Prior to visiting the Law Library of Congress, in person or online, you can use your local public or university library to begin your research. Be sure to consult the following sources:
Although your local library will not hold as extensive a collection of books and periodicals as the Library of Congress, it will have the tools, such as bibliographies and periodical indexes, to help you compile an initial list of works you want to examine when you come to the Library of Congress.
Also available at libraries around the country are three guides issued by the Library of Congress that describe its holdings for the study of African Americans, Native Americans, and American women. These will help you to select in advance materials to examine when you visit the Library. They should be used in conjunction with this guide. The links below will connect to the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
You can also prepare for your visit by examining notes and illustration credits in secondary sources and collecting names of relevant individuals, organizations, places, and dates. This preliminary gathering of background information is especially important for formats (such as photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, or maps) that may have limited subject access.
For many research questions, the Library of Congress and its phenomenal collections are invaluable; however, it is important to remember that the Library of Congress is not always the best place for certain kinds of inquiry. Some searches are faster and easier at a local public or university library. For example, to read a 1993 issue of Working Woman at a public library, you usually walk straight to the shelf and locate the magazine in a few minutes.
At the Library of Congress, you must determine the call number, request the item via the online catalog, and wait forty-five to ninety minutes for the issue to be brought from the stacks to a reading room in either the Thomas Jefferson or the John Adams Buildings. If you also want to see the most recent issue of the same magazine, you must go to the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room in the James Madison Memorial Building.