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Overview:

Established with a $5,000 appropriation in 1800, the Library of Congress (LOC) was intended exclusively as a congressional reference library, but has evolved over the last two centuries into “an unparalleled world resource.” An agency within the legislative branch, the library is a national monument, the de facto national library, the research arm of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, and the biggest library in the world.

 
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History:

The library was established in 1800, when the seat of the U.S. government was transferred from Philadelphia to Washington. It was originally intended as an exclusive reference library for Congress. It was housed in the new capitol building until 1814, when British troops set fire to it and destroyed two-thirds of the collection. Retired President Thomas Jefferson offered to replace it with his own personal collection, and in 1815 Congress appropriated $23,950 for the purchase of his 6,497 books. According to the library, its current collecting practices are based on the “Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature.”

 

The library collection was subsequently expanded and, in 1886, after many proposals and surrounding controversy, Congress authorized construction of a new building to house it. When it opened to the public in 1897, it was considered a national monument—and the “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library in the world.

History

Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress

Re-Created Library Speaks Volumes About Jefferson (by Amy Orndorff, Washington Post)

Fascinating Facts

more
What it Does:

As the official congressional research division, the Library of Congress is under tight security, with all collections stored in areas that are off limits to the public and staff without authorization. Only members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and their staffs, and certain government officials are allowed to check out books. However, the library is open to the public for tours and academic research. In 2010 it received more than 1.7 million on-site visitors. All researchers are required to have a Library-issued Reader Identification Card to access the institution’s public collections.

 

Since 1902, the library has also served as a “last resort” resource for U.S. libraries, which may request certain books and other items through interlibrary loans if they are not available from other sources.

Congress established legislative library April 24, 1800 (by Andrew Glass, Politico)

 

Organization

The library includes several divisions including the Office of the Librarian, the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Law Library of Congress, Library Services and the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Organizational Chart (pdf)

 

Collections

Today’s Library of Congress houses a collection of more than 147 million items, including:

  • More than 33 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages;
  • More than 64 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America;
  • The world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

 

Publications

Books from the Library of Congress

Books about the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Collection Guides

Library of Congress Digital Preservation Newsletter (pdf)

Library of Congress Exhibition Companions

Library of Congress Signature Collection

Calendars

Posters

Knowledge Cards

 

Office of the Inspector General

Office of the Inspector General oversees library operations and polices fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement; performs audits and publishes strategic plans.

FY '12 Audit Plan (pdf)

Annual Report FY 2010 (pdf)

 

Library of Congress Experience

In April 2008, the library introduced new interactive technology for visitors to explore its collection and history. The digital project was three years in the making, and aimed, in part, at launching the Library of Congress online, but also makes materials more accessible, both for in-person visitors and online.

The Library of Congress Delivers a Whole New Experience (by Kathy Dempsey, Information Today, Inc.)

MyLOC

 

Chronicling America

This is the Library of Congress’s searchable Web site chronicling the nation’s newspapers dating back to 1836.

Thomas

This is an archive of all U.S. Congressional proceedings, including bills, the Congressional Record, and the U.S. Constitution.

 

Other Highlights

Wise Guide

Webcasts from the Library

Performing Arts

Places in the News

Today in History 

Gateway to Knowledge Traveling Exhibit

 

Programs and Initiatives

http://www.loc.gov/literacy/ Read.gov

Flickr Photo Pilot

Audio-Visual Conservation

Digital Preservation

Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement on the Study of the Humanities

National Book Festival

 

History Channel Deal

Library of Congress gives to History: Network scores 130 million items from archive (by John Dempsey, Variety)

 

Resources

Ask a Librarian

Bibliographies, Research Guides and Finding Aids

Prints & Photographs Online

Online Catalog

Virtual Reference Shelf

Databases and E-Resources

Resources for Teachers

Resources for Kids & Families

American Memory Collection: Early Motion Pictures Viewable Online

Library of Congress Web Archives

Map Collections

Contemporary Maps

Portals to the World: Links to Information about the Nations of the World

Country Studies

 

From the Web Site of the Library of Congress

Contact Information

Copyright Office

Digital Collections and Services

Exhibitions

FAQs

Film Screenings

Information Bulletin

Law Library of Congress

News from the Library of Congress

Online Catalog

Public Events at the Library of Congress

Research and Reference Services

Thomas Congressional Archive

Today in History

Tours and Activities

Webcasts

Wise Guide

World Digital Library

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Library of Congress FY 2013 Budget Justification offers the following outline of proposed agency expenditures for that year:

Total Employee Compensation and Benefits                                     $416,398,000

Equipment                                                                                            $76,192,000

Other services                                                                                       $47,034,000

Advisory & assistance services                                                            $30,195,000

Operation & maintenance of equipment                                               $22,649,000

Other purch of gds & services from gov acc                                         $12,347,000

Operation & maintenance of facilities                                                    $7,206,000

Supplies & materials                                                                               $7,198,000

Grants, subsidies & contributions                                                          $6,434,000

Rental payments to GSA                                                                       $5,636,000

Communication, utilities & misc charges                                                $4,407,000

Printing & reproduction                                                                          $3,990,000

Travel & transportation of persons                                                        $1,728,000

Rental payments to others                                                                        $764,000

Transportation of things                                                                            $604,000

Financial transfers                                                                                      $108,000

Subsistence & support of persons                                                              $85,000

Research & development contracts                                                             $46,000

Medical care                                                                                                 $20,000

Insurance claims & indemnities                                                                     $3,000

Total                                                                                                    $643,550,000

more
Controversies:

Sex Bias Cases Cause Controversy for the LOC

The Library of Congress (LOC) in recent years has been accused twice of discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual bias. In 2009, it was ordered to pay a former Army Special Forces commander nearly $500,000 for rescinding a job offer after learning the person was undergoing a sex change. David Schroer applied for a job as a terrorism analyst with the LOC. Schroer was told the job was his until he told his superior about his pending surgery to become a woman. The position was then denied to Schroer, who sued and won what became one of the first rulings based on the federal sex discrimination statute of 1964 to favor of transgendered people.

