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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Special Format Collections

Historic map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent and rendering of the state house

A Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The Library’s special format collections include photographs, maps, music, sound, film, manuscripts, and other media.

The Library makes hundreds of special format, language, and subject collections available through a variety of cataloging and reference tools in its specialized reading rooms:

As with printed materials published in the United States, Copyright deposits are the core of many of the special format collections, particularly in map, motion picture, music and recorded sound, photograph, and print formats.  Many other special collections were acquired through gifts, bequests, or purchase.

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” 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 resources. 

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.