Talk:Library of Congress

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The citation is in: John L. Hart (associate editor) (March, 11 2006). "Digitizing hastens at microfilm vault". [[ ]]LDS Church News (published by the Deseret Morning News). |} |}

Second largest library in the world?[edit]

In every encyclopedia i have seen (britannica etc), the LOC is listed as the largest library in the world, much larger than the British Library which is according to this article the largest. Can anyone clarify this? --Jb849

re: largest library... 6th Feb, 2006: I think it very much varies depending on what you're counting. I think on total items, the British Library wins outright by a fair margin, owing to the vast amounts of newspapers and historical items that are held. I have heard both referred to as 'the largest' in various sources. The LOC states on its website it holds 130 million items, 'making it the largest in the world'... but the British Library states it holds 150 million items. So, as you say in the States, go figure! Having been to both, I prefer the BL!

Well to take the term in it's literal sense, the "largest library" would be the Library of Congress, while the British Library would be perhaps the most extensive or one that houses the most books. Zchris87v 07:56, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

People who work in libraries often calculate the sum of owned items differently, thus any final comparison between item numbers is suspect. In one collection, for example, files might be counted as single items, whereas in another collection, every part of the file might be numbered individually. For my part, I would guess that book numbers would be the most reliable indication of a library's size, indicating that the LOC is larger than the BL. Surely the huge difference in shelf space inhabited by materials (a measurement favoring the LOC) indicates that something must be taking up space there to the disadvantage of the BL. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:41, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

The greater size of the LOC is a generally held fact amongst international library professionals. As mentioned in the above post, the LOC uses up about twice the shelving space that the BL does. Item numbers are irrelevant in libraries unless they have to do with books due to different counting methods. Anyone who would want to dispute that the LOC is thus larger must somehow demonstrate what is placed on those extra miles of shelving. The only legitimate excuse might be some difference in the way materials are stored, but this seems unlikely, as most libraries, in my experience, use the same systems.

If you take a look at British_Library, it states that the LOC shelves measure 850 km, while the British Library shelves measure 625 km. Larger, but not double. The LOC has more books, the BL has more catalogued items in total. You can surmise that the cataloging systems are different, but there's no evidence on that question one way or the other. What we have are some facts, which should be stated clearly and in a way that allows readers to make their own judgements as to what "counts". Viveka (talk) 13:27, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps its time for an update? One of the links says that the LoC has 151 million in 2010, which I assume has grown since then. Has the British Library matched this growth? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:29, 27 May 2012 (UTC)

It seems that this debate should at least be referenced in the article. Also, as it stands, this page claims that the LOC is the largest library in the world by number of items, which we all disagree with. Another problem is that this page seems to disagree with despite linking directly to it. Curzmg (talk) 18:53, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

I changed this before but it has been reverted. To clarify, The British Library claims to have a collection of 170 million items. The confusion about 150 million is coming from misreading the information. As I have pointed out on The British Library's talk page, the institution's website is not at all contradictory. The website states, 'Our collection of around 170 million items includes some of the most iconic treasures from a variety of cultures...' [1] while claiming that 'the collection includes well over 150 million items, in most known languages' [2]. Note that the second page states WELL OVER 150 million items. Unless we decide to be rid of these sorts of comparisons altogether, it seems we really must stop changing this unless new information becomes available. Curzmg (talk) 10:52, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

  • Is there a reliable source (not WP:OR, and not a list appearing in some other Wikipedia article) that specifically identifies the LOC as the second largest library in the world? If not, that statement does not belong in the article. What we can say, as an indisputable fact, is that the LOC claims to be the largest library in the world; it says so on the home page of their website. --R'n'B (call me Russ) 14:25, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Longest Library Building?[edit]

Can anyone please tell me the actual length of the building itself? (talk) 15:15, 28 March 2008 (UTC) Hi. Actually, the Library of Congress has three builings in the neighborhood of the U.S. Capitol. I volunteer at the Jefferson Building, which houses the beautiful Main Reading Room and is open to public tours. The other two buldings are the Adams and the Madison. Additionally, there is a facility in the Fort Meade, Maryland, area that houses several million items from the collection. So, the library is not one single building.

