Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress, the nation's library, is many things: a research service for Congress, the Copyright Office of the United States, a national library for the blind and physically handicapped, the home of the Poet Laureate, and the world's largest library, containing more than 130 million items in nearly every language and format.
Today, the collections include the papers of 23 presidents, and works of eminent Americans such as Susan B. Anthony, Alexander Graham Bell, Irving Berlin, Frederick Douglass, and many more.
Other treasures include the first printed book in the Western world, baseball cards, comic and cook books, and millions of maps and atlases, photographs, posters, microfilms, movies, rare books, music manuscripts and recordings, and radio and television broadcasts.
The library's original collections were housed in the new Capitol building until August 1814, when British troops invaded Washington and burned it down. Within a month, former President Thomas Jefferson, offered as a replacement his personal library, accumulated over a span of 50 years. This wide-ranging Jefferson library became the foundation for a great national library.
By 1851, the collection, still housed in the Capitol, had grown to some 55,000 volumes. A serious Capitol fire on Christmas Eve of that year destroyed some 35,000 volumes, including two-thirds of Jefferson's library. In 1897 the library moved from the Capitol to its own building. It now occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill.
Under the leadership of current Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the library embarked on a program to make its incomparable collections more widely available to the public on the Internet. To date, the library has made accessible electronically approximately 9.2 million items from its American history collections. With more than 3.3 billion hits per year, the site is among the most visited of all federal Web addresses.
Reading Room; Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 8:30am - 9:30pm
Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:30am - 5pm
Closed Sunday and federal holidays
"The Heritage Trails which you create are such gifts to DC.
H Street NE will be enhanced immeasurably by the addition of its guiding signposts of the past and point us towards the future."