Library of Congress: Research, Exhibits, Concerts & More

Library of Congress interior

Victoria Chamberlain / TripSavvy 

The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, is the world’s largest library containing more than 128 million items including books, manuscripts, films, photographs, sheet music, and maps. As part of the legislative branch of government, the Library of Congress includes several internal divisions, including the Office of the Librarian, Congressional Research Service, U.S. Copyright Office, Law Library of Congress, Library Services, and the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

The Library of Congress is open to the public and offers exhibitions, interactive displays, concerts, films, lectures and special events. The Thomas Jefferson Building is one of the most beautiful buildings in the nation's capital and free guided tours are highly recommended. To conduct research, you must be at least 16 years of age and obtain a Reader Identification Card in the Madison Building.


The Library of Congress occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill. The Thomas Jefferson Building is located at 10 First St. S.E., across from the U.S. Capitol. The John Adams Building is directly behind the Jefferson Building to the east on Second St. S.E. The James Madison Memorial Building, at 101 Independence Ave. S.E. is just south of the Jefferson Building. The Library of Congress has direct access to the Capitol Visitor Center via a tunnel. The closest metro station to the Library of Congress is Capitol South.

Exterior of Library of Congress
Victoria Chamberlain / TripSavvy

Library of Congress Experience

The “Library of Congress Experience” opened in 2008, featuring a series of ongoing exhibitions and dozens of interactive kiosks offering visitors unique historical and cultural treasures brought to life through cutting-edge interactive technology. The Library of Congress Experience incorporates the "Exploring the Early Americas" exhibition which tells the story of the Americas before the time of Columbus, as well as the period of contact, conquest and their aftermath. It features unique objects from the Library's Jay I. Kislak Collection, as well as Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 Map of the World, the first document to use the word "America." All exhibits are free and open to the public.

Concerts at the Library of Congress

Most concerts are at 8 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building. Tickets are distributed by Various ticketing service charges apply. Although the supply of tickets may be exhausted, there are often empty seats at concert time. Interested patrons are encouraged to come to the Library by 6:30 p.m. on concert nights to wait in the standby line for no-show tickets. Pre-concert presentations are at 6:30 p.m. in the Whittall Pavilion and do not require tickets.

History of the Library of Congress

Created in 1800, the Library of Congress was originally located in the U.S. Capitol Building on the National Mall. In 1814, the Capitol Building was burned in a fire and the library was destroyed. Thomas Jefferson offered to donate his personal collection of books and Congress agreed to purchase them in 1897 and established its own location on Capitol Hill. The building was named the Jefferson Building in honor of Jefferson’s generosity. Today, the Library of Congress consists of two additional buildings, the John Adams and the James Madison Buildings, which were added to accommodate the library’s growing collection of books. The two presidents are remembered for their dedication towards improving the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress Gift Shop

Unique gift items are available from the Library of Congress online shop. Purchase a wide range of items such as books, calendars, clothing, games, crafts, toys, jewelry, music, posters and much more. All proceeds are used to support the Library of Congress. Visit their official website for more information. 

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