One of the most iconic and impressive structures in Washington D.C., the Library of Congress contains a staggering 120 million items, including 22 million books plus manuscripts, maps, photographs, films and prints. But don't expect to see many books: Most are shelved on more than 500 miles of closed library stacks housed in the three different buildings. The Library - the world’s largest - is still nonetheless fascinating.
The centerpiece of the LOC experience is the historic 1897 Jefferson Building, where you can wander around the spectacular Great Hall, ornate with stained glass and marble. The artwork of the Great Hall reflects the beauty that emerges from such amassed wisdom, such as the goddesses and cherubs who represent different fields of knowledge. Multimedia kiosk provide the minutest details of the library’s awe-inspiring collection.
Anyone over the age of 18 carrying photo ID can use the library, and more than a million people do so each year. The Main Reading Room is in the Jefferson building, but it is just one of 22 reading rooms. The Library of Congress is a research library, meaning you can't check the books out, but you can read away inside its confines.
The Library of Congress is located on the east side of the Capitol. The visitors center, in the Jefferson Building, shows a brief film. The Madison Building also hosts concerts and screens classic films in the Mary Pickford Theater.
The National Digital Library is an online service that allows you to access papers, maps and musical scores in machine-readable format (the desks in the Main Reading Room are wired for laptops). Other tasty morsels available online include major exhibitions, prints, photographs, political speeches and films.