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Hispanic Reading Room (Area Studies, Library of Congress)
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Plan Your Research Visit to the Hispanic Reading Room

1. Plan ahead

You can get a sense of what the Library of Congress might have that is relevant to your research by searching the LC Online Catalog. The catalog includes most of the Library's holdings, including those on campus, off site, and in the Hispanic Reference Collection. No single catalog lists all of the Luso-Hispanic materials in the Library of Congress. However, to help you find materials related to Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, we have a variety of finding aids and research guides, as well as the Handbook of Latin American Studies.

Keep in mind that some materials, including most works of non-US literature, are stored off site and may take up to 24 hours to be delivered to Capitol Hill. Other materials may be viewed only in a specific reading room (e.g., the Rare Book Reading Room or the Geography and Map Reading Room). Pay attention to the information that appears in the LC Catalog records under the heading "Request In."

Please note that the Hispanic Reading Room holds a Research Orientation on the second Tuesday of each month from 11:00am until 12:00pm.

Large projects: Contact us ahead of time for advice about relevant collections and information about Advance Reserves.
(See below for Hispanic Reference contact information.)

If you will need quality copies, you can purchase them through the Library's Duplication Services. Turnaround time to receive the copies is 2-3 weeks for most materials, but can take as long as 1-2 months for duplicate reels of existing microfilm and up to 6-12 months for microfilm positives of original materials.

2. Use our Ask a Librarian service or Reference telephone number. We're available Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm.

Our reference telephone number is: 202-707-5397. We can give general guidance and assistance with online searching over the phone.

Alternatively, submit a question using Ask a Librarian. Generally we will email an answer back to you within 3-5 business days.

3. Become familiar with names, dates, places, and events associated with your topic.

The more you know about your topic, the more ways we can suggest to locate relevant sources. Consulting books and articles at your local library before you start your research in the Hispanic Division is often the best way to find key names, dates, places, and events. Our Illustrated Guide to the Hispanic and Portugese Collections, the Finding Aids and Research Guides, and the Exhibits and Online Collections pages may also help you compile a list of sources to consult.

4. If you're coming to use the Hispanic Reading Room, allow some extra time for registration procedures.

The LC collections include many older fragile items. In addition to asking you to show a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card when you visit the reading room, we will ask you to:

  • Leave your belongings, such as coats and backpacks, in one of the Library's cloakrooms. We do allow laptops, cameras, notebooks, pens, pencils, thumb drives, wallets or change purses, and cell phones (on silent or vibrate only mode) in the reading room.
  • Sign our daily register.

5. Bring a camera or smartphone on which you can turn off the flash feature.

Since some of the books are too old or fragile to go on a photocopy machine, a camera is an essential tool for making reference copies. Lighting conditions in our reading room do not make it possible to get publication quality images, but will provide you a reference copy to consult upon your departure from the Library. Alternately you can use a cellphone with a camera function. (Remember to mute your phone, please.)

For those items that can safely be photocopied, a copier is available. See the Library’s Copying and Printing Services page for more details.  

Remember to consult the information on copyright restrictions below.

6. Bring a thumb drive. If you have a laptop with wireless capability, that's even better.

A thumb drive ("flash" drive) will enable you to use, free of charge, the high-resolution book scanners available throughout the Library. Hispanic Reading Room researchers have access to a scanner located nearby in the European Division. 

Keep in mind that the principles of fair use apply when printing or downloading articles or ebooks from electronic databases. Please review the information on Responsible Use of Electronic Resources at the Library of Congress.

In some cases, because of rights considerations, higher resolution images or digitally available books display only when you are in Library of Congress buildings using the Library of Congress equipment or a wireless connection (you agree, in using these, that you are responsible for rights assessment).

Some thumb drives don't work well in our public workstations, so a laptop with wireless capability is the most reliable means for taking home digital images. Using the Library of Congress wireless connection in any of the Library of Congress buildings enables you to download these larger files directly to your laptop.

7. Keep in mind copyright and other restrictions associated with the collections.

If you are planning to photocopy, download, publish, or distribute copies of items or images from our collections, be prepared to do some research or risk assessment.

The Library of Congress does not hold rights to items in the collections and therefore, we are not in a position to grant or deny permission to use them.

Tips for assessing risks, including the duration of copyright, can be found on the website for the US Copyright Office.

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  March 9, 2022
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