 

In 2012, the LOC was charged again with discriminating against an employee, this time involving a gay man who posted a “like” on a same-sex parents Facebook page. Peter TerVeer, a management analyst in the LOC’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), accused his supervisor of creating a hostile work environment, which resulted in TerVeer suffering severe stress and having to go on disability leave. After his disability leave expired, TerVeer refused to return to work, claiming the LOC denied his request for a transfer to another office. The IG then fired TerVeer for being absent without leave for 37 days. TerVeer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was planning to file a lawsuit as well in federal court.

Library of Congress Staffer Fired, Claims Anti-Gay Bias (by Lou Chibbaro Jr,, Washington Blade)

Peter TerVeer, Gay Library Of Congress Employee, Claims Facebook 'Like' Got Him Fired (Huffington Post)

Transsexual Wins $500,000 Lawsuit (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Schroer v. Library of Congress - Case Profile (American Civil Liberties Union)

Transgendered Woman Wins Sex Discrimination Case (by Jeffrey Diamond, ABC News)

 

LOC Blocks Access To Wikileaks, But Denies Labeling Wikileaks “Extremist”

During the uproar over WikiLeaks’ publishing of thousands of secret documents, the LOC)blocked access on its public computers to the controversial Web site. LOC officials said in December 2010 that they were merely following orders issued by the White House that instructed federal offices to protect classified information—regardless of the fact that WikiLeaks had already published it.

 

“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” the LOC said in an official statement. “Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.” The White House, however, claimed it never explicitly told agencies to block access to WikiLeaks.

 

In 2011, the LOC was again swept up in WikiLeaks-related controversy when a book it carried about the whistle-blowing organization was labeled “extremist.” A spokesman said the library had done so because a library system in Australia had also labeled the book (Inside WikiLeaks, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg) as extremist. The labeling was subsequently removed from the LOC catalog system.

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks (by Matt Raymond, LOC Blog)

Censorship Is Censorship, Especially When It’s the Library of Congress (by Sarah Houghton, Librarian in Black)

Library of Congress: We Didn't Call WikiLeaks 'Extremist' (by Declan McCullagh, CNET)

5 Worst Examples of the WikiLeaks Sites Banned or Censored (by Ryan Dube, MakeUseOf.com)

 

Guns at the LOC

Congress decided in March 2009 to prohibit the Library of Congress’ inspector general (IG) office from carrying or buying firearms, which they had done for years as part of their investigations, many of which take them out of the library and involve child pornography, embezzlement, identity theft, and credit card fraud cases.

 

The library’s IG agents had carried guns for 15 years, just as other IG agents at other federal agencies had done. But lawmakers added language into the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill that barred the library’s officers from using federal funds to “purchase, maintain or carry” firearms.

 

Members of Congress cited what they said was a “separation of powers” concern. The library’s investigators were part of the Legislative Branch, but they were deputized by the U.S. Marshals, which falls under the Executive Branch. Later that year, lawmakers reversed course after the LOC’s IG objected strongly to the gun ban. “We’re very happy to be back in business,” IG Karl Schornagel told Roll Call. “Obviously, we need this law enforcement authority to be able to conduct criminal investigations needed at the Library.”

Library of Congress Agents Ask Lawmakers to Give Them Back Their Guns (by Judison Berger, Fox News)

Library of Congress Investigators Said to Get Guns Back, Restart Criminal Probes (Fox News)

 

Venezuelan National Library

Director of the Venezuelan National Library calls the Library of Congress imperialist and “one of history’s greatest enemies of libraries.” More below:

Venezuelan National Library Battles "Imperialism" of Library of Congress (by Norman Oder, Library Journal)

 

Freud Exhibition

In the early 1990s, plans for the “Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture” exhibition at the library elicited controversy among critics who charged it presented a biased rendering of Freud’s work—and psychoanalysis—in favor of his supporters. Drawn from the library’s vast Freud archives (the largest in the world), the exhibition placed significant emphasis on Freud’s impact on popular culture and included a contemporary discussion the place of Freud and psychoanalysis in psychology. In 1995, about a year after work began on the project, a petition signed by 42 writers and scholars critical of his work was reportedly part of the reason for the exhibition’s delay until October 1998.

