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Reading Rooms

The Library's reading rooms and special collections are described here, with links to their Internet home pages.

African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. Provides reference services pertaining to publications of all areas of Africa south of the Sahara. Materials in the Middle Eastern languages (e.g., Arabic) are also serviced here.

Asian Reading Room. Provides reference services for and access to all materials, except law, in the languages of China, Japan, Korea, and southern Asia.

Business Reference Services. With a reference collection of over 20,000 volumes, provides assistance in the fields of business and economics. Materials from the general collections that are housed in the Adams Building may be requested at the adjacent book service area.

European Reading Room. Provides reference services and programs pertaining to the cultural, political, and socioeconomic life of all areas of Europe except the British Isles, Spain, and Portugal.

Folklife Reading Room. A section of the American Folklife Center, the reading room provides access to the Library's extensive collection of non-book folklore materials.

Geography and Map Reading Room. Provides reference assistance for and access to special collections on geography and cartography, including the largest map collection in the world--over four million pieces.

Hispanic Reading Room. Offers reference and bibliographic services pertaining to Spain, Portugal, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Spanish-speaking America.

La Follette Congressional Reading Room. Reserved for use by Members of Congress, their families, and their staff members.

Law Library Reading Room. Provides reference assistance and access to the Law Library collection, one of the most comprehensive collections of legal materials ever developed, in all languages and covering all legal systems, from ancient to modern. International and foreign law service is provided through the reading room or in specialized divisions.

Local History and Genealogy Reading Room. Provides reference assistance and access to comprehensive collections in the fields of U.S. local history, genealogy, and heraldry.

Main Reading Room. Magnificently renovated, this historic room is, through its catalogs, the primary entrance into the Library's research collections, and the principal reading room for work in the social sciences and humanities. It provides access to and assistance in using approximately 56,000 volumes of print reference works, a wide variety of CD-ROM and online databases, and a number of bibliographies and guides to the Library's collections. Portable computers are permitted in the reading room; electrical outlets are provided, but the Library does not currently have facilities for portable computers to be connected to the Internet.

Manuscript Reading Room. Makes available for inspection and study over thirty-five million manuscripts and documents, including the personal papers of twenty-three presidents and the papers of such other great Americans as Clara Barton, Alexander Graham Bell, Felix Frankfurter, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John J. Pershing, Booker T. Washington, and Walt Whitman.

Microform Reading Room. Provides delivery of, and facilities for viewing, items from the Library's general microform collection of over four-and-one-half-million pieces. These holdings include preservation monographs and serials, as well as specialized collections containing early imprints, manuscripts, early state records, pamphlets, doctoral dissertations, dramas, statistical publications, press summaries, transcripts and/or translations, trade catalogs, inventories of libraries and archives, biographies, and oral histories. The materials available cover all subject areas, but focus on the humanities and social sciences.

Motion Picture and Television Reading Room. Offers reference service for the Library's collections of films and television materials. Access to items in the collections is restricted to scholars doing research beyond the undergraduate level.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (1291 Taylor Street NW, Washington, D.C.). Through a national network of regional and subregional libraries (including libraries in Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland and Virginia, for Washington area users) this part of the Library serves those who cannot use ordinary printed materials because of blindness or other disabilities (certified by competent authority). The National Library Service also provides direct service for music materials, and maintains a collection of print reference materials on non-medical aspects of blindness and physical handicaps.

Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. Provides reference assistance and access to all newspapers, current and retrospective, whether in print or microform, and in languages using Roman script, excluding all issues in Asian and Middle Eastern languages and all current issues of Slavic-alphabet materials. This reading room also provides access to current unbound issues of serials and periodicals except those in music and law, with the same language restrictions indicated above. Current and retrospective federal documents in the U.S. Depository Library Program are also available, along with United Nations depository materials, both current and retrospective.

Performing Arts Reading Room. Provides reference assistance for and access to music materials in the custody of the Music Division, including rare books and manuscripts, special collections of personal and organization archives, printed scores, literature about music, and microforms. Major holdings include manuscripts by virtually all important composers from the eighteenth century to the present, opera full scores, vocal scores, and librettos, and American popular sheet music. Facilities for audio playback of sound recordings are available in conjunction with the reference service offered in a contiguous reading room, the Recorded Sound Reference Center.

Prints and Photographs Reading Room. Provides reference assistance and delivery of materials for pictorial items such as prints, drawings, posters, photographs, fine and graphic arts, and pictorial documentation of American history and American architecture.

Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room. Offers reference assistance for and access to rare books, rare Bibles, incunabula, Americana, broadsides and pamphlets, and special collections in such areas as gastronomy, Lincolniana, and magic. The division also houses the libraries of such persons as Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt (his hunting library), and Woodrow Wilson.

Recorded Sound Reference Center. Provides reference assistance pertaining to sound recordings, including radio, and access to the Library's vast audio collections. Commercial recording highlights include extensive opera, chamber music, and American popular music collections. Significant radio collections include material from NBC Radio, National Public Radio, and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Science Reading Room. Provides reference service in all fields of science and technology, with a reference collection of over 10,000 volumes and access to all major indexing and abstracting services in the fields of science and technology. Current issues of selected science journals and a large technical reports collection are also available. In addition, LC Science Tracer Bullets, bibliographies on subjects of current interest, are distributed here.

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  March 14, 2022
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