The Library of Congress has a book about my family, or about my hometown. How can I get this book if I cannot come in person?

How to access a book in the Library of Congress collections if you can't visit us in person:

Let's start with an example of a family history in the Library of Congress collections: Dare Family History by William Montgomery

Hathitrust (http://hathitrust.orgExternal)

Founded in 2008, HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law. Usually when an item in our collections has been digitized and made available on Hathitrust, our catalog record will note that, and include the HathiTrust link to the digitized item. In this case, the catalog record does not include the HathiTrust link  (probably because it is from the Library of Congress old card catalog). 

Whether or not our catalog record includes such a link, you may want to search HathiTrust to see if you can access a digital copy there.

If they have digitized it, you can usually view it (subject to certain restrictions that vary by item). To download more than a page at a time, you may be asked to enter a "partner login." If you have a Library of Congress reader card, your reader card number will work. If not, try accessing HathiTrust through your public library's web site and entering your public library card number when prompted for the partner login. Or, if you have an account at a university library, you may be able to access HathiTrust through the university library's web site.

Internet Archive (

The Internet Archive, like Hathitrust, is another non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  

Here is the Dare family history:

FamilySearch (https://familysearch.orgExternal

Familysearch is a genealogy subscription database. They require that you create an account with an e-mail address, but once you do that, the information is free. Familysearch is digitizing more and more family and local histories. So are some of the other popular genealogy databases. If you already have a subscription to some other genealogy database, check to see if they might have digitized the book.

Here is the Dare family history on FamilySearch:

Many family histories and local histories still have not been digitized. If you cannot find a digitized version at one of the sources above, you may want to see if you can locate another library that has a print copy of the book. The Library of Congress does not circulate its family or local histories via Inter-Library Loan, but public or university libraries often do.

Worldcat (https://worldcat.orgExternal)

Worldcat aggregates the online catalogs of a great many libraries. At their landing page, you can enter the title of the book you want, and your zip code. It will display a list of libraries that have the book, in order by proximity to that zip code. 

Print out the list, take it to your local library, and ask the librarian to request it for you from one of those libraries via Inter-Library Loan. There is sometimes a modest fee, and it can sometimes take several weeks for your book to arrive. Ask your local librarian about such specifics.

Alternative options:

Hire a researcher

These are people who specialize in requesting and duplicating materials for those who live out of town. The National Archives maintains such a list, their main branch is located down the street from us. 

You will see that some of them are professional genealogists, and not all of them live in Washington, DC. But some of them do - those would probably charge less. You would contact them to ask them to come to the Library of Congress and request this book for you, and then perhaps photocopy or scan pages from it for you, and you would negotiate terms directly with them. But in any case they could only come when the Library of Congress is open to the public.

Contact the Library of Congress Duplication Services team. 

They might be able to duplicate some parts of the book for you but they too would charge a fee. And in any case this option is also only available when the Library of Congress is open to the public. These are two other possible ways to access information from a book in our collections, in addition to asking your local library to request the book via Inter-Library Loan from one of the libraries on the Worldcat list.

Try the web site Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

These are volunteers who obtain documents and info on behalf of those who can't travel to get them on their own. They usually charge for their expenses. Perhaps someone on that list might come here to view our copy (again, when the Library of Congress is open to the public), or maybe travel to one of the other libraries on the Worldcat list.


Last Updated: Jun 26, 2020
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Additional Ways to Contact Us

Send written correspondence to:

Researcher Engagement and General Collections
Local History and Genealogy
101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ 100
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660

Please Note

The staff of the Library of Congress cannot undertake research in family history or heraldry. In order to perform work of this nature satisfactorily, it is necessary to identify a particular branch of the family concerned, and, because of the time and effort involved, searches for this kind of information usually require the services of a professional genealogist or heraldic searcher.