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Visiting the Library of Congress


I spent the morning touring the U.S. Capitol itself, so with the library just across the road, it was the perfect time to head over to see the second great building and its interior. Also, just like the Capitol, the Library of Congress can be toured for free …… bonus.

The building, and the Library in particular, has a long history of growth from its small beginnings to the tremendous service it now provides, not only to Congress and other U.S. libraries, but to the entire American people and the rest of the world.
A Brief History of the Library of Congress

To begin the history, we need to go back to the days of the Founding Fathers. They were well educated and well read, so you can imagine that they were interested in books and resources. In fact, wherever the government was located before Washington, D.C., it became an important library.

This is shown in the New York Society Library, the oldest library in the United States, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

In 1783, James Madison proposed the idea of building a specific library for Congress, and in 1800, when the national government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., then-President John Adams approved the idea.
He used $5,000 in funding from Congress to make it happen, and the project was overseen by the first-ever United Nations Congressional Commission.

At this time, the library was located in the Capitol.

Thomas Jefferson played an important role, and it was he who created the role of librarian in 1802 and ensured that from then on the librarian would be appointed by the president.

In 1814, as part of the War of 1812, the British burned down the Capitol and the White House. The library was lost, so Thomas Jefferson agreed to sell his personal collection of 6,487 books in exchange for nearly $24,000.


Jefferson created and shaped the idea that libraries should be universal, used to help democracy and shared whenever possible. His collection contained books on many different subjects, not just legislative references. He wanted libraries to be diverse for the people, not just Congress. Ainsworth Rand Spofford
The next name to leave his mark on libraries was Ainsworth Spofford, who served as a librarian after the Civil War.

He believed in creating a vast library and resource for the use of not only Congress, but all Americans. The National Library!

He succeeded in creating two things: the first was a separate building to house the library, and the great Italian Renaissance-style building we see today opened in 1897.

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