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Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room: A Guide for Researchers

Collections Overview

This section of the guide provides an overview of the newspaper, comic book, current periodical, and government document collections available for research in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room at the Library of Congress, as well as related digital resources, many of which are freely available through the Library's website.

The North Star (Rochester, NY), July 4, 1850, Image 1. Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847 to 1874. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

The Library of Congress holds one of the largest and most comprehensive newspaper collections in the world. The following is a brief overview by the numbers, as of August 2020:

  • 9,000 titles published in all U.S. states and territories spanning 1690-present
  • 25,000 non-U.S. titles from 179 countries
  • 18,979 rare 18th century volumes
  • 37,954 bound newspaper volumes
  • 50,000 portfolio issues
  • 785,000 microfilm reels
  • 7.1 million loose issues
  • 16.8 million digitized pages in Chronicling America

Newspapers are generally held in three formats: microfilm, print, and digital. A title might be available in one or multiple formats (like The North Star, at right), and this may vary by date range. Most historic newspapers are held in microfilm, though there is an ever-growing amount of born-digital and digitized newspapers, most of which are held in subscription databases and fewer of which are found freely available online. Reference staff can help determine which formats are available and ideal based on the nature of your research.

Use the Library of Congress Online Catalog to begin a search for newspaper holdings. Try "Browse" by title and limit the Type of Material to "Periodical or Newspaper." Dates of available holdings are indicated in catalog records next to "Older receipts." Please note that despite what our name implies, not all of the Library's newspapers are held in our reading room. Certain non-U.S. newspaper titles are held in area studies reading rooms: the Asian Reading Room, the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room, and the European Reading Room. A newspaper's location information is indicated in the Library of Congress Online Catalog record. However, not all holdings are listed in the catalog, newspapers sometimes undergo title or publisher changes over time, and searching for serials can be tricky, so feel free to ask reference staff for assistance!

For detailed information about newspapers published in the United States, please see the guide to U.S. Newspaper Collections at the Library of Congress.

Access: Request microfilm and print newspapers at the circulation desk by filling out a call slip with the newspaper title, date(s), and call number. Reference staff can assist with identifying call numbers. Delivery time is generally within 30 minutes. Selected titles are immediately available to browse. Digital newspaper collections and databases are available at public computer terminals in the reading room, or by accessing the Library's Wifi through your own device.

 

The current periodical collection consists of more than 55,000 scholarly journal, magazine, and newsletter titles covering all subjects. In general, "current" refers to print issues published within the last two years. Periodical issues older than this undergo hardcover binding or microfilming, are sent to the General Collections, and are accessible by request in the Jefferson or Adams reading rooms. The Library also subscribes to an array of digital periodical databases. Reference staff can help determine which format is available, based on the periodical title and date(s) of issue you need.

Use the Library of Congress Online Catalog to search for periodicals. For known titles, "Browse" by exact title and limit the Type of Material to "Periodical or Newspaper." Dates of holdings are indicated in catalog records next to "Older receipts." Check the E-Resources Catalog for periodicals in digital format. Search for a specific title with an "E-Journals" search, and select "Title Begins With" from the drop-down menu, or browse databases by subject.

Not sure which e-journal or database to use? Start a topical article search with Primo Central, a discovery tool that will search for your terms across multiple subscription and open access e-resources.

Access: Request print periodicals at the circulation desk by filling out a call slip, indicating the title and date(s) or issue number(s). Delivery time is generally within 30 minutes. Selected titles are immediately available to browse. Periodicals in digital format are accessible through databases in the Library of Congress E-Resources Catalog at the public computer terminals (or your own device).

H.G. Peters, artist. Wonder Woman for President--Wonder Woman 1000 years in the future! 1943. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

The largest publicly available comic book collection in the world is comprised of over 165,000 original print issues and 17,000 different titles that span 1934-present. The collection consists mostly of English-language comics published in the U.S., but also includes translated reissues of Japanese manga (e.g., Akira), a limited number of Spanish-language titles published in the U.S. and Mexico, and a small number of German and French comic books (primarily from the 1960s and 1970s). Independently published comics and cartoon art are acquired through an agreement with the Small Press Expo; these materials are cataloged as a special collection. The division acquires electronic resources as they become available, such as the Alexander Street Press database, Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels, and sponsors three comics-related web archives: Comics Literature and Criticism, Small Press Expo Comic and Comic Art, and the Webcomics Web Archive.

Find comic books by searching by title in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. The collection is not searchable by subject, however, we often recommend using the Grand Comics Database External to search for a particular topic or character, which can then help identify relevant titles. Reference staff can also assist with finding comic books relating to specific subject areas.

Selected issues are held on color Comic Book Fiche, which is served in place of the original print comic book issues when available, out of concern for preservation of the print collection.

