The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It is also the oldest cultural institution maintained by the United States Government. As implied by its name, the Library is a dependency of the legislative branch of the federal government.
Thousands of staff people work full time to maintain the collection of over 138 million books, manuscripts, maps and recordings in 470 languages that are housed in the library. They also work to carry out other functions in compliance with the different missions of each of the facilities' 7 main divisions that are mentioned below as well as other offices.
The main divisions are: 1)the Congressional Research Office, which fulfills hundreds of thousands of research missions for Congress annually and provides more than a thousand written reports each year; 2) the Copyright Office, which registers and maintains creative copyrights for all territories within the national borders; 3) the Law Library, which provides easy access to Congress and the public to over 3 million volumes of law pertaining to nearly every existing jurisdiction in the world as well as from different time periods; 4) Library Services, which not only maintains, catalogues and provides access to the existing collection but also seeks to improve its quality and quantity while promoting American creativity; 5) the Office of Strategic Initiatives which directs planning and integrated follow up within the Library of Congress; 6) The Office of the Librarian which sets policy and is responsible for administration including Development, Public Affairs and Legal Counsel; and, 7) The Enabling Infrastructure that includes the Finance Office, Human Resources, etc.
The Librarian of Congress and the Chief Operating Officer oversee the functioning of the library and sit on the Executive Committee of the Library of Congress, together with Chief Officers of other divisions listed above.
The Library was first opened in 1800 within the Capitol Building. It was created in the same Act of Congress that moved the Capitol to Washington D.C. The initial collection was burned when the British set fire to the Capitol in 1814. Shortly afterwards, Thomas Jefferson offered his collection of 6,487 books as a replacement.
When the Library of Congress moved into its own Italian Renaissance- style building in 1897, the Thomas Jefferson Building (1st St. S.E., between Independence Ave. and East Capitol St.), it was considered the largest and safest library in the world.
Today it fills three Capitol Hill Buildings in all. The buildings are: the original Jefferson building of 1897; the John Adams Building (2nd Street S.E., between Independence Ave. and East Capitol St.), which opened in 1938 and was named after the second President who signed the 1800 bill to create the library; and, the James Madison Memorial Building (101 Independence Ave. S.E.), named after the author or the Bill of Rights, which was completed in 1981. More than 50 American artists have painted and sculpted the decorations that are found adorning the interiors of these buildings.
Public tours of the Library occur several times a day. Concerts, films, art exhibitions and lectures are also frequently scheduled within the majestically carved and adorned halls of the Library of Congress.
The Jefferson and Madison Buildings offer spaces that are available for private event rental.