Controversy Timeline (Australian Museum Online)

Dr. Freud Goes to Washington (by Bruce Bower, Science News)

Revised After Protests, Freud Show Is Back On (by Dinitia Smith, New York Times)

Library of Congress Postpones Exhibit on Freud due to Scrutiny and Budget (by Marc Fisher, Washington Post)

 

Thurgood Marshall Papers

Donated to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court papers of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall became public domain shortly after his retirement and death in 1991. Both the Marshall family and a majority of the Supreme Court justices harshly criticized the decision to release the documents so soon after his death, and contested the library’s interpretation of a 1991 contract it claimed instructed them to do so, citing, among others, a clause that purportedly specified the documents would be made available to researchers and scholars—not journalists. (The papers, giving a rare glimpse behind the scenes on the most heated debates during Marshall’s tenure, were published extensively in The Washington Post and other publications upon release.) Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a critical and threatening letter to James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, on behalf of a majority of the court, essentially accusing him of betraying Marshall’s trust, warning that other justices would now be less inclined to leave their court documents to the library (the traditional repository for justices’ court documents) and calling his decision “an irresponsible and flagrant abuse” of his authority. Billington maintained that he had acted on the explicit instructions of Marshall, refusing to admit any mismanagement or wrongdoing on the part of the Library of Congress.

In Marshall Papers Case, Library Abuses Trust (by Susan Low Bloch, letter to the editor, New York Times)

Librarian Vows to Continue Public Access to Marshall's Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times)

Chief Justice Assails Library On Release of Marshall Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times)

Marshall Papers Reveal Court Behind the Scenes (by David Johnston, New York Times)

Sex Bias Cases Cause Controversy for the LOC

The Library of Congress (LOC) in recent years has been accused twice of discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual bias. In 2009, it was ordered to pay a former Army Special Forces commander nearly $500,000 for rescinding a job offer after learning the person was undergoing a sex change. David Schroer applied for a job as a terrorism analyst with the LOC. Schroer was told the job was his until he told his superior about his pending surgery to become a woman. The position was then denied to Schroer, who sued and won what became one of the first rulings based on the federal sex discrimination statute of 1964 to favor of transgendered people.

 

In 2012, the LOC was charged again with discriminating against an employee, this time involving a gay man who posted a “like” on a same-sex parents Facebook page. Peter TerVeer, a management analyst in the LOC’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), accused his supervisor of creating a hostile work environment, which resulted in TerVeer suffering severe stress and having to go on disability leave. After his disability leave expired, TerVeer refused to return to work, claiming the LOC denied his request for a transfer to another office. The IG then fired TerVeer for being absent without leave for 37 days. TerVeer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was planning to file a lawsuit as well in federal court.

Library of Congress Staffer Fired, Claims Anti-Gay Bias (by Lou Chibbaro Jr,, Washington Blade)

Peter TerVeer, Gay Library Of Congress Employee, Claims Facebook 'Like' Got Him Fired (Huffington Post)

Transsexual Wins $500,000 Lawsuit (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Schroer v. Library of Congress - Case Profile (American Civil Liberties Union)

Transgendered Woman Wins Sex Discrimination Case (by Jeffrey Diamond, ABC News)

 

LOC Blocks Access To Wikileaks, But Denies Labeling Wikileaks “Extremist”

During the uproar over WikiLeaks’ publishing of thousands of secret documents, the LOC)blocked access on its public computers to the controversial Web site. LOC officials said in December 2010 that they were merely following orders issued by the White House that instructed federal offices to protect classified information—regardless of the fact that WikiLeaks had already published it.

 

“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” the LOC said in an official statement. “Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.” The White House, however, claimed it never explicitly told agencies to block access to WikiLeaks.

 

In 2011, the LOC was again swept up in WikiLeaks-related controversy when a book it carried about the whistle-blowing organization was labeled “extremist.” A spokesman said the library had done so because a library system in Australia had also labeled the book (Inside WikiLeaks, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg) as extremist. The labeling was subsequently removed from the LOC catalog system.

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks (by Matt Raymond, LOC Blog)

Censorship Is Censorship, Especially When It’s the Library of Congress (by Sarah Houghton, Librarian in Black)

Library of Congress: We Didn't Call WikiLeaks 'Extremist' (by Declan McCullagh, CNET)

5 Worst Examples of the WikiLeaks Sites Banned or Censored (by Ryan Dube, MakeUseOf.com)

 

Guns at the LOC

Congress decided in March 2009 to prohibit the Library of Congress’ inspector general (IG) office from carrying or buying firearms, which they had done for years as part of their investigations, many of which take them out of the library and involve child pornography, embezzlement, identity theft, and credit card fraud cases.

 

The library’s IG agents had carried guns for 15 years, just as other IG agents at other federal agencies had done. But lawmakers added language into the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill that barred the library’s officers from using federal funds to “purchase, maintain or carry” firearms.

 

Members of Congress cited what they said was a “separation of powers” concern. The library’s investigators were part of the Legislative Branch, but they were deputized by the U.S. Marshals, which falls under the Executive Branch. Later that year, lawmakers reversed course after the LOC’s IG objected strongly to the gun ban. “We’re very happy to be back in business,” IG Karl Schornagel told Roll Call. “Obviously, we need this law enforcement authority to be able to conduct criminal investigations needed at the Library.”

Library of Congress Agents Ask Lawmakers to Give Them Back Their Guns (by Judison Berger, Fox News)

Library of Congress Investigators Said to Get Guns Back, Restart Criminal Probes (Fox News)

 

Venezuelan National Library

Director of the Venezuelan National Library calls the Library of Congress imperialist and “one of history’s greatest enemies of libraries.” More below:

Venezuelan National Library Battles "Imperialism" of Library of Congress (by Norman Oder, Library Journal)

 

Freud Exhibition

In the early 1990s, plans for the “Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture” exhibition at the library elicited controversy among critics who charged it presented a biased rendering of Freud’s work—and psychoanalysis—in favor of his supporters. Drawn from the library’s vast Freud archives (the largest in the world), the exhibition placed significant emphasis on Freud’s impact on popular culture and included a contemporary discussion the place of Freud and psychoanalysis in psychology. In 1995, about a year after work began on the project, a petition signed by 42 writers and scholars critical of his work was reportedly part of the reason for the exhibition’s delay until October 1998.