Anyone can check out books[edit]

  • I removed However, only members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, their staff, Library of Congress staff and certain other government officials can actually check out books. because it isn't true! 21:42, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
What do you mean it's not true? Can you be more specific? Certainly the vast majority of people cannot check out books; they have to use them right there. 14:58, 22 February 2007 (UTC)Stephen Kosciesza
Hi. I volunteer at the Library of Congress, and I can clarify this issue. Anyone who is 18 and older (or "above high school age," as the official guidance states) with a photo ID can obtain a Reader card. This enables people to access the library's reading rooms and use library materials (books, maps, letters, photos, etc.). However, only members of Congress and other specially designated groups can actually remove material from the reading rooms and the building. So, if "check out" means that you can remove the book from the building, than it is true that only certain groups of people can check out books. However, if "check out" means to obtain an item for personal research, then anyone can check out an item--provided that they don't remove the items from the reading room. Does this help clarify the issue? Perhaps the term "check out" should not be used in this article. (talk) 17:58, 31 March 2008 (UTC)


What does that mean? ALTON .ıl 08:20, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

The issue here is many US museums and cultural institutions lay claim to the largest, longest, highest, widest, biggest, tallest...these are unnecessary additions, without support are defunct. Previously the article laid claim to the LoC being the largest library in the world, however in terms of objects, the British Library is the largest and though the LoC has a massive collection it's claim to fame as the largest derives from the shelf space availble to house current and potential books not acutally from the number of objects housed.ç
I don't see what nationality has to do with all of this. (talk) 03:54, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
ImperialCollegeGrad 08:44, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, I don't think use of superlatives is a uniquely American thing, after all, isn't Windsor Castle "the oldest royal residence still in use"? I think the difference in size is a matter of occupied shelf space (with thousands of books on the floor, there's little "potential" space left at LC). Where the BL has more discrete volumes than LC, LC's fewer number of volumes occupy more physical space. I think this correlates with what I've heard about BL's retention policy, BL is required to keep everything it receives on copyright deposit, where LC isn't. Put another way, if x has ten two-page pamphlets and y has one 500 page monograph, who has the larger collection? It depends on what you're counting. Sumergocognito 02:34, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
Calling it "one of the most important" libraries in the world seems fine...I mean, I doubt anyone would disagree that it is. The statement isn't saying that there arn't other important ones. Travis Cleveland (talk) 15:58, 25 December 2007 (UTC)


What is often overlooked is that besides the British Library at St Pancras, London's Local Authority 'Public Libraries' (including many major reference and central libraries), stock an additional 16 million books as well as 2.7 million CDs, with around 1.6 million new books added to the library stock each year. [3] [4][5] [6] There are also some of the largest museum libraries in the world amongst London's 250 museums. [7] [8][9] [10] [11] London is also home to many of the most highly respected academic and specialist libraries in the world, with over 21 million books held in London Academic Libraries. [12] [13][14]

In terms of shelf space the British Library has recently opened a massive new storage facility in 2008 at Boston Spa. The new facility has 262 kilometres (163 miles) of shelf space and room for over 7 million books. [15] [16] [17].The BL also recently secured both the Harold Pinter [18] and Ted Hughes [19] collections for the nation.

There are six legal deposit libraries that receive free copies of every book published in Briain and Ireland [20] [21], they hold in the region of 50 million books between them including many rare items. As well as the British Library in London, there are five other such legal deposit libraries (holding in the region of 35 million books):The National Library of Scotland Edinburgh (7 million books) [22] , National Library of Wales Aberystwyth, Wales (4 million books) [23], Trinity College Library, Dublin Ireland (4.5 million books) [[24]], Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford (11 million books) [25] [26] and the Cambridge University Library (7 million books). [27] [28]

Whether or not the legal deposit libaries in Britain and Ireland (British Isles) are the biggest in the world is not really the issue, what is important is that they are certainly amongst the most interesting in terms of the many rare collections they hold.

The Library of Congress is a stunning building, and it's collection is extremely large although not as large as many have claimed, it has 20,854,810 cataloged books, the often cited figure of 32 million applying to all books and other print materials rather than exclusively books.[29] It should also be remembered that National Libraries such as the British Library and Library of Congress work together in a common purpose in order to perserve the worlds rarest and most wonderful books, and they are not in some kind of competition with each other.

