The Library of Congress is a name that most people recognize, but beyond that it’s possible that you may not know that much about the institution and what it does. However, it’s worth taking a few minutes to learn about it since it’s truly one of the most unique buildings and institutions in the entire world. Here are 25 of the coolest things you need to know about the Library of Congress.
1. The Library of Congress is more than two centuries old and was established by an 1800 act of Congress. It is the oldest cultural institution in the entire country.
2. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States. It features 883 miles of shelving, houses 155 million items total, and holds 33 million books that are written in 460 different languages. It’s also home to 68 million manuscripts, 6.5 million pieces of music, more than 5 million maps, over 3.4 million recordings, and more than 13.5 million photographs.
3. The Library was destroyed in 1814 when British troops razed the building it was housed in, stealing numerous books and destroying many others.
4. The following year, Thomas Jefferson donated his own collection of more than 6,400 books to congress for the purpose of restoring the library. He was compensated nearly 24,000 dollars for this donation.
5. Every single day, the Library acquires another 15,000 items. Of these, about 11,000 are added to the library’s collection. These items are often gifted to the Library but may also be catalogued, purchased, or acquired through government agencies.
6. The Library Of Congress is home to the largest collection of rare books in North America and the largest collection of 15th century books in the western hemisphere. It holds many famous historical books including one of the oldest examples of printing in the world and one of only three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible known to exist.
7. The Library of Congress offers a wide selection of podcasts and webcasts for those who enjoy these. Numerous topics are covered and all recordings are offered on the library’s website.
8. Thus far, there have been a total of 13 different Librarians of Congress. James Hadley Billington has been the Librarian of Congress since 1987.
9. Those willing to do so can actually hold an event at the Library of Congress if they desire. There are five different venues to choose from, and prices may vary depending on the venue selected.
10. The library holds the largest collection of maps in the world.
11. The library also holds the world’s largest collection of comic books, with more than 100,000 issues within its walls. Its oldest comic dates back to 1936. Along with these comics, the library also houses the largest collection of newspapers in the country.
12. The Library of Congress also offers books for the blind. There are sound recordings as well as braille books, and in recent years all recordings have begun to go through the process of being converted to digital format. The library has focused on providing reading opportunities to the blind since 1931.
13. You’ll also find the largest collection of telephone directories in the entire world. More than 8,000 volumes are added to this collection every year.
14. The Library of Congress’ official founding date is April 24th, and normally special events are held to help celebrate the momentous opening.
15. Since 2006, the Library of Congress has been collecting every single public tweet ever made on Twitter and archiving them digitally. More than 50 million tweets are collected every day.
16. The library’s first home was actually in a boarding house until it was moved to the US Capital at a later date. The first permanent building in the Library was opened 97 years after its original founding, in 1987.
17. The library spends $100,000 dollars on light bulbs every single year.
18. There is a free tour of the Library that runs 45 minutes and is given numerous times on every day except Sunday.
19. Only members of congress or congressional staff are allowed to check out the books housed by the Library of Congress.
20. The Library hosts almost their entire collection on their website, and thousands of visitors view the digital collection every day.
21. The Great Hall features numerous themes and images and is one of the most stunning pieces of cultural architecture in the capital.
22. The Reading Room is highlighted by marble columns and numerous statues of many famous thinkers and cultural icons throughout history.
23. The Library of Congress is actually physically housed in three main buildings. The most famous and frequently visited is the Thomas Jefferson Building.
24. All three of these buildings are connected by underground passageways.
25. A number of materials in the collection are also housed off-site to simplify storage.