Do you ever have trouble finding a particular book or resource in your school library? It’s OK if you do. Most libraries have tons of books, and librarians are there to help you find the things you need.
If you think your school library has a lot of books, though, wait until you learn about the nation’s largest library. Its amazing collection of books and resources will blow your mind!
What library are we talking about? The Library of Congress, of course! Built in 1800 in Washington, D.C., it’s the largest library in the world in both shelf space and number of books.
The Library of Congress is the official research library of the United States Congress. It’s also considered to be the national library of the U.S. It currently consists of three buildings in the nation’s capital.
When it was first started, the Library of Congress was housed in the U.S. Capitol. It stayed there throughout most of the 1800s until it moved to its current site.
Most of the library’s original collection was destroyed during the War of 1812. Thomas Jefferson replenished the library’s collection, though, by selling his entire personal book collection — over 6,000 books! — to the library in 1815 for $23,950 (that was A LOT of money way back then).
Over time, the Library of Congress continued to expand. Eventually it came to consist of the three buildings it is housed in today. Its main purpose is to research issues for members of Congress.
The Library of Congress is open to the public, but very few people are allowed to check out books. These privileged few include library employees, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and other high-ranking government officials.
The Library of Congress holds much more than just books. Its various collections include more than 150 million items on over 800 miles of bookshelves. These items include over 34 million books, over 3 million recordings, over 13 million photographs, over 5 million maps, over 6 million pieces of sheet music and over 66 million manuscripts!
Among these millions of items are some of the most interesting and rare books in the world. In fact, the Library of Congress has over 700,000 rare books, which is the largest collection in North America.
The smallest book in the Library of Congress is Old King Cole. Measuring 1/25 inches by 1/25 inches, it’s about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. Its pages can only be turned using a needle!
The largest book in the Library of Congress is a 5 foot by 7 foot picture book featuring thousands of color images of the country of Bhutan. The Library also has one of only three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible, which is one of the most valuable books in the world.