[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 Information

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of the Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public. The Library's staff will respond to reference and information requests in accordance with this mission.

Correspondents are encouraged to use local and online resources. For those seeking further assistance from the Library of Congress, the staff will respond to their reference and information needs to the extent possible. Because the Library participates in a global network of librarians working electronically to answer questions, your online reference question may be submitted to this global network for reply.

Law Library Reference

In-person reference assistance in the Law Library of Congress.

Please note that the scope of the services does not include: compilation of extensive bibliographies, requests for information connected with contests, completion of school or work assignments, translations or research in heraldry or family history.

In-Person Reference Assistance

If after obtaining your Reader Identification Card you are uncertain where to go to begin your research, you may find reference assistance in the Library's Main Reading Room (Room 100 in the Jefferson Building).  Many first-time researchers are referred to the Main Reading Room to get oriented and plan their research in consultation with a reference librarian.  You may be referred to another reading room, depending on the subject of your research or the format or language of the materials you are using.  In fact, many researchers need to visit reading rooms in all three of the Library’s buildings to complete their work.

You may also wish to sign-up for one of the formal research orientations taught by reference librarians in certain of the reading rooms. Get more information on Classes for First Time Users

Remote Reference Services

Ask a Librarian Service

The Library of Congress encourages researchers to use local library resources first. Your local library will often be able to respond to your query more quickly than the Library of Congress, and is better able to identify and respond to your specific and ongoing needs. In most cases, you will find that the information you need is available at your local library. Once you have exhausted local and regional resources, you may seek the assistance of the Library of Congress by using Ask a Librarian. Your inquiry should include information on what resources you have already consulted.

Written Correspondence

If you do not have Internet access, you may request the Library's assistance by writing a letter to the following address:

     Library of Congress
     101 Independence Ave., SE
     Washington, D.C. 20540-4660

For security reasons, all U.S. Postal Service and private carrier mail is being screened off-site prior to arrival at the Library. This often causes delays in responding to print correspondence. For this reason, we recommend that researchers use the online Ask A Librarian service.

Telephone Inquiries

The Library refers telephone reference questions to local libraries, which in most cases will have the resources to answer those questions. Researchers with questions regarding the Library's collections, services, and programs may call the Library of Congress operator at (202) 707-5000.