Just next to the Supreme Court of the United States is the famous Library of Congress buildings. The Library of Congress is actually the world’s largest library in the world, bar none. It is so big that it is twice the size in terms of number of books compared to the next biggest library, the British Library.
The Library of Congress is established in the year 1900 to serve the research needs of Congress, hence the name.
The Library of Congress is actually located in three separate buildings but the most beautiful and prestigious of them is known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. That is the building that the tourist congregates to.
The entire building is elaborately decorated. As much as it is beautiful on the outside with water fountains, what we saw when we went into the building was simply jaw-dropping.
Frankly, I must say I have never seen a more beautiful building. I had seen a lot of beautiful buildings in Europe and such but what boggles my mind was that this building is over 100 years old and it looked like it was just built in recent years.
The Library of Congress runs a lot of tours for tourists. The times are prominently displayed but you should go in as early as you can. We went in 5 minutes before the start of the tour but we encountered a standing room only briefing room. Many turned up on time were asked to take the next tour. BTW, the tours are free of charge.
Although it is quite an experience gawking at the elaborate decorations, you really need to attend the public tours to truly appreciate the art on every floor, wall, ceilings, stairs and pillars.
For instance, look at the sunken panels above. Every each of them carries a unique flower design. There must have been close to over a thousand in one of the rooms we were in. Simply breathtaking. We would not have known if it were not pointed out to us.
The tour brought us to see the cavernous Main Reading Room. We also got to see the Thomas Jefferson collection but too bad they prohibit photography in these areas.
Talking about Thomas Jefferson, he is the main man behind the Library of Congress. When the library was burned down by the British (Canadian) when DC was ransacked, Thomas Jefferson sold his vast collection to the Library of Congress to re-establish the collection. Yeah, Jefferson SOLD not DONATED the books.
The Library of Congress carries some rare books and manuscripts. One of the more famous rare books is the Gutenberg Bible … the one of four remaining perfect copies in the world. We were also prohibited from taking pictures but I guess it is OK if I took it from the distance.
As I earlier said, the Library of Congress is the largest in the world. You know how big it is? Well, they receive 20,000 new publications every DAY. Today they have an estimated 32 million books, not counting manuscripts, photos, maps, paintings, and whatever else they collect.
After all, this is the National library of the entire United States. This is where the collective knowledge of the country is stored. Anyone could make use of the library but they need to verify your identity but you can never take any books out.