Finally to put things in to perspective, the New York Times reported in 2006 that "From the days of Sumerian clay tablets till now, humans have "published" at least 32 million books, 750 million articles and essays, 25 million songs, 500 million images, 500,000 movies, 3 million videos, TV shows and short films and 100 billion public Web pages. All this material is currently contained in all the libraries and archives of the world". "Scan This Book!" - Kevin Kelly - May 14, 2006 - New York Times. [30] [31] A further estimate suggested that global published books now approached 65 million titles, however it remain difficult to accurately gauge total world wide publication figures.[32]

The European Union estimates that the European libraries hold in total more than 2.5 billion (2,500 million) books and bound periodicals, [33] [34]] [35] and the European National Library Collections can be searched at the European Library Website. [36][37][38] -- (talk) 20:33, 18 October 2008 (UTC)

Wow, thank you for a whole litany of irrelevant information. Since you seem to want to tell us how many book are in every library in the UK, I think one would be safe in assuming that if you added up every single book in every single public and university library in the US, it would make the number in the UK look paltry by comparison. However, such information would be as irrelevant as that which you provide. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:55, 27 June 2011 (UTC)

It's not irrelevant as many libraries are part of larger inter-lending groups meaning you can look for and even reserve books accross a number of academic, reference and lending libraries. Copac is one such example in the UK and Ireland, a further service is Sconul and there is also The M25 Consortium in London and the South East and even the European Library. These services include the British Library and a host of other specialist libraries across the UK and Ireland, meaning that unique information can be found and accessed far more easily, and also meaning that you can search beyond the contents of the British Library, National Archives at Kew and National Libraries of Scotland and Wales.

It also should be noted that many national collections are not kept at the British Library, for example the National Poetry Library is at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the National Art Library is at the V&A in London, whilst films and TV catalogues are kept at the BFI National Archive and BBC Archives, and there are numerous other such examples. If you wanted to learn about Science for instance you might very well go to the Science Museum Library in London, or in terms of the natural world the Natural History Museum Library in London, or in terms of Maritime events the National Maritime Museum Library in Greenwich in London or in terms of Medicine you might take a short walk from the British Library to the Wellcome Collection Library on Euston Road or if you wanted to know about communications you might visit the BT Archive in London or in terms of war you might visit the Imperial War Museum Library in London etc etc.

My point being that the British Library is not the be all and end all and that unlike the Library of Congress it's not responsible for many national collections including such vast areas as film and broadcasting. So the collection size is limted by it's remit, whilst there is also no one standard for what constitutes a "book", how to count multi-volume works do you count them as multiple works or a single volume, whether to count manuscripts, how to count bound journals, what constitutes a pamphlet versus a book or even a common international standard in terms of how books or items are stored in relation to shelf space, meaning all this talk of which collection is greater and indeed the mass of stats and figures produced are often just pointless and irrelevant in terms of international comparisons. The fact being that a lot of items including books, articles, magazines, newspapers etc are not even kept on shelves anymore but in special warehouses in special low oxygen conditions (not conducive to human workers health), where robots electronically identify items housed in masses of individual plastic totes.

In reality being a National Copyright Library is a thankless and even thoroughly depressing task as the Guardian article from 2007 below clearly points out in a humorous manner, and whilst the British Library tries desperately to build ever bigger warehouses at Boston Spa on top of the vast underground vaults at St Pancras, the UK National Archive at Kew has started using a salt mine in Cheshire to shove low usage contents down, such are the complications of storing such vast collections of items and data.

So it's actually becoming a question of who keeps the most crap, the British Library or the LOC who have vast storage facilities at Fort Meade as well as other facilities such as the National Audio Visual Conservation at Culpeper VA in a former underground Federal Reserve cash storage facility now known as the Packard Campus. Even the Bodleian Library has now had to build tin sheds on industrial estates to house some of it's collection - LOL

Details Requested[edit]

To mention such scant details of each of the three library building seems almost pointless. It would be a tremendous improvement to mention which collections are housed in each building, and who is allowed access to each. Also, in the article there is little information provided regarding the different collections; this seems an important detail especially in the midst of claims of being the largest and/or most important library in the world. Please provide these details. Supertouch (talk) 18:31, 23 February 2008 (UTC)

Conflicting Sentence[edit]

In the section "Weakening", a sentence reads "Joseph Henry...favored the Library of Congress' development into the national library." However, from the context, it is clear that Henry was AGAINST that. Perhaps the sentence should state that he favored the Smithsonian's development into the national library. Just FYI. (talk) 04:19, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Minimum age for reader's cards?[edit]

