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Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room: A Guide for Researchers

Using the Collections

Using the vast serial collections available in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room requires time and effort on the part of the researcher. Descriptive information found in the Library of Congress Online Catalog can be difficult to decipher even for the experts, and some of our materials are held in off-site storage, so we recommend contacting the reading room at least one week in advance of a visit. A librarian can confirm the availability of specific titles, dates, and formats of holdings, and, when necessary, place requests for materials to be delivered from off-site storage.

Comic book collections. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

General notes about requesting materials:

  • Most of the division's collections are held in closed stacks. Request materials by filling out a call slip at the circulation desk. Our collections cannot be requested via the LC Online Catalog system.
  • Only the Serial & Government Publications Division custodial materials (outlined on the Collections Overview page) are served in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room. The division's collections cannot be requested or served in any other reading room.
  • Delivery time is generally within 30 minutes.
  • Request materials in advance by submitting an Ask a Librarian inquiry or by calling the reference desk: (202) 707-5690.
    • Catalog records indicating "Ft. Meade" signal that the item is stored off-site and must be requested at least one week in advance of visiting.
    • Remote storage deliveries are typically scheduled daily, Monday-Friday, except holidays. Deliveries are occasionally delayed, or requested material may not have been located. Call the reference desk to verify the requested materials have arrived before visiting.
    • Materials will be held up to 14 days from the date the materials arrive from the storage facility. Ask reference staff for an extension, if necessary.

Designated shelves in the reading room allow for reserving certain collection materials. The shelves are organized alphabetically by last name; fill out a yellow slip (located on the reserve shelves) with your name and the date and place it with the materials. A maximum of ten of the following can be placed on reserve for up to 3 business days: current loose newspaper issues, microfilm reels, microfiche sheets, periodical issues, and government documents. After 3 days, staff will return materials to the closed stacks.

Some materials cannot be reserved: self-service microfilm, reference books, display newspapers or periodicals, and any material requested from the vault. Vault materials and newspapers in bound volume format can be placed on reserve (in closed stacks) through consultation with reference staff.

Reference staff may allow other readers access to reserved material.

Handling Materials

Newspapers in original print bound volume format. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.
  • Out of concern for the long-term preservation of the collections, digital or microfilm formats are served in place of original print materials when available.
  • Reference staff may determine that an item is too fragile to be served in the reading room.
  • Rare materials, including original print newspapers and comic books, are served in a designated area of the reading room on slanted display desks or foam supports. Up to 20 comic book issues, up to 6 portfolio newspaper issues, or up to two newspapers in bound volume format will be served at a time.
  • Gloves are not necessary when working with collections in this reading room, as they can hinder manual dexterity and may present risk to brittle newspaper or comic books pages, but please be sure to wash your hands before handling collection materials.
  • Avoid touching the surface of materials as much as possible. Do not rest hands or any items, such as scanners or cameras, on collection materials. Turn pages individually and with caution.
  • Personal cameras, without the flash, are permitted for taking images of materials.
  • Use the contactless overhead scanners for taking images of original print newspapers and comic books; use of the photocopier with these materials is not permitted.
  • Please bring any damaged items to the attention of a staff member in order to help preserve the collection.

Reference Services

Library of Congress Photoduplication Services, photographer. A bibliographer checking incoming materials in the Serials Division. Mrs. Janie Mason, Bibliographer. 1951. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Reading room staff provide skilled reference services that are facilitated by catalogs, bibliographies, inventories, and other finding aids, not all of which are available online. Searching for serials can be confusing! We welcome questions about our holdings and beyond.

Some of the types of questions we commonly receive in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room include:

  • What newspapers were published in Seattle in the 1960s?
  • Who was the editor of the Bridgeport Farmer in 1870?
  • I see the New York Times in the online catalog, but there are 4,398 records for it. How do I know which format the May 19, 1924 issue is in?
  • How can I find a senator's voting record?
  • What is yellow journalism?
  • Can you help me find articles about (any topic imaginable)?
  • I'm looking for the latest peer-reviewed research about climate change.
  • Can you help me find comic book issues on a specific topic or that feature a particular character?
  • Has the Manila Times been digitized?

Interlibrary Loan & Duplication Services

If you aren't able to visit the reading room in person, there are other ways to access our collections.

Interlibrary loan allows for borrowing materials that are not available to you locally. Generally, most newspapers on microfilm are available for interlibrary loan. Neither the self-service microfilm titles nor the division's print collections circulate. A librarian at your area library needs to initiate the loan request, and up to 6 microfilm reels may be sent to your local library for you to view there. More about Interlibrary Loan from the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress Duplication Services provides copies of materials, including those in print, microfilm, and digital formats, for a fee.