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Doing Research at the Library of Congress

X. Special Collections

Beyond the Library's general collections--which are essentially the books and journals that have regular call numbers--thousands of special collections are available to researchers at the Library of Congress. Most of this material is not recorded in the online catalog, but is available through other catalogs, finding aids, or bibliographies located in the many specialized reading rooms in all three buildings. To get into these resources, it is again important to first talk to reference librarians. In addition, these resources are particularly useful:

  • Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide, compiled by Annette Hale (Washington: Library of Congress, 1980) is an annotated listing of 269 collections of photographs, field recordings, manuscripts, maps, films, books, and graphic arts from a wide variety of the Library's specialized reading rooms.
  • A Guide to Microform Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division is a listing of hundreds of specialized research collections in microfilm. Most of the individual items in these special collections--books, journals, pamphlets, and other materials--are not separately recorded in the Library’s general online catalog; access is provided by published bibliographical guides accompanying most of the collections. Some of these sets include tens of thousands of items. The Guide to Microform Collections is online at //
  • The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) is a separate listing of photographic images, posters, and graphic materials not recorded in the Library's general online catalog. PPOC often includes thumbnail reproductions of the items listed. It is available at //
  • An online listing of finding guides to many (not all) of the Library's manuscript collections may be consulted at //
  • The Library maintains a full set of U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) publications for the most recent ten years; within that period it is a 100-percent Depository Collection, which is accessed in the Newspaper and Current Periodicals Reading Room. (Government documents from earlier years--a selective collection--are listed in the Library's regular online and card catalogs.) A complete list of this material is available through the GPO database in the FirstSearch system, searchable in any of the Library's public reading rooms.
  • A guide to women's studies at the Library may be consulted at //
  • A variety of online guides to the Library's special reading rooms and research centers is available at //
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  December 1, 2016
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