I am certain that the minimum age for obtaining a reader's card has been lowered to sixteen, since several of my classmates and I were able to obtain them for research, and none of us are out of high school. None of us are Congressional pages, and we don't have any other special status that would exempt us from the rules. I don't really know where to go cite proof of this, just the fact that I have a reader's card in my wallet. Liwis (talk) 21:36, 13 June 2008 (UTC)liwis

On the Libary of Congress's website, it says, "18.Who can use the Library and check out books? The Library of Congress is a research library, and books are used only on the premises by members of the public. Anyone age 16 and older may use the collections. All patrons using the Library's reading rooms and/or collections must have a user card with a photo on it. User cards can be obtained at the reader registration station in Room LM140 of the Madison Building by presenting a driver's license or passport and completing a brief self-registration process."[3]

  1. ^ [1] British Library: Using the British Library
  2. ^ [2] British Library: Facts and Figures
  3. ^ "25 Most Frequently Asked Questions by Visitors". US Library of Congress FAQ List. US Library of Congress. Retrieved 06/29/2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

Please cut and paste the cite Geraldshields11 (talk) 14:13, 29 June 2012 (UTC)

Category:National libraries vs. Category:Library of Congress[edit]

Category:Library of Congress is itself a category within Category:National libraries. — Robert Greer (talk) 14:47, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Library of Congress media[edit]

For your information, the Library of Congress has done a website overhaul of their Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and many more pictures are available in higher resolution than before. Try your searches with this bookmark in firefox (you need to add a keyword) to check for newer versions of your wikipedia/wikimedia uploads. Nuttyrave (talk) 01:44, 4 May 2010 (UTC)

Equvivalent amount of data[edit]

I removed the following section:

The Library of Congress is usually quoted as occupying, if digitized and stored as plain text, 20 petabytes of information (10 in other quotations), based on the amount of cataloged books in the Library of Congress classification system (20 million in 2007[1]) and estimating one megabyte of text per book[2]. This leads many people to conclude that 20 petabytes is equivalent to the entire holdings of the Library, but this is misleading because the Library contains many items in addition to books, such as manuscripts, photographs, maps, and sound recordings[1], that, if digitized, would amount to much more information. The Library currently has no plans for systematic digitization of any significant portion of its books.

It is false and missleeding, the source talks about 20 PB if scaned as images not as plain text, 20 million times 1 MB is 20 TB not 20 PB. I think this should be corrected and reinserted but i do not know how it should be stated in a clear way. Strange_units#Encyclopedias.2C_Bibles_and_The_Library_of_Congress:_Data_storage_capacities under "occupying" states 10 or 20 TB not PB. It is very hard to give the size of a library in bytes whiteout specifying the storage format, a uncompressed scanned high resolution image of a page can be 3GB, the plain text can be about 3 KB and with state of the art compression it can be stored in 300 bytes, an difference by a factor 10 000 000. In addition to this most libraries contains music, movies and so on how are they counted, they are often already digital and requires much data storage. So the questions are what media to include?, text or scaned images?, wath resolution?, how many colors?, compresed or uncompressed?, what compression algorithm?.--Gr8xoz (talk) 23:47, 25 October 2010 (UTC)


  1. ^ a b "Library of Congress General Information". Library of Congress. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  2. ^ "Entire Library of Congress". 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 

Long lede[edit]

I've tried to clarify the lede, but I think it remains much too long. All but the first and last (or maybe last two) paragraphs should be moved to the history sections. A task, I reckon, for someone more familiar with the material. --Wikiain (talk) 00:48, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

Number of complete vellum Gutenberg Bibles[edit]

The article says that the Library of Congress has one of the only three copies of perfect (assuming complete) vellum Gutenberg Bibles remaining in the World. But at the Gutenberg Bible entry there are enumerated up to 5 complete vellum volumes, (and a number of incomplete ones).--Lironcareto (talk) 01:06, 25 January 2014 (UTC)

Library of Congress by the numbers in 2013[edit]

The Library of Congress released an update of LC by the numbers for 2013- check out the press release at Library by the Numbers 2013 and the At a Glance 2013 from the Library's About Page.

I work for the Library so I cannot update the page, so I ask for your help.

