The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It has over 130 million items in its collections. According to the Main Reading Room’s page within the LOC’s website, it is growing at the rate of 10,000 items per day.
At the Library, there are twenty public reading rooms. The Library offers free access to many databases that are not searchable on the open internet and other published reference sources that are not digitized. One must physically go to the Library of Congress to utilize these resources.
If you will be going into the Library of Congress to research, their website offers a guide to researching in the Main Reading Room.
If you will not be going to the Library of Congress in person, you can access the Digital Collections from anywhere. On the Digital Collections page, scroll down to see the items in the menu on the left side of the page.
The collection I have used the most often is the Prints and Photographs. To access the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, click here. Generally, photographs and prints taken and/or published up to 1925 (before 1926) are not copyrighted. I have used several of these photographs on my website and plan to use some of them as book covers when I publish some of my historical fiction.
If you are going to use any of the LOC photos or prints as a book cover, in your blog, in a newsletter or anything else that you publish, check to see if there’s any known restriction.
With each photograph, there are three tabs: About This Article, Obtaining Copies and Access to Original. In the About This Article tab, one of the items is Rights Advisory. If the entry after this item reads No known restrictions on publication and the publication date is before 1926, the photograph is probably in the public domain.
For more information on copyright and other restrictions, click here.
Within the Digital Collections page, you will find Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
Within the Historic Newspapers section, there are digitized newspapers that may be accessed by the public. To search the historic newspapers, click here.
The Library of Congress offers Reference and Research Services. If you are researching from your home or offices, there are guides you may access. In the Reference and Research Services section, scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will see the heading Research on the Web. The guides are located under this heading.
Last but not least is the Ask a Librarian function. In my genealogical and historical research, I have found librarians to be an invaluable resource. Ever willing to cheerfully help, they are my heroes.
Warning: This site can be addictive. If you enjoy researching, you will find the Library of Congress’s website fascinating.
Photograph courtesy the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson Building. Date published 1873. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-31519 (digital file from original drawing) LC-USZC4-1628 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-59059 (b&w film copy neg.). Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA