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Research Center American Folklife Center

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I plan a visit to the American Folklife Center Research Center?

While appointments are not required, researchers are strongly encouraged to contact the American Folklife Center ahead of a visit. Collections may be stored off-site or have access restrictions. Some collections have been digitized and are available offsite, but many materials are only available in the Research Center.

Patrons must present a verified Library of Congress Reader Identification Card to gain access to the American Folklife Center Research Center. To save time you may pre-register online.

Researchers may bring notebooks, laptop computers, and their own books into the Research Center. Free cloakroom services are provided in the Jefferson Building to secure personal property such as backpacks and other items either not allowed or not needed in the Research Center. See Personal Belongings at the Library of Congress for more information.

General information on conducting research at the Library can be found at "Information for Researchers." Information about using AFC ethnographic collections is available in a Research Guide Accessing Ethnographic Collections at the Library of Congress.

Where is the AFC Research Center located and what are the public services hours?

The AFC Research Center is located in room LJ-G31 on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building at 101 First Street, SE, Washington, DC 20540. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Are all of the American Folklife Center's collections available online? Although the AFC has not digitized all of its collections, new digital content is continually added to the Library’s website. Links to digital content can also be found in catalog records and finding aids.

I can’t visit the Library, can you still help me with my research?

The staff of the AFC Research Center encourages researchers who are unable to visit in person to contact us through Ask A Librarian. Some collections have had portions published and others have been digitized. In some circumstances, these materials are accessible outside of Research Center. Staff can suggest alternative access options and answer specific queries about collections.

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid conveys useful information about an individual collection, including an inventory of the series, containers, and folders; and typically describes the size, media types, organization, and arrangement. They place archival resources in context by consolidating details about the collection, such as acquisition, processing histories, provenance, and descriptions of scope. Finding aids are rarely item indexes.

Many finding aids for American Folklife Center collections are available online at the Library's main finding aid page. It is important to note that not all AFC collections have finding aids, and not all finding aids are available online.

What researcher resources are available in the American Folklife Center Research Center?

The AFC Reading Center provides desks, paper, pencils, scanning stands for phones/tablets, copying/scanning machine, and public computer terminals/listening stations. The center is equipped with wireless internet access. A reference book collection that provides standard reference sources, as well as secondary literature specific to our holdings, is located in the research center.

Can the Library grant me permission to publish?

The Library of Congress does not own the copyright in either published or unpublished materials in its custody and can therefore neither grant nor deny permission to publish or quote in published form from manuscripts in its collections. It is the official policy of the Library of Congress that the responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with the persons desiring to use the item. In some cases, we may be able to help direct you to rights holders.

Does the American Folklife Center have a required form of citation?

The AFC does not require a specific form of citation. However, a citation that includes the following information is recommended:

Item Number, Collection Title, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.


Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, G31
Washington, DC 20540-4810
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Public Hours
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays, Sundays & Federal Holidays