Controversy Timeline (Australian Museum Online)

Dr. Freud Goes to Washington (by Bruce Bower, Science News)

Revised After Protests, Freud Show Is Back On (by Dinitia Smith, New York Times)

Library of Congress Postpones Exhibit on Freud due to Scrutiny and Budget (by Marc Fisher, Washington Post)

 

Thurgood Marshall Papers

Donated to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court papers of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall became public domain shortly after his retirement and death in 1991. Both the Marshall family and a majority of the Supreme Court justices harshly criticized the decision to release the documents so soon after his death, and contested the library’s interpretation of a 1991 contract it claimed instructed them to do so, citing, among others, a clause that purportedly specified the documents would be made available to researchers and scholars—not journalists. (The papers, giving a rare glimpse behind the scenes on the most heated debates during Marshall’s tenure, were published extensively in The Washington Post and other publications upon release.) Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a critical and threatening letter to James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, on behalf of a majority of the court, essentially accusing him of betraying Marshall’s trust, warning that other justices would now be less inclined to leave their court documents to the library (the traditional repository for justices’ court documents) and calling his decision “an irresponsible and flagrant abuse” of his authority. Billington maintained that he had acted on the explicit instructions of Marshall, refusing to admit any mismanagement or wrongdoing on the part of the Library of Congress.

In Marshall Papers Case, Library Abuses Trust (by Susan Low Bloch, letter to the editor, New York Times)

Librarian Vows to Continue Public Access to Marshall's Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times)

Chief Justice Assails Library On Release of Marshall Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times)

Marshall Papers Reveal Court Behind the Scenes (by David Johnston, New York Times)

more
Debate:

Should the LOC save every tweet ever made?

The Library of Congress (LOC) sparked debate in 2010 when it announced its decision to archive every single message ever posted on Twitter. The storage of this amount of information could be staggering, given that Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets per day.

 

The only tweets that won’t be archived are personal, direct messages between users. LOC officials said the archive will emphasize tweets with “scholarly and research implications,” such as the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and President Barack Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election.

 

Considering that the bulk of tweets are far more mundane in terms of content, some critics questioned why the LOC would spend time and resources storing what many consider is useless information.

Library of Congress: We're Archiving Every Tweet Ever Made (by Nate Anderson, Arstechnica)

Library of Congress To Archive All Public Twitter Tweets (by Jon Swartz, USA Today)

 

Pro:

Regardless of what the messages consist of, tweets are part of America’s collective and cultural history, and therefore should be preserved, according to supporters. And who better to store them than the Library of Congress whose mission is to archive the United States’ most important memories. The LOC preserves other things that are not entirely noteworthy, like some of the more than 100,000 3D images it has. But it’s still important to preserve them because they are, like it or not, a part of our past. Future generations should have the ability to see what Americans from this time were saying on Twitter.

Tweets Alongside the Gettysburg Address: So Wrong (Bloomberg Businessweek)

 

Con:

There are some valuable messages on Twitter, opponents note, such as alerts about important media stories or reports or other developments impacting people and the country. But let’s face it, the majority of tweets are banal, or they’re plugs from businesses to get consumers interested in a new product, or they represent the empty rants of the self-involved. If the LOC wants to limit its Twitter archive to tweets about useful information, then okay (even then, that probably goes beyond the scope of the LOC’s original purpose, which was to be “necessary for the use of Congress”). But to store everything not only seems senseless, but also worrisome for it resembles what the government has done since September 11 in amassing as much information it can on Americans. Banking all of Twitter will not “foster a free and informed society,” critics say.

How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive (by Matt Raymond, Library of Congress Blog)

Tweets Alongside the Gettysburg Address: So Wrong (Bloomberg Businessweek)

OMG! Library of Congress To Store Tweets (Seattle Times)

more
Former Directors:

Daniel J. Boorstin (1975-1987)

Lawrence Quincy Mumford (1954-1974)

Luther Evans (1945-1953)

Archibald MacLeish (1939-1944)

Herbert Putnam (1899-1939)

John Russell Young (1897-1899)

Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1864-1897)

John G. Stephenson (1861-1864)

John Silva Meehan (1829-1861)

George Watterston (1815-1829)

Patrick Magruder (1807-1815)

John James Beckley (1801-1807)

more

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Founded: 1800
Annual Budget: $643.5 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 3,557 (2013 Estimate)
Library of Congress
Billington, James
Librarian
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and raised in Philadelphia, James H. Billington earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. He served in the U.S. Army and worked in the Office of National Estimates, and then taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962. He was professor of history at Princeton University from 1964 to 1973. Thereafter, Billington directed the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, and seven other new programs, including the Wilson Quarterly.
 
Billington has authored several books on Russia and accompanied 10 Congressional delegations to Russia and the former Soviet Union. He founded the Open World Program, a “nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress that has brought over 10,000 emerging young Russian political leaders to communities throughout America, and launched smaller pilot programs in Ukraine, Lithuania and Uzbekistan.” He was sworn in as Librarian of the Library on September 14, 1987.
 
