Main Reading Room. Portrait statues of Homer and Plato along the balustrade. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C., Carol Highsmith, photographer

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General Collections

Library of Congress, Main Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building

A reader using a laptop computer in the European Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

The Library’s collections of books and pamphlets, organized according to the familiar Library of Congress Classification Scheme, are known as the classified or general collections.

Materials are discovered using the Library of Congress Online Catalog and are accessible to researchers in the following reading rooms of the Library:

The Main Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building is the principal reference and book service point for the Library's general collections.

The general collections include books, pamphlets, and bound (non-current) periodicals in all languages except some that use non-roman alphabets (e.g., Chinese, Arabic) and in all areas of the classification scheme except:

Cyrillic materials, although in a non-roman alphabet, are housed in the general collections. In general, most of the classes shelved in the Adams Building (A, G, H, J, L, Q, R, S, T, U, V, Z) cover science and social science subject areas, and those shelved in the Jefferson Building (B, C, D, E, F, N, P) cover the humanities. To ensure that book delivery time is kept to a minimum, readers should use the reading room located in the building where the materials they are requesting are housed. Materials identified as being stored off-site, regardless of the class to which they have been assigned, may be requested for future use in either the Jefferson or Adams building without affecting delivery time.

All researchers must have a Library-issued Reader Identification Card to use these collections. All collections are stored in areas that are off-limits to the public and to staff without authorization. This "closed stack policy," like the reader identification program, ensures the security of the Library's collections. Researchers new to the Library are encouraged to take the "Research Orientation to the Library of Congress" course offered by the Humanities and Social Sciences Division. This 90-minute class, offered throughout the year, is a basic introduction for researchers using any of the Library of Congress collections and resource.

Some Library of Congress reading rooms offer research orientations or tours specific to their collections and services. For more information about these orientations, please see the “Classes for First-time Users” web page.>