I am coming to the Library to do research -- where do I start?

The Library of Congress has the largest collections in the world representing a wide variety of physical formats and languages. Library of Congress staff are able to help you identify and request materials in both general and specialized reading rooms; we invite you to explore our resources, both online and at the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress has twenty reading rooms and research centers. Some of these hold special formats, such as maps or photographs, and others are based on language or geographic regions. A list of reading rooms can be found here or at www.loc.gov/rr .

If you know which reading room contains collections useful for your research, you may wish to contact that reading room or research center in advance to make certain the materials you need to consult are on-site and accessible. If you are not certain what research center may be able to assist you, please send a question to the Ask a Librarian service by selecting the History, Humanities, Social Science section.

To find additional information about reading rooms and librarians who can help with your research, please see this “Getting Started” page at https://www.loc.gov/rr/gettingstarted.html. Some of the reading rooms include brief introductory videos available here or at this link: https://www.loc/gov/rr/videotutorials.html

From each Library of Congress home page, you can Ask a Librarian by selecting the "question mark" icon on each home page. 

Anyone 16 years or older can come in to use the Library, and all researchers must have a Library-issued Reader Identification Card to use the collections. All collections are stored in areas that are closed to the public and to staff without authorization. This "closed stack policy," like the reader identification program, ensures the security of the Library's collections.

Researchers new to the Library are encouraged to take the "Research Orientation to the Library of Congress" course offered by the Researcher and Reference Services Division. This class, offered throughout the year, is a basic introduction for researchers using any of the Library of Congress collections and resources.

Some Library of Congress reading rooms offer research orientations or tours specific to their collections and services. For more information about these orientations, please see the “Classes for First-time Users” web page.

Many additional resources can be found by searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

If you still need help after consulting these pages, please contact us using Ask a Librarian so we can help you get started!


Last Updated: Aug 06, 2020
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