The New International Encyclopædia/Library of Congress, The
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Library of Congress, The
|Edition of 1905. Written by Herbert Putnam. See also Library of Congress on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, The (the National Library of the United States). A public institution at Washington, D. C. It was established in 1800, destroyed in 1814 by the burning of the Capitol, afterwards replenished by the purchase by Congress of the library of ex-President Jefferson, but suffered again by a fire in 1851, which reduced it to 20,000 volumes. It has increased rapidly since then (1) through appropriations by Congress; (2) by deposits under the Copyright Law (see Copyright); (3) by gifts and exchanges, particularly of public documents; (4) by the exchanges of the Smithsonian Institution, the library of which (40,000 volumes) was, in 1866, deposited in the Library of Congress with the stipulation that future accessions should follow. The collection has now come to be the largest in the Western Hemisphere and one of the half-dozen largest in the world. It comprised on June 30, 1902, 1,114,111 printed books and pamphlets, 99,532 manuscripts, 64,921 maps and charts, 345,511 pieces of music, and 127,002 prints. It is rich in history, political and social science, public documents, and in Americana, including important files of American newspapers and original manuscripts (due in part to the acquisition of the Peter Force, the de Rochambeau, and other special collections); but it is now a library general in scope, and its purchases include material in every department of literature. From 1800 to 1897 it remained at the Capitol; in 1897 it was removed to the building erected for it under acts of Congress, at a cost of $6,347,000, exclusive of the land, which cost $585,000. The building occupies three and three-quarters acres upon a site ten acres in extent at a distance of 1270 feet east of the Capitol, and is the largest and most magnificent library building in the world. It has a floor space of nearly eight acres; book-stacks which contain about forty-five miles of shelving and space for 2,200,000 octavo volumes, able to be so extended as to accomodate over 4,000,000 volumes; and provision for nearly a thousand readers at a time. The structure, Italian Renaissance in style, is quadrangular, measuring 470 feet by 340 feet, and incloses four courts and a central rotunda. Its numerous works of art are imposing but very unequal in merit. Its organization is now highly elaborate, including besides the general administration various divisions: Order, Catalogue, Reading Rooms, Bibliography, Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, Music, Periodicals, Prints; the Law Library, which still remains at the Capitol; and the Copyright Office; also a branch bindery and printing-office which are branches of the Government Printing Office. The total force employed in the library numbers over 400. The Librarian of Congress is appointed by the President of the United States. He appoints his subordinates and otherwise administers the appropriations granted for the Library and Copyright Office. There is also a Superintendent of the Building and Grounds, similarly appointed. Annual appropriations are granted by Congress upon application of these two officials. For the year 1903-04 they amounted to $583,845, including $100,000 for the increase of the library, but excluding $185,000 for printing and binding. The library is open from 9 A.M. to 10 P.M. on every week-day, and from 2 P.M. until 10 P.M. on Sundays and most holidays. Established for the use of Congress, and still especially serving Congress, the library is now also a public library, national in scope and function. For reference it is freely accessible without formality; but the privilege of drawing books for home use is at present in general limited to members of Congress and certain other classes. Besides its direct service to readers, equivalent in volume to that of any American library, and to Congress and the executive and scientific bureaus at Washington, the library gives much bibliographic information by mail and through its publications, which, including its annual reports and reference lists, are distributed freely to institutions and serious investigators. It issues no general catalogue in book form. Its printed catalogue cards are, however, placed for reference at certain centres of research outside of Washington, and are supplied at cost to subscribing libraries. It is thus becoming a central bureau for the cataloguing of all current copyrighted publications and of most others, current and non-current, that are of concern to American libraries.
The organization, history, and operations of the library are described in various of its publications, particularly the Librarian's Report for 1901. The building is most fully described in Small, Handbook of the Library of Congress (Boston, 1901).