Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress - and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…"

Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.

Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books, "putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science"; his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States. In offering his collection to Congress, Jefferson anticipated controversy over the nature of his collection, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote, "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."

Hours
Thomas Jefferson Building
First Street, SE, Entrances for All
Daytime Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30am-5pm

The James Madison Building
Visitor hours are from 8:30am to 9:30pm Mon- Fri. 8:30am-6:30pm on Sat.

All Library of Congress buildings are closed to the public on Sundays and federal holidays.
Admission
Free
Events
Thru Sep. 1Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote
Thru Sep. 12Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages
Thru Jun. 30, 2022Tour: Library of Congress - Thomas Jefferson Building
Thru Sep. 30Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words
Thru Jan. 1, 2022Tour: Library of Congress - Thomas Jefferson Building
Thru Aug. 31Online: National Book Festival Presents Videos
Thru Sep. 1Online Resources!

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Library of Congress

101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540
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