The Library of Congress is the official research library of the U.S. Congress and serves as the national library of the United States. The largest library in the world, it holds over 160 million items, including books, documents, photographs, sound and motion picture recordings, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, sheet music and other materials. It also holds and preserves priceless historic items, such as a Gutenberg Bible and the papers of over 20 U.S. Presidents.
Not only is the building a working research library, but it is also open as a museum visited by over a million tourists each year. The library occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill named after three Founding Father Presidents – The Thomas Jefferson Building, the John Adams Building, and the James Madison Building. Completed in 1897, the Jefferson Building was the first of the three to be built is the one most visited by tourists.
The library also hosts a wide variety of events, including concerts, lectures, film screenings, as well as the annual National Book Festival, founded in part by First Lady Laura Bush.
Whether your passion is architecture, art, history, research or reading, you will see it all at the Library of Congress.
Thomas Jefferson Building (1897) – this magnificent, Italian Renaissance structure is one of the most beautiful buildings in the United States. The grand, ornately decorated interior with its soaring ceilings, marble columns, and stained-glass skylights are a fitting tribute to this house of learning. The Great Hall, Main Reading Room and the Thomas Jefferson Library are must-see stops on your tour.
John Adams Building (1938) – this Art Deco building primarily holds administrative staff and storage facilities, as well as the Federal Research Division and the Science & Technology Reading Room.
James Madison Memorial Building (1981) – houses prints and photographs, motion picture and sound recordings, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, and more. It also serves as the official memorial to Madison, the nation’s fourth U.S. President and Father of the U.S. Constitution.
To enter the building, you’ll go through an airport-type security screening, which you can read more about here. Self-guided and guided tours are available throughout the day. If you can’t come in person, take the online tour. Find out more about tours here or stop by one of the Visitor Information Desks.