Happy 203rd Birthday Library of Congress
April 26, 2013
Some days, when I think of how busy we are at the Parkville Branch, I consider the Library of Congress (LOC), which contains 35 million books, to clarify my perspective. Not only does the LOC contain books, it has 5 million maps, 68 million manuscripts, and its online catalog provides a database of some 12 million items from its collections. Additionally, the LOC has 13.6 million photographs, 6.5 million pieces of sheet music, 3.4 million recordings, as well as motion pictures, music, periodicals, prints, visual materials, microforms, and computer files.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Although its original intent was to serve the legislative branch of government, it is open to the public as a reference library and sends out many books through an interlibrary loan system. Founded in 1800, it is the oldest federal institution in the nation.
In 1814, British troops burned the Capitol building where the library was housed and destroyed the library’s core collection of 3,000 volumes. President Thomas Jefferson, a leading advocate of the library, then offered his own extensive library to the Congress. It has been expanding ever since.
I found it interesting that half of the LOC’s book and serial collections are in languages other than English. The collection contains materials in 470 languages. It would be interesting to see the world’s smallest book they house, which is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Also, since 1931, the LOC has provided books to the blind in Braille and on sound recordings.
When I feel overwhelmed processing our Parkville collection, I like to think about the 15,000 items the Library of Congress receives each working day. No comparison!
Learn more about the Library of Congress at their website. There you can view collection highlights, watch webcasts, as well as discover and explore topics like historic newspapers, maps, and geography. There are links just for kids and families, teachers, librarians, and researchers alike.