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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Using the Library of Congress

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. [Main Reading Room. View from above showing researcher desks. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.] 2007. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
The Jefferson Building houses eight centers for research: African & Middle Eastern; Asian; Hispanic; Main; Law Library; Manuscript; Newspaper & Current Periodicals; Performing Arts; Prints & Photographs; Recorded Sound; and, Moving Image.

The primary function of the Library of Congress is to serve the U.S. Congress. In addition, the Library provides service to government agencies, other libraries, scholars, and the general public. The Library welcomes public use of its general reference facilities and endeavors to offer the widest possible use of its collections consistent with their preservation and with its obligation to serve the Congress and other government agencies.

Anyone with a free Reader Identification Card can request books and other materials for use in the Library's research centers (go to the "Reader Identification Card" tab for more information). The links below provide important information for researchers to review prior to visiting the Library of Congress. 

To reach a reference librarian for assistance and direct support, go to the "Ask a Librarian" tab here. It includes a video tutorial about the service.

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. [Exterior view, from corner of Independence Ave. and 2nd St. Library of Congress James Madison Building, Washington, D.C.]. 2007. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.
The Madison Building houses eight centers for research: Geography & Map; Law Library; Manuscript; Newspaper & Current Periodicals; Performing Arts; Prints & Photographs; Recorded Sound; and, Moving Image.

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. [Exterior view. Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C.]. 2007. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.
The Adams Building houses two centers for research: Business Reference Services and Science Reference Services.

The Library's collections are the largest in the world and represent a wide variety of physical formats and languages. Library of Congress staff are able to help you identify and request materials in twenty-one general and specialized reading rooms. Anyone 16 years or older can come in to use the Library (go to the "Reader Identification Card" tab for more information).

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Aerial view of Washington, D.C. from the U.S. Capitol Dome, showing two Library of Congress buildings: the Thomas Jefferson Building (left) and the James Madison Building. 2007. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

General Collections

Books, pamphlets, journals, newspapers and other serial publications. More about the General Collections

International Collections

More than 470 languages are represented in the Library's global collections. More about the International Collections

Special Format Collections

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. [Aerial view from the southwest of the. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.]. 2007. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Photographs, maps, music, sound, film, manuscripts, and other media. More about the Special Format Collections

Users of the Library's research areas, including Computer Catalog Centers, and Copyright Office public service areas are each required to have a Reader Identification Card issued by the Library. Cards are free and can be obtained by completing a registration process and presenting a valid driver's license, state-issued identification card, or passport. Researchers must be 16 and above years of age at time of registration.  The following link provides more information on how and where to register and the video tutorial walks you through the process:


Video Tutorial - Registering for a Reader Identification Card

The Ask a Librarian service provides an easy way to get research assistance online directly from Library of Congress reference librarians.  Use the link below to ask a question, and the video tutorial below provides a quick overview of the service.


Video Tutorial - Ask a Librarian at the Library of Congress

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