History of the Library of Congress

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History of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is a famous library that houses its rich collections in three buildings – the James Madison Memorial Building, the John Adams Building, and the Thomas Jefferson Building. It is one of the oldest federal institutions as well as the research library of the US Congress. Consisting of millions of manuscripts, maps, books, photographs and tapes, it is the largest library collection in the world and an invaluable source of American history. The activity of the library is managed by the administrative section.

The library, established in the Capitol building in 1800, facilitated the research work done by Congress. President John Adams authorized the building and the initial collections, valued at $5000, included law books originating in England.

Jefferson’s contribution was invaluable during the formative years in which he effectively regulated operations and introduced several important processes. The early collection was destroyed in 1814 when the Capitol building was invaded and British soldiers set it on fire.

Thomas Jefferson donated his personal collection of books that he collected over a period of 50 years on various subjects such as literature, science and philosophy. This collection included several books in a foreign language. He was paid more than $20,000 for a collection of more than 6,450 books.

Later, Charles Coffin Jewett (Smithsonian Librarian) and Joseph Henry (Smithsonian Secretary) proposed two different approaches to the growth of this library. It was a rather tumultuous time as Charles wanted the Smithsonian Institution to become the official library of the United States, while Joseph wanted to promote the Library of Congress as the nation’s national library. Joseph managed to fire Charles and transferred the valuable collection of more than -40,000 volumes from the Smithsonian Institution to the Library of Congress.

In 1864, Ainsworth Rand Spafford took his position as librarian and believed in Jefferson’s philosophy that dealt with the concept of universality and took efforts to bring various collections of books of all subjects. Thanks to his efforts, the library became a national institution.

Later, Spafford made it mandatory for US copyright applicants to send 2 copies of their work to the library. Soon, the place was suffocated as the library was completely overwhelmed with maps, music, prints, books and photographs among other rich collections for which a new building in the Italian Renaissance style was built and became known in the name of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

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