Access: Complete a Comic Book Request form at the circulation desk to request individual issues by title and date or issue number. Reference staff will locate the box number. Delivery time is generally within 30 minutes. The comic books are often very fragile; for this reason, some issues may not be served in the reading room, or will require special handling by a librarian. Reference staff will review safe handling procedures with readers working with the comic book collection.

A small selection of comic books are available to browse in the reading room, and a section of the reference collection is devoted to comics. Access comics databases and web archives at one of the public computer terminals or through the Library's Wifi on your own device.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. Congressional record has face lifted. 1939. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The government documents collection includes current serial publications of U.S. federal, state, and local governments, foreign governments, and international organizations. The Serial & Government Publications Division is a selective Federal Depository Library and holds depository materials for the most recent ten years. The collections also include the Federal Advisory Committee Collection 1972-present and the complete United Nations documents collection, 1945-present. Government documents are held in print, microfiche, and digital formats.

Search for government documents using the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Check for digital access in the E-Resources Catalog, and see this list of government document databases. The GPO's Catalog of Government Publications External is helpful for identifying SuDoc classification numbers.

Access: Fill out a call slip at the circulation desk to request print and microfiche documents. Indicate the title of the document or publication, date or issue number, and the SuDocu classification number. Delivery time is generally within 30 minutes. The reference stacks in the reading room contain select government publications, for example, the latest year of the Congressional Record and the Federal Register. Access subscription databases at the public computer terminals or through the Library's Wifi on your own device.

Government documents are also found in the General Collections and the Law Library. Reference staff can help determine which reading room will serve the materials you need.

There are several designated special collections held among the Serial & Government Publications Division's custodial materials. Examples include:

  • Historic Events Newspaper Collection
  • Human Sexuality Periodical Collection
  • Pulp Fiction Magazine Collection
  • Small Press Expo Comic Collection
  • Stephen A. Geppi Collection of Comics
  • Topical and geographical collections of noteworthy newspaper issues
  • "WMLC" serials (unbound serials that have received minimal level cataloging treatment)

​​​Please consult reference staff regarding more information about the division's special collections.

Reference Collection

The Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room is designated as the primary point of reference for the James Madison Building and is comprised of over 16,000 volumes meant to support general reference and research of serial collections held by the Library of Congress and those of outside institutions. General reference works include world almanacs, standard dictionaries, atlases, and bibliographies. A few examples include Book Review Index, America: History and Life, World Book Encyclopedia and the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

The collection is also designed to complement research of the division's custodial materials and contains newspaper indexes and histories, journalist biographies, periodical indexes, guides to U.S. and foreign government publications, union serial lists, comics encyclopedias, and bibliographies. Examples include the full set of the Public Papers of the President, United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850, History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More, The Chicago Tribune: It's First Hundred Years, the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and A History of Underground Comics.

The collection also includes the Newspaper Association of America's (known today as the News Media Alliance) donation of reference books to the Library. These works include all aspects of newspaper publishing and have been kept together as a group with a special notation that they are part of the NAA collection.

Access: The reference collection is organized by LC call number and available to browse in the reading room. Some reference sources, such as Readers' Guide periodical index and abstracts, the current and retrospective index to United Nations documents AccessUN, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography (and more!) are available digitally through subscription databases and offer keyword-searchability not possible with the print versions. Access these at one of the public computers or through the Library's Wifi on your own device.

Digital Resources

The New York Times (New-York, NY), August 15, 1915. Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures, 1914 to 1919. Library of Congress Serial & Government Publications Division.

There are ongoing efforts to digitize and provide free access to historic newspapers through the Library of Congress website. Digital newspaper collections include:

The Library provides access to many subscription-based digital resources that are available to researchers while they are on-site. See this list of the most frequently used databases in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room. The description indicates whether a database is limited to "On-Site Only," or if there is "Free Access" available. There are several public computer terminals in the reading room, or bring your own device and connect to the Library's Wifi.

A new platform - "Stacks" - provides access to rights-restricted digital content held in the Library’s permanent collection. Stacks includes an ever-growing list of over 75 current U.S. newspapers, several historic international newspapers, and current e-books and e-journals. Researchers can access Stacks at two dedicated terminals in the reading room. Content in Stacks can be printed, but it cannot be downloaded or emailed. Catalog records indicate if a title is available as an "e-serial" in Stacks, but ask reference staff if you aren't sure how to access a certain serial.

The Serial & Government Publications Division collects materials through web archiving to ensure preservation and access to ephemeral born-digital web content. Many Library of Congress web archive collections are freely available following a one-year embargo.

The following web archives are sponsored by the Serial & Government Publications Division: