The Law Library Reading Room, LM-242, houses 30,000 volumes of U.S. federal, state, and international legal materials, court reports, treaties, legal journals, treaties, and legal encyclopedias on open shelves.  This collection is accessible to all patrons with a reader identification card.

Physical access to the closed stacks is not permitted except to authorized Library staff.  Researchers request items in the closed stacks to be delivered to the Law Library’s Reading Room by using the Library of Congress Online catalog “Request an Item” feature.

How can I consult material in the Law Library's Global Legal Resource Room?

Current foreign and international legal materials located in the Global Legal Resource Room, LM-240, will be delivered to the Law Library Reading Room, LM-242, for patrons to consult. These materials are available from 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Can I order a book to be held for me in advance?

No.  The Law Library does not permit items to be reserved in advance. 

Can I set aside materials to use for more than one day?

Researchers may hold books from the closed stacks for five working days in the Five-Day Reserve area in the Reading Room.  Items in the Reading Room Collection may not be placed in the Reserve Area.

Does the Law Library provide training for researchers?

The Law Library offers classes on legal research as described on the Legal Research Institute webpage.

Can I photocopy or scan materials at the Law Library?

Photocopy machines, printers, and a copy card vending kiosk are available in the Reading Room. For information on the costs of copying and printing and instructions on how to purchase a copy card, see Copying and Printing Services for Collection Materials at the Library of Congress. Free scanning, to either an email address or a personal USB drive, are also available.

It is the responsibility of the patron to follow copyright restrictions when reproducing material.  Additional information on copyright law is available from the U.S. Copyright Office Web site.

The Library of Congress Duplication Services provides copies from the Law Library collection for a fee.  Patrons must supply specific citations (title, author, number of pages) in order for material to be copied.  For more information, visit the Duplication Services page.

Can I use Law Library computers for word processing and other applications?

No. Law Library computers do not have word processing applications and are for research purposes only.

Do the materials published on the Law Library's website represent the official opinion of the Library of Congress and the US Government?

Materials published on this website are intended for reference use only and are limited to a general introduction and discussion of the laws that may be relevant to the particular situation described in those materials. They do not represent the official opinion of the United States Government.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020