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Research Center Law Library of Congress

Policies and Procedures



Appointments are optional, but encouraged. To help us better serve you, request a research appointment to ensure collection material is accessible during your visit to the Library. Request a research appointment here. The Library of Congress asks all visitors to follow our COVID-19 health screening protocols, which are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol. For additional instructions, see the Researcher Scheduling page.

Reader Identification Cards

All researchers must obtain a reader identification card to use the Law Library Reading Room and materials. To obtain a card, visit the Reader Registration Room in 133 in the James Madison Building or 139 in the Jefferson Building. Current valid identification (e.g. driver’s license, passport, etc.) must be presented to obtain a card.

For additional information visit Reader Registration

Reading Room Collections

The Reading Room contains approximately 30,000 volumes of U.S. federal, state, foreign, and international legal and legislative materials, including legal monographs, court reports, journals, and encyclopedias. These items are available for use while in the Reading Room.

A ready reference collection is located behind the reference desk in the Law Library Reading Room. This collection includes research guides and directories to the federal government, Congress, the federal judiciary, sources for foreign law, and indexes to international treaties. These materials are available upon request.

Retrieval from Closed Stacks

The majority of the Law Library’s 2.9 million volumes are held in closed stacks. Researchers can submit book retrieval requests for items not located in the Reading Room through the Library of Congress Online Catalog (select “Request this Item” and login with personal account information). See the Instructions for Requesting Materials in the LC Online Catalog and watch this brief video demonstrating the process for searching and requesting a book from the legal collection. Book retrieval requests can be submitted 24 hours a day; staff retrieve materials between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Item retrieval takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Items will be held for two business days (weekends and federal holidays excepted) in the book pickup area of the Reading Room after they are retrieved. Researchers may place items from the closed stacks on the five-day reserve shelves located in the Reading Room. Reference collection materials and other special collection items may not be placed on five-day reserve.

Foreign Law Collections

The majority of the foreign law collections are housed in the Closed Stacks and can be retrieved through the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Foreign, comparative, and international materials that are part of the Global reference collection have call number designations labeled “Global”. Law Library reference desk staff will retrieve items from this collection for use in the Reading Room. Items will be returned to the Global reference collections at the end of the day.

Retrieval of Microform

Microform materials (microfiche and microfilm) can be located by searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog, the Foreign Legal Gazettes Database external link, and consulting with reference staff. Access to microform materials is available in the Law Library Reading Room.

Retrieval of Rare Books

A rare law book collection of more than 65,000 volumes is available through the Reading Room. Access to rare books is by appointment only. To make an appointment, contact Mr. Nathan Dorn, Rare Book Curator, at or 202-707-3803.

Copying, Printing, and Scanning Services

Scanners and photocopiers are available in the Law Library Reading Room for congressional staff and public researchers. Contact the reference desk staff for help. See the Library’s Copying and Printing Services page for more details.


Interlibrary Loan Policies

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

Public Computers

The Law Library Reading Room has public computers with associated printers that may be used for research purposes only. These terminals provide access to the Library of Congress Online Catalogvarious legal databases, and the Internet. These computers do not have word processing capabilities.

In accordance with Library of Congress regulations, recreational use of the Library's public computers is prohibited. Persons using public computers solely for recreational purposes may be asked to leave the premises.

For more information about using the Reading Room’s public computers, visit the Law Library’s Services page .

Use of Laptops, Cell Phones, Cameras, and Personal Scanners

Researchers may use personal electronic devices, such as laptops or tablets, in the Law Library Reading Room to access the Law Library’s subscription databases and download content.

Use of cell phones in the Reading Room is prohibited. Patrons must exit the Reading Room if they need to make a phone call.

Researchers may take photos of Library materials using handheld cameras or cell phones without flash.

Personal scanners must be approved by reference staff for use in the Reading Room.


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