 
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Established with a $5,000 appropriation in 1800, the Library of Congress (LOC) was intended exclusively as a congressional reference library, but has evolved over the last two centuries into “an unparalleled world resource.” An agency within the legislative branch, the library is a national monument, the de facto national library, the research arm of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, and the biggest library in the world.

 
more
History:

The library was established in 1800, when the seat of the U.S. government was transferred from Philadelphia to Washington. It was originally intended as an exclusive reference library for Congress. It was housed in the new capitol building until 1814, when British troops set fire to it and destroyed two-thirds of the collection. Retired President Thomas Jefferson offered to replace it with his own personal collection, and in 1815 Congress appropriated $23,950 for the purchase of his 6,497 books. According to the library, its current collecting practices are based on the “Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature.”

 

The library collection was subsequently expanded and, in 1886, after many proposals and surrounding controversy, Congress authorized construction of a new building to house it. When it opened to the public in 1897, it was considered a national monument—and the “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library in the world.

History

Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress

Re-Created Library Speaks Volumes About Jefferson (by Amy Orndorff, Washington Post)

Fascinating Facts

more
What it Does:

As the official congressional research division, the Library of Congress is under tight security, with all collections stored in areas that are off limits to the public and staff without authorization. Only members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and their staffs, and certain government officials are allowed to check out books. However, the library is open to the public for tours and academic research. In 2010 it received more than 1.7 million on-site visitors. All researchers are required to have a Library-issued Reader Identification Card to access the institution’s public collections.

 

Since 1902, the library has also served as a “last resort” resource for U.S. libraries, which may request certain books and other items through interlibrary loans if they are not available from other sources.

Congress established legislative library April 24, 1800 (by Andrew Glass, Politico)

 

Organization

The library includes several divisions including the Office of the Librarian, the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Law Library of Congress, Library Services and the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Organizational Chart (pdf)

 

Collections

Today’s Library of Congress houses a collection of more than 147 million items, including:

  • More than 33 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages;
  • More than 64 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America;
  • The world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

 

Publications

Books from the Library of Congress

Books about the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Collection Guides

Library of Congress Digital Preservation Newsletter (pdf)

Library of Congress Exhibition Companions

Library of Congress Signature Collection

Calendars

Posters

Knowledge Cards

 

Office of the Inspector General

Office of the Inspector General oversees library operations and polices fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement; performs audits and publishes strategic plans.

FY '12 Audit Plan (pdf)

Annual Report FY 2010 (pdf)

 

Library of Congress Experience

In April 2008, the library introduced new interactive technology for visitors to explore its collection and history. The digital project was three years in the making, and aimed, in part, at launching the Library of Congress online, but also makes materials more accessible, both for in-person visitors and online.

The Library of Congress Delivers a Whole New Experience (by Kathy Dempsey, Information Today, Inc.)

MyLOC

 

Chronicling America

This is the Library of Congress’s searchable Web site chronicling the nation’s newspapers dating back to 1836.

Thomas

This is an archive of all U.S. Congressional proceedings, including bills, the Congressional Record, and the U.S. Constitution.

 

Other Highlights

Wise Guide

Webcasts from the Library

Performing Arts

Places in the News

Today in History 

Gateway to Knowledge Traveling Exhibit

 

Programs and Initiatives

http://www.loc.gov/literacy/ Read.gov

Flickr Photo Pilot

Audio-Visual Conservation

Digital Preservation

Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement on the Study of the Humanities

National Book Festival

 

History Channel Deal

Library of Congress gives to History: Network scores 130 million items from archive (by John Dempsey, Variety)

 

Resources

Ask a Librarian

Bibliographies, Research Guides and Finding Aids

Prints & Photographs Online

Online Catalog

Virtual Reference Shelf

Databases and E-Resources

Resources for Teachers

Resources for Kids & Families

American Memory Collection: Early Motion Pictures Viewable Online

Library of Congress Web Archives

Map Collections

Contemporary Maps

Portals to the World: Links to Information about the Nations of the World

Country Studies

 

From the Web Site of the Library of Congress

Contact Information

Copyright Office

Digital Collections and Services

Exhibitions

FAQs

Film Screenings

Information Bulletin

Law Library of Congress

News from the Library of Congress

Online Catalog

Public Events at the Library of Congress

Research and Reference Services

Thomas Congressional Archive

Today in History

Tours and Activities

Webcasts

Wise Guide

World Digital Library

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Library of Congress FY 2013 Budget Justification offers the following outline of proposed agency expenditures for that year:

Total Employee Compensation and Benefits                                     $416,398,000

Equipment                                                                                            $76,192,000

Other services                                                                                       $47,034,000

Advisory & assistance services                                                            $30,195,000

Operation & maintenance of equipment                                               $22,649,000

Other purch of gds & services from gov acc                                         $12,347,000

Operation & maintenance of facilities                                                    $7,206,000

Supplies & materials                                                                               $7,198,000

Grants, subsidies & contributions                                                          $6,434,000

Rental payments to GSA                                                                       $5,636,000

Communication, utilities & misc charges                                                $4,407,000

Printing & reproduction                                                                          $3,990,000

Travel & transportation of persons                                                        $1,728,000

Rental payments to others                                                                        $764,000

Transportation of things                                                                            $604,000

Financial transfers                                                                                      $108,000

Subsistence & support of persons                                                              $85,000

Research & development contracts                                                             $46,000

Medical care                                                                                                 $20,000

Insurance claims & indemnities                                                                     $3,000

Total                                                                                                    $643,550,000

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Controversies:

Sex Bias Cases Cause Controversy for the LOC

The Library of Congress (LOC) in recent years has been accused twice of discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual bias. In 2009, it was ordered to pay a former Army Special Forces commander nearly $500,000 for rescinding a job offer after learning the person was undergoing a sex change. David Schroer applied for a job as a terrorism analyst with the LOC. Schroer was told the job was his until he told his superior about his pending surgery to become a woman. The position was then denied to Schroer, who sued and won what became one of the first rulings based on the federal sex discrimination statute of 1964 to favor of transgendered people.

