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Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room: A Guide for Researchers

This guide provides an overview of the newspaper, comic book, current periodical, and government document collections at the Library of Congress, as well as what to expect when you arrive at this research center, and how to request and handle materials.

Introduction

The Evening World (New York, NY) April 15, 1912, Final Edition, Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

The Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room is located in the James Madison building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The reading room serves as the gateway to the newspaper, comic book, current periodical, and government document collections held by the Serial & Government Publications Division. The Division holds one of the most comprehensive collections of newspapers in the world, the largest publicly available comic book collection in the world, scholarly journals and popular magazines from the most recent two years, a U.S. Federal Depository Library collection, a comprehensive United Nations documents collection, and extensive collection of general and specialized reference works. 

Connect with us remotely:

  • 24/7 - Contact us using Ask a Librarian; leave a voicemail at (202) 707- 5691
  • 12-4 pm (ET) Weekdays Instant message chat with a librarian
  • Weekdays and Saturday - Call the Reference Desk at (202) 707-5690

When visiting in person:

  • Consider signing up for a Research Orientation, held the fourth Tuesday of the month at 10-11 a.m. (except December). Call the Reference Desk to reserve a spot.
  • Plan Your Visit - learn about our hours, entrance procedures, and what to expect when you arrive.

Brief History

Photograph of the Newspapers & Current Periodicals Reading Room, Library of Congress. 1900. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

As early as May 1789, Congress resolved that each member of the House and Senate should be provided one newspaper of their choice at public expense. The importance of having the latest periodical literature readily available in the Library of Congress has been documented since January 1830, when Librarian of Congress John Silva Meehan designated a special table for current issues for the convenience of readers. In 1867, a periodicals reading room was established for members of Congress, and the Library Committee increased annual appropriations for newspapers, stating that, “The wants of Congress for all leading journals, magazines and reviews covering the departments of law, commerce, finance, and literature require the Librarian to subscribe annually for an increased number.” What is now the Serial & Government Publications Division was established in 1897 to administer acquisitions, bibliographic control, reference services, and preservation activities for newspapers, periodicals, and government publications. On January 22, 1900, the Library opened the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room to scholars, and when the James Madison Building opened in 1980, the reading room moved to its present location. The Library was a pioneer in the latter half of the 20th Century in the use of micrographic technology to preserve newsprint serial publications on microfilm and is recognized today as an international leader in the digitization of newspapers. In 2019, the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room was named the Washington City Paper's "Best Place to Learn about the Past."