Library of Congress is across from the United States Capitol at Independence Ave. and 1st St. S.E. All told, the collections housed in this three-building complex number more than 160 million items, including more than 37 million books and other printed materials; millions of manuscripts; and voluminous collections of maps, prints, photographs, musical scores, recordings, newspapers and the papers of 23 U.S. presidents.
The library's beginnings were humble in comparison; it was founded in 1800 to serve the needs of congressional members, and the small collection of books was housed in the United States Capitol. Thomas Jefferson's personal collection of nearly 6,500 volumes, now displayed in the Thomas Jefferson Building, was purchased by Congress after the original collection was destroyed when British troops burned the city in 1814. It formed the basis of what was to become the national library.
Changing exhibits often feature caricature and cartoon art, manuscripts, music history and map displays. Concerts, lectures and literary programs are presented frequently.
Note: Visitors must pass through security. Researchers must obtain a reader card by presenting a valid photo ID to gain access to the library's reading rooms and collections.
Entry to the James Madison and John Adams buildings after 6 p.m. is reserved for researchers, staff and those attending special programs. Hours for reading rooms in the Thomas Jefferson Building vary; phone ahead.