The majority of the numbers cited in the LC article needs to be updated to represent the current 2013 totals.

Here are a few of the most notable changes:

  • Collection size: cataloged books (23,592,066), incunabula (5,711), monographs...other printed material (13,344,477), items in nonclassified special collections (121,070,522), and total items (158,007,115)
  • Population served: 535 members of Congress
  • Budget: 2013= $598,402,000
  • Staff: 2013=5,224

Under the Holdings Section New Totals to update:

  • 36 million cataloged books
  • 69 million manuscripts
  • 37,000 bound newspaper volumes
  • 725,000 microfilm reels
  • Over 9,000 titles in all, totaling more than 131,000 issues of comic book titles
  • 5.5 million maps
  • 7 million sheet music
  • 3.5 million recordings
  • 14.5 million prints and photographs

Holdings Section continued:

  • Nearly 16,000 new items published in U.S. arrive every business day...add average of 12,000 items per day
  • The Library holds more than 158 million items with more than 36 million books and other printed material...
  • We also need to change the Thomas reference to in the paragraph about online archive of the proceedings of the U.S. Congress at might you make the a link for easy access?
  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped...program provided to more than 600,000 Americans

Thank you for your help - it is greatly appreciated ;) ScienceJen 21:07, 11 February 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by ScienceJen (talkcontribs)

March 24, 2014 Update. Didn't get help to update numbers and I wanted to get the numbers accurate, they were three years old, so I made the changes. This is a non-controversial edit with no CIO. Just want to help make Wikipedia better. ScienceJen 23:28, 24 March 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by ScienceJen (talkcontribs)

L.C in India[edit]

| About the New Delhi Office ||

The Library of Congress Office, New Delhi, is one of six overseas offices administered by the Overseas Operations Division of the Library. These offices acquire, catalog, preserve, and distribute library and research materials from countries where such materials are essentially unavailable through conventional acquisitions methods. Read more about the New Delhi office » || Cooperative Acquisitions Program ||

The New Delhi Office acquires library materials for the Library of Congress and the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Program (SACAP) from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and Tibetan titles available in several South Asian countries. The Office also maintains a restricted web site to disseminate bibliographic and other information of interest to libraries participating in the program. Learn more about cooperative acquisitions » || Exchange and Gift Program ||

The Exchange and Gift program has been an integral facet of the Delhi Office's acquisitions operations since the opening of the Office in 1962. Through this program the Office acquires materials that would otherwise not be available. Read more about exchange programs » — Preceding unsigned comment added by NUSHRAT PARWEEN (talkcontribs) 18:37, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

Appropriation by Congress[edit]

The article says that $23,950 were appropriated by Congress in 1815 to buy Jefferson's books. According to this source (, that amount of money is equivalent to $730,548.42 in 2016 USD. Could we say that in the article, and how reliable would Tom's inflation calculator be considered? MorenaReka (talk) 00:37, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

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Link works and is useful. Dhtwiki (talk) 17:40, 21 July 2016 (UTC)
Actually, that link can't be what's wanted. Will revert. Dhtwiki (talk) 17:44, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

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Inaccurate claim by LoC that they are the largest library in the world[edit]

LoC website cited by the article ( makes the unsubstantiated claim that they are the largest library in the world. Skipping the obvious self-bias by LoC, there is a logical contradiction. They claim 164 million items make them the largest, yet there is a very large body of sources describing British Library's collection as 170 million items, such as [1] for an American source. I'm not an expert of Wikipedia's source reliability policies, so maybe someone else can chip in on how to deal with erroneous claims on webpages. (talk) 22:57, 27 August 2017 (UTC)


"de facto" or "de jure"?[edit]

In this article it said LoC is "the de facto national library of the United States". But in List of national and state libraries it said it's "(de jure)". Which is correct? If it's both de jure and de facto, do we really need to mark it? --fireattack (talk) 00:11, 12 November 2017 (UTC)

This article seems to give no source for "de facto" and the linked list's source is the Library of Congress home page, which says nothing about its "de jure" status. Unless someone can come up with better sourcing, I think "de facto" can be taken out of the lead here. Dhtwiki (talk) 08:56, 12 November 2017 (UTC)
I think this link can be used as reference for the "de facto" claim, and "de jure" in that list should be removed. -fireattack (talk) 05:06, 13 November 2017 (UTC)