Researching at the Library of Congress
Some of my work has brought me to research at the US Library of Congress. Housing 151.7 million items on 838 miles of bookshelves, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution is not open to just anyone. Even graduate students working on their PhDs need to make a strong case for why they should be allowed to research in these august halls and collections. Many are turned away.
If approved, a researcher may enter the Main Reading Room, a spectacular domed space with a 70,000-volume general reference collection. Here, a ticket can be filled out for a book which would then be delivered to your specific, numbered seat at long, wooden desks, curved in concentric circles. It can take hours.
Much better is to apply for a research shelf or desk, both tucked away amongst the stacks of books. Publications may be ordered online and delivered to your reserved shelf space, or to your research desk. These can then be carried to the Main Reading Room, or to the study desk to peruse according to your personal schedule, since they will be waiting for you.
But for those not living in the Washington, DC, area, nor planning a visit in the near future, there’s hope for you. Some of the more than 34.5 million books and other printed materials, 3.3 million recordings, 13.3 million photographs, 5.4 million maps, 6.5 million pieces of sheet music, and 66 million manuscripts may be accessed online. The Library of Congress website, www.loc.gov, contains 31.4 million primary source files and receives over 1.4 million page views daily. In essence, you can research your topic from afar.
There’s a law library, map collections, poets laureate, prints and photographs, webinars, all available online. Digital collections and services may be accessed, along with special areas for teachers, researchers, kids and more. Training sessions are periodically scheduled for interested parties.
Did you ever imagine the Library of Congress would virtually come to your neighborhood?
—————Tags: accessing Library of Congress collections online, Library of Congress research, LOC, Main Reading Room