Library of Congress Part 2

Library of Congress Part 2

The original purpose of the Library of Congress was to provide unbiased research to members of Congress. Each year the library receives thousands of requests from Congress for information on a variety of subjects. The research staff are experts in various fields. The Library of Congress also researches foreign law for Congress.

If you are planning to visit the Library of Congress, you need to obtain a free reservation ahead of time if you want to enter the building. If you will have time to do some research, you can register for a "Reader Identification Card" which will allow you to access the reading room. The stacks are closed, which means you will have to ask a librarian to retrieve the item you want to look at, then they will bring it to you. Browsing is not allowed. The Library of Congress does not check out items to people, so you will need to do your research while you are in the building.

But it's not all serious research. Remember the recent video of rapper Lizzo playing a crystal flute? That flute was part of a large collection of flutes held by the Library of Congress. Aside from flutes, the library holds many other collections. They have 124,000 telephone books, (remember those?) and over 5.6 million maps. You can also find a vellum Gutenberg Bible, a 1763 children's Bible, a cuneiform tablet from 2040 BC and one of the oldest printed items in the world, a Buddhist scripture dating to 770 AD.

If you can't make it to Washington, D.C, the Library of Congress website also contains a lot of interesting information. If you need a copyright-free image for a project, you can select from a large number of fair use images. You can also view digitized versions of original documents like a 1904 autobiography of  prohibitionist Carry A. Nation or George Washington's war correspondence. The library also houses oral histories of WWII veterans as well as recordings of slave narratives from the 1930s Federal Writer's Project.

The Library of Congress provides braille and audio books for the blind. They distribute them to state and regional libraries to pass along to their patrons free of charge. Some of their braille items include books on how to play the piano, the clarinet, and even musical scores. You can even order a braille magazine about chess or cats.

Each day about 15,000 items arrive at the library. Librarians add around 10,000 items every day. The library has an agreement with US book dealers to acquire newly published books. Many are also sent from other countries. The library houses over 173 million items in 470 different languages. The copyright office is a branch of the Library of Congress, and the largest number of acquisitions are copyright documents.

I have heard that each year over one million books are published in English. Even though the Library of Congress has much more space than the Gering Library, they can't possibly keep all of them.

When the Library of Congress has excess books, they make them available to other libraries through their surplus book program. When I was in Washington, D.C. I was able to go to the basement of the Madison Building and select books from a very large, very unorganized room full of bookshelves. I found two boxes of books for the Gering Public Library- you will be able to identify them because they will be marked "Library of Congress." Be on the lookout, I found several large print westerns. Representative Adrian Smith's office footed the shipping bill for our free books, so thank him when you see him!