The United States Library of Congress was founded in 1800, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.
The Library receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 12,000 items to the collections daily. The majority of the collections are received through the Copyright registration process, as the Library is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. It is no surprise therefore that its collection is impressive. The Library houses:
- One of the oldest examples of printing in the world – passages from a Buddhist sutra, or discourse, printed in 770 CE – is housed in the Library’s Asian Division. The oldest written material in the Library is a cuneiform tablet dating from 2040 BCE.
- The smallest book in the Library of Congress is “Old King Cole.” It is 1/25” x 1/25”, or about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
- The largest book in the Library of Congress is a 5-by-7 foot book featuring color images of Bhutan.
- More than 15 million visual images.
- Over 6 million items, including more than 3.6 million sound recordings and more than 1.8 million film, television and video items, representing more than a century of audiovisual production.
- The most comprehensive collection of American music in the world, more than 22 million items including 8.1 million pieces of sheet music.
- The largest historical collection of U.S. telephone criss-cross (phone number and address) and city directories in the world. The Library acquires more than 8,000 volumes a year and holds more than 124,000 telephone books and microfilmed city directories from 650 U.S. cities and towns.
- It contains the world’s largest collection of comic books (5,000 titles; 135,000 issues). The oldest comic book in the collection is “Popular Comics,” February 1936.
- The world’s most extensive newspaper collection. The oldest original newspaper in the collection is “Mercurius Publicas Comprising the Sum of Forraign Intelligence,” December 29, 1659.
- More than 5.5 million maps, the world’s largest collection of cartographic materials. The collection also includes the 1507 world map by Martin Waldseemüller, known as “America’s Birth Certificate,” the first document on which the name “America” appears.
- One of the largest and most diverse collections of scientific and technical information in the world. Such material makes up roughly one-fourth of its total book and journal collection.
- Since 2006, every single public tweet ever made on Twitter. More than 50 million tweets are collected every day.
On August 24, 1814, British troops burned the Capitol building (where the Library was housed) and destroyed the Library’s core collection of 3,000 volumes. On January 30, 1815, Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950.
Also, the library spends $100,000 dollars on light bulbs every single year.