Research Center Main Reading Room


History, Humanities, and Social Sciences (info and services)

The RAR (Reference Assistance Room) is the point of entry to the Main Reading Room (MRR), and often the first stop for readers who are beginning their research at the Library. Services are provided by reference librarians who assist you with research questions and technicians who help provide access to the collection materials. Librarians and subject specialists are available in person at the reference desks and online through Ask a Librarian to help guide you through your research and answer any questions. We can also assist with more in-depth research assistance through research consultations and orientations. 

Genealogy and Local History (info and services)

Genealogy and Local History staff will help you to develop research strategies and search criteria that enable you to discover your family and community in Library collections. However, librarians cannot conduct research for you. In order to perform work of this nature satisfactorily, it is necessary to verify a particular branch of the family concerned, and, because of the time and effort involved, searches for this kind of information usually require the services of a professional genealogist or heraldic searcher. The National Archives offers a list of researchers for hire across a number of different disciplines in D.C. and beyond. Genealogists who accept client work may also be found in the directories of such organizations as the Board for Certification of Genealogists or the Association of Professional Genealogists. More in depth information is provided on our freelance researchers FAQ.

For a strong start to your family and local history research, see the tools and strategies in our Genealogy Basics guide.

Hispanic Local History and Genealogy at the Library of Congress

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MERC Collections and Services

The Microform and Electronic Resources Center (MERC) is located on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building (LJ139), across the hall from the Main Reading Room. It houses and provides access to our microform collections, CD-ROMs and books with disc collections, a set of public computers, and STACKS machines. This collection contains more than seven million items corresponding to subjects found in the general collections. The MERC is open the same hours as the Main Reading Room and offers copying and printing services, as well as access to Reader Registration.

Book Services

Located in Alcove 7 of the Main Reading Room, Book Services staff are the point of contact for researchers picking up requested books from the general collections. Once you receive the confirmation email that your requested items have been delivered, head to Alcove 7 with your reader card to pick them up from the staff there. If you entered a seat number in your request, Book Services will deliver your items and check your reader card directly at your seat.

7-day reserves and Advance Reserve items are also held in Alcove 7.

Please note that you must show your Reader Card to Book Services staff in order to pick up your requested items. We cannot give or deliver Library materials to anyone other than the person who placed the request.

Access Services

The Library is primarily a research library, so its lending is restricted to other libraries. Access Services manages the reader registration process, issuing new reader cards and managing patron accounts, staffing the Reader Registration Stations in the MERC and in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room; manages the Library’s InterLibrary Loan service; and provides loan services to Members of Congress. Under certain conditions, the Library lends material from its collections to other libraries for the use of their readers through InterLibrary Loan.

Reader Registration Cards and Accounts

Users of the Library's research areas, including Computer Catalog Centers, and Copyright Office public service areas are each required to have a Reader Identification Card issued by the Library. Cards are free and can be obtained by completing a registration process and presenting a valid driver's license, state-issued identification card, or passport. Researchers must be 16 and above years of age at time of registration.

Congressional Book Loans

The Library of Congress has millions of books, many of which are available for loan to Members of Congress and D.C. staff. Special offerings include travel books, GRE and LSAT prep guides, language instruction, and new releases. The Library's Access Services Section administers borrowing accounts and fulfills requests for books from the general collection.

Congressional Book Loans

InterLibrary Loan

"Interlibrary loan is the process by which a library requests material from, or supplies material to, another library. ... The purpose of interlibrary loan as defined by this code is to obtain, upon request of a library user, material not available in the user's local library” (from the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States).

InterLibrary Loan


Library of Congress
10 First Street, SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ 100
Washington, DC 20540-4810


Public Hours
Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Saturday 8:30am - 5:00pm
Closed Sundays & Federal Holidays
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