City directories are among the most important sources of information about urban areas and their inhabitants. They provide personal and professional information about a city's residents as well as information about its business, civic, social, religious, charitable, and literary institutions. City directories often provide additional information about individuals such as place of employment and name of spouse. The entries are arranged alphabetically by last name and also by address and telephone number. City directories are compiled through door-to-door surveys and are published at irregular intervals.
The Library of Congress has an unmatched collection of United States city directories. They are available in a variety of formats: electronic, microfiche, microfilm, and print. For a general understanding of the availability for each format, here are some facts about the collection:
None of these directories are available on interlibrary loan; nor can the staff of the Library of Congress search these directories for names of individuals or organizations. If you would like to hire a researcher to examine the directories for you, view this list of links to free-lance researchers in the greater Washington D.C. area who perform research for a fee.
The latest editions of city directories in print format are located on Deck 46 which is entered through Alcove 4 in the Main Reading Room. They are arranged alphabetically by state, shelved after the telephone directories and before the reverse telephone directories for that state.
Since many of these directories contain listings for more than one community, you should examine the card catalog, which is located near the directory collection on Deck 46, to determine which city directory contains the listings for a particular community. The labels on the catalog drawers are color coded for easy identification: pink is for the city directory catalog.
Researchers should be aware that there are no current city directories for many major U.S. cities - among them Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Therefore, some editions shelved on Deck 46 may be many years out-of-date.