 

In 2012, the LOC was charged again with discriminating against an employee, this time involving a gay man who posted a “like” on a same-sex parents Facebook page. Peter TerVeer, a management analyst in the LOC’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), accused his supervisor of creating a hostile work environment, which resulted in TerVeer suffering severe stress and having to go on disability leave. After his disability leave expired, TerVeer refused to return to work, claiming the LOC denied his request for a transfer to another office. The IG then fired TerVeer for being absent without leave for 37 days. TerVeer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was planning to file a lawsuit as well in federal court.

Library of Congress Staffer Fired, Claims Anti-Gay Bias (by Lou Chibbaro Jr,, Washington Blade)

Peter TerVeer, Gay Library Of Congress Employee, Claims Facebook 'Like' Got Him Fired (Huffington Post)

Transsexual Wins $500,000 Lawsuit (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Schroer v. Library of Congress - Case Profile (American Civil Liberties Union)

Transgendered Woman Wins Sex Discrimination Case (by Jeffrey Diamond, ABC News)

 

LOC Blocks Access To Wikileaks, But Denies Labeling Wikileaks “Extremist”

During the uproar over WikiLeaks’ publishing of thousands of secret documents, the LOC)blocked access on its public computers to the controversial Web site. LOC officials said in December 2010 that they were merely following orders issued by the White House that instructed federal offices to protect classified information—regardless of the fact that WikiLeaks had already published it.

 

“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” the LOC said in an official statement. “Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.” The White House, however, claimed it never explicitly told agencies to block access to WikiLeaks.

 

In 2011, the LOC was again swept up in WikiLeaks-related controversy when a book it carried about the whistle-blowing organization was labeled “extremist.” A spokesman said the library had done so because a library system in Australia had also labeled the book (Inside WikiLeaks, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg) as extremist. The labeling was subsequently removed from the LOC catalog system.

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks (by Matt Raymond, LOC Blog)

Censorship Is Censorship, Especially When It’s the Library of Congress (by Sarah Houghton, Librarian in Black)

Library of Congress: We Didn't Call WikiLeaks 'Extremist' (by Declan McCullagh, CNET)

5 Worst Examples of the WikiLeaks Sites Banned or Censored (by Ryan Dube, MakeUseOf.com)

 

Guns at the LOC

Congress decided in March 2009 to prohibit the Library of Congress’ inspector general (IG) office from carrying or buying firearms, which they had done for years as part of their investigations, many of which take them out of the library and involve child pornography, embezzlement, identity theft, and credit card fraud cases.

 

The library’s IG agents had carried guns for 15 years, just as other IG agents at other federal agencies had done. But lawmakers added language into the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill that barred the library’s officers from using federal funds to “purchase, maintain or carry” firearms.

 

Members of Congress cited what they said was a “separation of powers” concern. The library’s investigators were part of the Legislative Branch, but they were deputized by the U.S. Marshals, which falls under the Executive Branch. Later that year, lawmakers reversed course after the LOC’s IG objected strongly to the gun ban. “We’re very happy to be back in business,” IG Karl Schornagel told Roll Call. “Obviously, we need this law enforcement authority to be able to conduct criminal investigations needed at the Library.”

Library of Congress Agents Ask Lawmakers to Give Them Back Their Guns (by Judison Berger, Fox News)

Library of Congress Investigators Said to Get Guns Back, Restart Criminal Probes (Fox News)

 

Venezuelan National Library

Director of the Venezuelan National Library calls the Library of Congress imperialist and “one of history’s greatest enemies of libraries.” More below:

Venezuelan National Library Battles "Imperialism" of Library of Congress (by Norman Oder, Library Journal)

 

Freud Exhibition

In the early 1990s, plans for the “Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture” exhibition at the library elicited controversy among critics who charged it presented a biased rendering of Freud’s work—and psychoanalysis—in favor of his supporters. Drawn from the library’s vast Freud archives (the largest in the world), the exhibition placed significant emphasis on Freud’s impact on popular culture and included a contemporary discussion the place of Freud and psychoanalysis in psychology. In 1995, about a year after work began on the project, a petition signed by 42 writers and scholars critical of his work was reportedly part of the reason for the exhibition’s delay until October 1998.

Controversy Timeline (Australian Museum Online)

Dr. Freud Goes to Washington (by Bruce Bower, Science News)

Revised After Protests, Freud Show Is Back On (by Dinitia Smith, New York Times)

Library of Congress Postpones Exhibit on Freud due to Scrutiny and Budget (by Marc Fisher, Washington Post)

 

Thurgood Marshall Papers

Donated to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court papers of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall became public domain shortly after his retirement and death in 1991. Both the Marshall family and a majority of the Supreme Court justices harshly criticized the decision to release the documents so soon after his death, and contested the library’s interpretation of a 1991 contract it claimed instructed them to do so, citing, among others, a clause that purportedly specified the documents would be made available to researchers and scholars—not journalists. (The papers, giving a rare glimpse behind the scenes on the most heated debates during Marshall’s tenure, were published extensively in The Washington Post and other publications upon release.) Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a critical and threatening letter to James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, on behalf of a majority of the court, essentially accusing him of betraying Marshall’s trust, warning that other justices would now be less inclined to leave their court documents to the library (the traditional repository for justices’ court documents) and calling his decision “an irresponsible and flagrant abuse” of his authority. Billington maintained that he had acted on the explicit instructions of Marshall, refusing to admit any mismanagement or wrongdoing on the part of the Library of Congress.

In Marshall Papers Case, Library Abuses Trust (by Susan Low Bloch, letter to the editor, New York Times)

Librarian Vows to Continue Public Access to Marshall's Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times)

Chief Justice Assails Library On Release of Marshall Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times)

Marshall Papers Reveal Court Behind the Scenes (by David Johnston, New York Times)

Sex Bias Cases Cause Controversy for the LOC

The Library of Congress (LOC) in recent years has been accused twice of discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual bias. In 2009, it was ordered to pay a former Army Special Forces commander nearly $500,000 for rescinding a job offer after learning the person was undergoing a sex change. David Schroer applied for a job as a terrorism analyst with the LOC. Schroer was told the job was his until he told his superior about his pending surgery to become a woman. The position was then denied to Schroer, who sued and won what became one of the first rulings based on the federal sex discrimination statute of 1964 to favor of transgendered people.

 

In 2012, the LOC was charged again with discriminating against an employee, this time involving a gay man who posted a “like” on a same-sex parents Facebook page. Peter TerVeer, a management analyst in the LOC’s Office of the Inspector General (IG), accused his supervisor of creating a hostile work environment, which resulted in TerVeer suffering severe stress and having to go on disability leave. After his disability leave expired, TerVeer refused to return to work, claiming the LOC denied his request for a transfer to another office. The IG then fired TerVeer for being absent without leave for 37 days. TerVeer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was planning to file a lawsuit as well in federal court.

Library of Congress Staffer Fired, Claims Anti-Gay Bias (by Lou Chibbaro Jr,, Washington Blade)

Peter TerVeer, Gay Library Of Congress Employee, Claims Facebook 'Like' Got Him Fired (Huffington Post)

Transsexual Wins $500,000 Lawsuit (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Schroer v. Library of Congress - Case Profile (American Civil Liberties Union)

Transgendered Woman Wins Sex Discrimination Case (by Jeffrey Diamond, ABC News)

 

LOC Blocks Access To Wikileaks, But Denies Labeling Wikileaks “Extremist”

During the uproar over WikiLeaks’ publishing of thousands of secret documents, the LOC)blocked access on its public computers to the controversial Web site. LOC officials said in December 2010 that they were merely following orders issued by the White House that instructed federal offices to protect classified information—regardless of the fact that WikiLeaks had already published it.

 

“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” the LOC said in an official statement. “Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.” The White House, however, claimed it never explicitly told agencies to block access to WikiLeaks.

 

In 2011, the LOC was again swept up in WikiLeaks-related controversy when a book it carried about the whistle-blowing organization was labeled “extremist.” A spokesman said the library had done so because a library system in Australia had also labeled the book (Inside WikiLeaks, by Daniel Domscheit-Berg) as extremist. The labeling was subsequently removed from the LOC catalog system.

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks (by Matt Raymond, LOC Blog)

Censorship Is Censorship, Especially When It’s the Library of Congress (by Sarah Houghton, Librarian in Black)

Library of Congress: We Didn't Call WikiLeaks 'Extremist' (by Declan McCullagh, CNET)

5 Worst Examples of the WikiLeaks Sites Banned or Censored (by Ryan Dube, MakeUseOf.com)

 

Guns at the LOC

Congress decided in March 2009 to prohibit the Library of Congress’ inspector general (IG) office from carrying or buying firearms, which they had done for years as part of their investigations, many of which take them out of the library and involve child pornography, embezzlement, identity theft, and credit card fraud cases.

 

The library’s IG agents had carried guns for 15 years, just as other IG agents at other federal agencies had done. But lawmakers added language into the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill that barred the library’s officers from using federal funds to “purchase, maintain or carry” firearms.

 

Members of Congress cited what they said was a “separation of powers” concern. The library’s investigators were part of the Legislative Branch, but they were deputized by the U.S. Marshals, which falls under the Executive Branch. Later that year, lawmakers reversed course after the LOC’s IG objected strongly to the gun ban. “We’re very happy to be back in business,” IG Karl Schornagel told Roll Call. “Obviously, we need this law enforcement authority to be able to conduct criminal investigations needed at the Library.”

Library of Congress Agents Ask Lawmakers to Give Them Back Their Guns (by Judison Berger, Fox News)

Library of Congress Investigators Said to Get Guns Back, Restart Criminal Probes (Fox News)

 

Venezuelan National Library

Director of the Venezuelan National Library calls the Library of Congress imperialist and “one of history’s greatest enemies of libraries.” More below:

Venezuelan National Library Battles "Imperialism" of Library of Congress (by Norman Oder, Library Journal)

 

Freud Exhibition

In the early 1990s, plans for the “Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture” exhibition at the library elicited controversy among critics who charged it presented a biased rendering of Freud’s work—and psychoanalysis—in favor of his supporters. Drawn from the library’s vast Freud archives (the largest in the world), the exhibition placed significant emphasis on Freud’s impact on popular culture and included a contemporary discussion the place of Freud and psychoanalysis in psychology. In 1995, about a year after work began on the project, a petition signed by 42 writers and scholars critical of his work was reportedly part of the reason for the exhibition’s delay until October 1998.

Controversy Timeline (Australian Museum Online)

Dr. Freud Goes to Washington (by Bruce Bower, Science News)

Revised After Protests, Freud Show Is Back On (by Dinitia Smith, New York Times)

Library of Congress Postpones Exhibit on Freud due to Scrutiny and Budget (by Marc Fisher, Washington Post)

 

Thurgood Marshall Papers

Donated to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court papers of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall became public domain shortly after his retirement and death in 1991. Both the Marshall family and a majority of the Supreme Court justices harshly criticized the decision to release the documents so soon after his death, and contested the library’s interpretation of a 1991 contract it claimed instructed them to do so, citing, among others, a clause that purportedly specified the documents would be made available to researchers and scholars—not journalists. (The papers, giving a rare glimpse behind the scenes on the most heated debates during Marshall’s tenure, were published extensively in The Washington Post and other publications upon release.) Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a critical and threatening letter to James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, on behalf of a majority of the court, essentially accusing him of betraying Marshall’s trust, warning that other justices would now be less inclined to leave their court documents to the library (the traditional repository for justices’ court documents) and calling his decision “an irresponsible and flagrant abuse” of his authority. Billington maintained that he had acted on the explicit instructions of Marshall, refusing to admit any mismanagement or wrongdoing on the part of the Library of Congress.

In Marshall Papers Case, Library Abuses Trust (by Susan Low Bloch, letter to the editor, New York Times)

Librarian Vows to Continue Public Access to Marshall's Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times)

Chief Justice Assails Library On Release of Marshall Papers (by Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times)

Marshall Papers Reveal Court Behind the Scenes (by David Johnston, New York Times)

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Debate:

Should the LOC save every tweet ever made?

The Library of Congress (LOC) sparked debate in 2010 when it announced its decision to archive every single message ever posted on Twitter. The storage of this amount of information could be staggering, given that Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets per day.

 

The only tweets that won’t be archived are personal, direct messages between users. LOC officials said the archive will emphasize tweets with “scholarly and research implications,” such as the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and President Barack Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election.

 

Considering that the bulk of tweets are far more mundane in terms of content, some critics questioned why the LOC would spend time and resources storing what many consider is useless information.

Library of Congress: We're Archiving Every Tweet Ever Made (by Nate Anderson, Arstechnica)

Library of Congress To Archive All Public Twitter Tweets (by Jon Swartz, USA Today)

 

Pro:

Regardless of what the messages consist of, tweets are part of America’s collective and cultural history, and therefore should be preserved, according to supporters. And who better to store them than the Library of Congress whose mission is to archive the United States’ most important memories. The LOC preserves other things that are not entirely noteworthy, like some of the more than 100,000 3D images it has. But it’s still important to preserve them because they are, like it or not, a part of our past. Future generations should have the ability to see what Americans from this time were saying on Twitter.

Tweets Alongside the Gettysburg Address: So Wrong (Bloomberg Businessweek)

 

Con:

There are some valuable messages on Twitter, opponents note, such as alerts about important media stories or reports or other developments impacting people and the country. But let’s face it, the majority of tweets are banal, or they’re plugs from businesses to get consumers interested in a new product, or they represent the empty rants of the self-involved. If the LOC wants to limit its Twitter archive to tweets about useful information, then okay (even then, that probably goes beyond the scope of the LOC’s original purpose, which was to be “necessary for the use of Congress”). But to store everything not only seems senseless, but also worrisome for it resembles what the government has done since September 11 in amassing as much information it can on Americans. Banking all of Twitter will not “foster a free and informed society,” critics say.

How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive (by Matt Raymond, Library of Congress Blog)

Tweets Alongside the Gettysburg Address: So Wrong (Bloomberg Businessweek)

OMG! Library of Congress To Store Tweets (Seattle Times)

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Former Directors:

Daniel J. Boorstin (1975-1987)

Lawrence Quincy Mumford (1954-1974)

Luther Evans (1945-1953)

Archibald MacLeish (1939-1944)

Herbert Putnam (1899-1939)

John Russell Young (1897-1899)

Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1864-1897)

John G. Stephenson (1861-1864)

John Silva Meehan (1829-1861)

George Watterston (1815-1829)

Patrick Magruder (1807-1815)

John James Beckley (1801-1807)

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Founded: 1800
Annual Budget: $643.5 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 3,557 (2013 Estimate)
Library of Congress
Billington, James
Librarian
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and raised in Philadelphia, James H. Billington earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. He served in the U.S. Army and worked in the Office of National Estimates, and then taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962. He was professor of history at Princeton University from 1964 to 1973. Thereafter, Billington directed the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, and seven other new programs, including the Wilson Quarterly.
 
Billington has authored several books on Russia and accompanied 10 Congressional delegations to Russia and the former Soviet Union. He founded the Open World Program, a “nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress that has brought over 10,000 emerging young Russian political leaders to communities throughout America, and launched smaller pilot programs in Ukraine, Lithuania and Uzbekistan.” He was sworn in as Librarian of the Library on September 14, 1987.
 
 
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