Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Library of Congress!

215 years ago today, President John Adams signed the first bill to establish the Library of Congress. He appropriated $5,000 to purchase "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." The first books arrived in 1801 and were originally housed in the capitol building. In 1802, the first library catalog listed 964 volumes and 9 maps. The library was originally administered by House clerks.
Postcard of the Library of Congress in 1902 from the New York Public Library Digital Collections

When the British burned the capitol building in 1814, during The War of 1812, the original library was destroyed. To "rcommence" the library after this disaster, Thomas Jefferson sold his personal collection of 6,487 volumes to Congress in 1815 and a professional librarian, George Watterson, was hired as the first Librarian of Congress. In 1870, copyright law began to require that all authors who wanted copyright protection send two copies of their work to the Library of Congress, and the library quickly outgrew its space in the Capitol Building.The building you see in the picture was completed in 1897, by which time the library had grown into a national institution.

Today, the Library of Congress is still an "unparalleled world resource" which houses over 158 million items in three buildings. They also provide services and resources for librarians and libraries around the country, including the Tarleton Libraries. We rely on the Library of Congress classification system to organize our collections, and obtain catalog records written by Library of Congress catalogers. The Library of Congress also houses the United States Copyright Office, which gives official guidance on copyright law. In short, it has grown a lot from the $5,000 worth of books originally appropriated by President Adams!

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