The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Congress, Library of

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CONGRESS, Library of. The National Library of the United States, an institution in Washington, D. C., since its removal from the Capitol in 1897, occupying the building erected for its accommodation under the acts of Congress of 15 April 1886, 2 Oct. 1888 and 2 March 1889, at a cost of $6,347,000 (limit by law, $6,500,000) exclusive of the land, which cost $585,000. The building occupies three and three-quarter acres upon a site 10 acres in extent at a distance 1,270 feet east of the Capitol, and is the largest and most magnificent library building in the world. In the decorations, 40 American painters and sculptors are represented. The floor space is 326,195 square feet or nearly eight acres. The book stacks contain about 100 miles of shelving, affording space for 3,540,000 octavo books and 84,000 volumes of newspapers. Annual appropriations are made by Congress for various purposes. In 1916 these amounted to $660,105, covering service and contingent expenses $451,460; purchase of books, $98,000; building and grounds, $110,645. The number of employees is 541; for the library proper, 255; distribution of cards, 44; disbursement and care of buildings and grounds, 134; legislative reference, 17; and for the copyright office, a distinct division of the library, 91. The main reading room, the periodical reading room and a reading room for the blind, are open to the public from 9 A.M. to 10 P.M. week-days, and from 2 P.M. to 10 P.M. Sundays and holidays, except Christmas Day and the 4th of July. The Library of Congress was established in 1800, destroyed in 1314 by the burning of the Capitol, afterward replenished by the purchase by Congress of the library of ex-President Jefferson, 6,760 volumes (cost, $23,950); in 1851, 35,000 volumes destroyed by fire; in 1852, partially replenished by an appropriation of $75,000; increased (1) by regular appropriations by Congress; (2) by deposits under the copyright laws; (3) by gifts and exchanges; (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 it. Fifty sets of government publications are placed at the service of the Library of Congress for international exchanges through the Smithsonian. Other special accessions have been: the Peter Force collection (22,529 volumes, 37,000 pamphlets), purchased 1867, cost $100,000; the (Count de) Rochambeau collection (manuscript), purchased 1883, cost $20,000; the Toner collection (24,484 volumes, numerous pamphlets), gifts in 1882 of Dr. Joseph M. Toner; the Hubbard collection (engravings), gift in 1898 of Mrs. Gardiner G. Hubbard; in 1905, 72 manuscript maps once owned by Richard, first Earl Howe, and 860 letters received by President Van Buren. Notable recent accessions are the Weber library of Sanskrit literature, 3,018 volumes, 1,002 pamphlets; the Hattala (Slavic, about 1,500 volumes); Yudin (Russian, 80,000 volumes); the Huitfeldt-Kass (Scandinavian, 5,000 volumes); the John Boyd Thacher collection of Incunabula (deposited); the Deinard collections of Hebraica comprising upward of 14,000 titles given to the library by Mr. Jacob H. Schiff in 1912 and 1914; the Henry Harrisse bequest, 1914, of 220 volumes and pamphlets, mostly dealing with early phases of American history; and the gift, 1915, from Mr. Nieh Chi-Cheh, vice-chairman of the Honorary Commercial Commission from the Republic of China, consisting of a diary kept by his grandfather, in 40 volumes. The entire collection, now the largest in the American hemisphere and the third in the world, is rich in history, political science, in Federal documents and Americana in general, including important files of American newspapers and original manuscripts of colonial, revolutionary and formative periods. At the end of the fiscal year 30 June 1915 the collection comprised 2,363,873 printed books and pamphlets (including the law library which, while a division of the Library of Congress, still remains at the Capitol), manuscripts, maps and charts, pieces of music and photographs, prints, engravings and lithographs, numbering about 1,000,000. While it is primarily and essentially a reference library, it maintains an inter-library loan system by which special service is rendered to scholarship by the loan of rare and unusual books to other libraries for the use of investigators engaged in serious research. Through its distribution of printed catalogue cards it also places at the disposal of all libraries, large or small, the best expert cataloguing and book information at a price much below the cost of even the crudest manuscript cataloguing. The service which perhaps reaches more citizens than any other is the response made to letters of inquiry from all parts of the country and on every conceivable topic. The relations of the Library of Congress to the other government libraries (which number about 63 out of a total of 137) are also of necessity very close, since they are all under the same controlling influence — service to the Federal government. Its relations to the libraries of Washington city, not governmental, while less direct, are hardly less intimate. They all draw from its immense reservoir, and their acquisitions and even their management are largely influenced by their proximity to the Library of Congress. Several of the larger government libraries have attained a real distinction, notably the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, 7th and B streets S. W., which is now perhaps the leading medical library of the world containing about 525,000 volumes and pamphlets; the library of the Department of Agriculture at 12th and B streets, consisting of about 150,000 volumes; the library of the Bureau of Education in the old Post-office Department building at 8th and F streets, N. W, containing about 165,000 volumes; the library of the Geological Survey at 1330 F street, containing over 190,000 volumes: the Public Documents Library; the libraries of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the Reclamation Service, of the Bureau of Standards, and of the Bureau of Railway Economics; while the libraries under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian Institution offer, an interesting group to those concerned with the natural sciences. The largest is the library of the National Museum, containing 45,000 volumes, and about 75,000 unbound pamphlets, the largest assemblage of the transactions of learned societies which exists in the country. Altogether the Library of Congress with its affiliations is considered by many who are familiar with the national libraries of foreign countries to be more truly a national library than any other in the world in the extent and variety of the functions it performs and the service it renders to libraries and to citizens throughout the country. The chief librarians since its inception have been: 1800-14, the contemporary clerk of the House of Representatives; 1815-29, George Watterson; 1829-61, John S. Meehan; 1861-64, John G. Stephenson; 1864-97, Ainsworth R. Spofford; 1897-99, John Russell Young; Herbert Putnam since 1899.