Washington DC: Library of Congress

Arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC is the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson building, located across from the US Capitol and next to the Supreme Court.

I was in Washington, DC for a short trip–I had been once in elementary school and once in high school–but neither time had I been to the Library. Now as a librarian, I had to rectify that with a visit!

The Library of Congress functions as the de facto national library of the United States, although its main mission is to serve as a research library for the US Congress. It also serves as the legal deposit for materials published in the United States.

Originally housed in the US Capitol building, the expanding collection of the Library of Congress moved to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson building in 1897–built specifically for the library.

The Thomas Jefferson building, designed in a Beaux-Arts style, features an ornate Great Hall with beautiful artwork and mosaics.

Great Hall, Library of Congress

Great Hall, Library of Congress

Another highlight of the library is the Main Reading Room. Although the general public can’t access the floor, you can view from a gallery above.

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress

British troops destroyed much of the original library collection during the War of 1812. Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library collection which the government accepted. You can still get an up-close look at those original volumes.

Thomas Jefferson's library, Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson’s library, Library of Congress

It’s an interesting time for the Library of Congress. The Librarian of Congress recently retired. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, James Billington became Librarian in 1987 under President Reagan. Stories in the media have pointed the finger at the lack of focus in regards to technology, digitization, and preservation and the need for a “21st century” librarian. The Senate also passed a bill stripping lifetime tenure for the Librarian and limiting the term to 10 years (much like the FBI Director). There’s discussion on what skills the next Librarian of Congress should have–and should it be a trained librarian? Previous Librarians of Congress have been professors, historians, writers, and journalists. Few have had formal library training. My answer? Yes, a trained librarian with extensive experience in technology.

Anyway…I digress. Below are some more photos from the Library of Congress. Want to see more DC photos? check out my Flickr album.

Source: History of the Library – Library of Congress

3 Comments on “Washington DC: Library of Congress

  1. I agree that it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington. One year for ALA the main reading room was open for librarians to walk through and it is spectacular!


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