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Research Center Law Library of Congress


The Law Library of Congress was established in 1832 as a department of the Library of Congress. Today, the Law Library of Congress is not only the largest law collection in the world, with 2.9 million volumes, it is also an institution serving Congress and the public with unparalleled research and reference services, and extensive electronic services. This timeline highlights some of the milestones of this development.

  • 2021

    Aslihan Bulut appointed Law Librarian of Congress
    Jane Sánchez, Law Librarian of Congress, passed away. Memorial Service (June 2, 2021). Memorial Tree Dedication, (November 4, 2021).

  • 2020

    The Law Library of Congress debuted its Legal Research Institute, a series of pages that gather together the Law Library's educational offerings for foreign and domestic law, as well as recordings of past webinars.

  • 2017

    Jane Sánchez was appointed Law Librarian of Congress.

  • 2016

    Roberta Shaffer was appointed to serve a second term as Law Librarian of Congress.

  • 2014

    The Law Library's Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition opened, featuring a 1215 copy of the Magna Carta from the Lincoln Cathedral.

  • 2012

    David Mao was appointed Law Librarian of Congress.

  • 2009

    Roberta Shaffer was appointed Law Librarian of Congress.

  • 2007

    Law Library celebrates 175th anniversary; collection grows to 2.6 million items

  • 1998

    Groundbreaking digitization project, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873,” released on website

  • 1996

    GLIN debuts on Library of Congress website; National Aeronautics and Space Administration provides satellite technology assistance to GLIN partner countries

  • 1994

    Rubens Medina appointed Law Librarian of Congress

  • 1993

    Law Library begins providing foreign legal research to Immigration and Naturalization Service

  • 1991

    Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) established to share laws of member nations

  • 1989

    World Law Bulletin launched to provide Congress overview of foreign law developments

  • 1981

    Law Library moves into Madison Building

  • 1973

    Law Librarian Carleton W. Kenyon establishes publication series to make research for Congress available to public

  • 1967

    Library begins assigning Class KF call numbers to American law publications

  • 1960s

    KF cataloging schedule for American law developed

  • 1961

    Index to Latin American Legislation published

  • 1950s

    Hispanic Law Division begins compiling Hispanic Law Index

  • 1940s

    Foreign law divisions established

  • 1941

    Law Library Reading Room opens in Jefferson Building

  • 1935

    Supreme Court Building opens; official administrative ties between Law Library and Supreme Court end  

  • 1932

    At Law Library’s centennial, American Bar Association forms Committee on the Facilities of the Law Library of Congress
    George Wickersham founds Friends of the Law Library

  • 1924

    John T. Vance, scholar and diplomat, becomes Law Librarian, helps establish Law Library as foreign law research center

  • 1921

    Directorship of LRS becomes separate position
    Law Library becomes responsible for Congressional requests for foreign law research, while LRS becomes responsible for American law and public policy Congressional requests

  • 1917

    Main site of law collection established in Northeast Pavilion of Jefferson Building, while Law Library remains in Capitol

  • 1914

    Legislative Reference Service (LRS), predecessor to Congressional Research Service, established under direction of Law Librarian

  • 1911

    Dr. Edwin Montefiore Borchard, international law expert, appointed Law Librarian

  • 1908

    Publication of “Index Analysis of the Federal Statutes,” by George Winfield Scott (Fifth Law Librarian) and Middleton Goldsmith Beaman (Sixth Law Librarian)

  • 1907

    On 75th Anniversary, Law Library mounts exhibition with American Association of Law Libraries

  • 1897

    Thomas Jefferson Building opens to house the Library of Congress; Law Library remains in Capitol Building

  • 1888

    Act of July 11 provides that Law Library must be kept open whenever either chamber of Congress is in session

  • 1884

    Senate grants Law Librarian floor privileges

  • 1880

    House of Representatives grants Law Librarian floor privileges

  • 1872

    Charles Henry Wharton Meehan dies; Charles W. Hoffman appointed as second Law Librarian of Congress

  • 1870

    Act of July 8 centralizes all U.S. copyright registration and deposit activities at Library of Congress

  • 1860

    Supreme Court moves to former Senate Chamber; Law Library moves to former Supreme Court Chamber

  • 1851

    Second fire in Capitol destroys two-thirds of books of Library of Congress; law collection is unscathed

  • 1848

    Following U.S.-Mexican War, library authorized to purchase all constitutions and laws of Mexico

  • 1842

    Law Library moved to the Capitol Building’s ground floor across from the Supreme Court Chamber

  • 1839

    First separate catalog of law books printed

  • 1833

    Charles Henry Wharton Meehan appointed as “assistant at law,” becoming first Law Librarian of Congress

  • 1832

    Act of July 14 creates separate “Law Department” of Library of Congress, establishing Law Library of Congress
    Law Library moves into separate room in Capitol Building adjacent to Main Library

  • 1816

    Senator Robert Goodloe Harper calls for separate law library   

  • 1815

    Act of January 30 approves purchase of Jefferson’s library

  • 1814

    British burn U.S. Capitol, destroying Library, including 174 law titles; Thomas Jefferson offers to sell personal library, including 475 law titles, to replace destroyed collection

  • 1812

    Justices of Supreme Court authorized to use Library

  • 1805

    Act of January 2 provides that 300 copies of laws of United States and journals of Congress shall be placed in Library

  • 1802

    Act of January 26 provides for placement of Library in Capitol and appointment of First Librarian of Congress, John J. Beckley

  • 1801

    First books and maps of Library placed in office of Secretary of Senate

  • 1800

    Act of April 24 appropriates $5,000 to establish Library of Congress


Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
James Madison Building, LM 242
Washington, DC 20540-3219
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Public Hours
Monday through Saturday
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Retrieval service ends at 4:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays & Federal Holidays
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