Washington, D.C.’s Library of Congress is the world’s largest library. With books and manuscripts from every part of the world, the amassed collection numbers more than 167 million items and grows by about 12,000 items every day. Tour this building to be awed by humanity’s literary contribution to society.
Visit the stately Italian Renaissance-style Thomas Jefferson building, built in the 19th century, the first building of three comprising the library complex on Capitol Hill. The other structures, John Adams Building and James Madison Memorial Building, were built in the 20th century.
Spend time viewing ongoing exhibits, including a popular one about baseball. The Law Library of Congress, the world’s largest law library with over 2.9 million volumes, contains valuable publications dating back to the birth of the nation.
Not only is the Library of Congress massive, it’s also the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S. Imagine the horror when the original library, housed in the Capitol building, was destroyed by fire in 1814 by British troops during the War of 1812. A year later the core of a new library was established with procurement of President Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.
It wasn’t until the last half of the century, after the Civil War, that work began on constructing a new library, which opened in 1897. The rapidly increasing importance of the library took it beyond being mainly a depository for government publications and documents to the role of a public institution. Today’s digital world also has the library as a key player in national and world digital libraries. View a portion of the collection that includes the largest and smallest books, the former measuring 5 feet by 7 feet (1.5 meters by 2.1 meters) and the latter about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building is located on First Street, within sight of the Capitol building. It is closed Sundays and certain holidays. Admission is free, with self-guided and 1-hour conducted tours available. Use the walkway that connects the library with the Capitol to avoid double security checks.