How to visit the Library of Congress in our nation’s capital

If you think of the Library of Congress as an unapproachable, scholarly building somewhere in our nation’s capital, you might be surprised to know that it is very much a place you can visit, tour and spend time reading and researching.
Author and scientist Linh Anh Cat has compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the Library of Congress:
First, where and what is it? The Library of Congress was established in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1800. Unlike libraries most of us are familiar with, it doesn’t publicly circulate books. Instead, it mainly serves the 535 members of the U.S. Congress and their staffs as they prepare reports based on the legislation they are working on.
Second, how many books are in the Library of Congress? It houses a whopping 38 million books, 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 70 million manuscripts in its three buildings on Capitol Hill. There are other miscellaneous items in the library that bring the grand total to 167 million items.
Third, who can use the Library of Congress? Although it mainly serves members of Congress, it is also open to the public to help with research needs. You can access materials there, but you cannot take them out.
Fourth, how long does it take to tour the Library of Congress? On your own, plan for one to two hours. If you take the tour, set aside two to three hours. The must-see parts are the Main Reading Room, viewed from a soundproof glass room, and the Great Hall, which is where you enter the library. In the Great Hall, take note of the intricate designs on the wall that include various fields of study and quotes from famous scientists, poets, artists and others. There are other interesting exhibits, including Thomas Jefferson’s library.
Fifth, how can I use the reading rooms? Ask the front desk to direct you to the office that issues a Reader Identification Card. You will have to show a government ID with a photo, such as a driver’s license or a passport. Then you can enter the Main Reading Room.
Bonus: The Supreme Court and Capitol buildings are extremely close. There also are plenty of restaurants if you continue past the Library of Congress and need a break.
ESL classes underway
We are now holding free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes twice weekly year-round on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. with two highly experienced teachers. Joyce Holdread is teaching the intermediate/advanced group and Ellynn Ragone is teaching beginners. No registration is required. Similar to other library programs, we are not able to provide child care as a separate component.
Comenzando el 1 de mayo, la biblioteca ofrecerá clases de inglés como segundo idioma (ESL). Las clases se llevan a cabo los miércoles y viernes desde el mediodia hasta las 2 pm. Todas las clases son gratuitas y no es necesario registrarse. Por favor ayúdanos a correr la voz sobre el regreso de las clases de íngles como segundo idioma en nuestra comunidad de Pagosa.
Lifelong Learning lectures
The fifth lecture in the free spring Lifelong Learning series on Thursdays takes place today, May 16, when Elsa White and Samantha Armitstead from the Archuleta County Treasurer’s Office will discuss “Financial Fraud Awareness.”
There will be no presentation May 23. May 30 is “Chasing Denali,” when author and adventurer Jon Waterman shares his observations from 40 years of mountaineering on North America’s highest mountain. Pick up a brochure at your library with more details on these very interesting talks.
Spanish conversation
Please note that there will be no Spanish classes in May. They will resume in June.
All-ages movie tomorrow
Join us tomorrow, Friday, May 17, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. for a PG movie suitable for all ages. Our contract does not allow us to identify the film titles in the media, but you can find them listed on the activities calendars. Note the movies now start at 2:30 p.m. rather than 2 p.m. because of ESL class.
Otaku Club
The Otaku (Anime/Manga) Club meets Monday, May 20 from 4 to 5 p.m. Join us to watch anime, talk about manga and Asian cultures, and enjoy snacks. This free club is for those in the fifth through 12th grades.
Teen gaming
Free teen gaming happens on Tuesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. for teens in the seventh through 12th grades. Enjoy Xbox 360 Kinect, Wii and snacks.
Teen role-playing
The free role-playing game for seventh- through 12th-graders takes place next Wednesday, May 22, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Use your imagination to go on adventures and battle monsters. You can join this group any time.
Computer classes
The regular program of free sessions from 1 to 2 p.m. on alternating Thursdays to learn a useful technology skill or application resumes in mid-June.
Adult education
Our free PALS (Pagosa Adult Learning Services) takes place on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., plus Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Come to your library to get help from Mark with high school equivalency, GED, college prep, financial aid, tutoring and more. Note there will be no PALS on May 21.
Free tech sessions
Drop in with your technology questions on Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. Please note there will be no tech sessions on Tuesdays in May. They will resume in June.
Family storytimes
Every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. and Saturday from 9:30 to 10 a.m., join us for free great stories, fun songs and plenty of reasons to get up and move. This is an excellent way for kids of all ages to have fun while building the skills they need to become independent readers.
Both storytimes are open to babies, toddlers and youngsters of all ages to make it easier for parents to attend with their children depending on their busy schedules rather than the age of their little ones.
Activities calendars
To be sure you don’t miss any of the free activities available to you and your families at your library, we encourage you to pick up a copy of the events calendar each month. There are three versions — kids, tweens/teens and adults. We look forward to seeing you at your library. Se habla espanol.
“There There” by Tommy Orange, named one of The New York Times 10 best books of the year, is a multigenerational story of 12 urban Native Americans traveling to a powwow for various reasons. “Blessing in Disguise” by Danielle Steel follows a single mother and her three daughters by different men. “The Farm” by Joanne Ramos is set in a luxurious retreat where women are kept to produce perfect babies. “Wunderland” by Jennifer Cody Epstein moves between decades with stories of three women tied to Nazi Germany. “Machines Like Me” by Ian McEwan takes place in alternative 1980s London.
Mystery and suspense
“Far and Away” by Fern Michaels brings all three of the Godmothers novellas together for the first time. “Willing to Die” by Lisa Jackson is a Selena Alvarez/Regan Prescoli mystery. “The Kremlin Strike” by Dale Brown is the fifth book featuring Brad McLanahan in this techno-warfare series. “Light from Other Stars” by Erika Swyler features an 11-year-old girl obsessed with becoming an astronaut. “18th Abduction” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is the latest in the Women’s Murder Club thriller series.
“Life After Suicide” by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC’s chief medical correspondent, uses her personal experience and others’ as a basis for a guide offering support, advice and hope in the process of recovery. “Ketofast” by Dr. Joseph Mercola is a guide to ketogenic living and well-planned fasting. “Why They Marched” by Susan Ware features untold stories of the unknown women who fought for the right to vote.
“Falter” by Bill McKibben looks at climate change, new technologies and other trends that are negatively affecting the human experience. “Our Planet” by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey is the photographic companion to the Netflix documentary series. “Moon” by David Warmflash is an illustrated history of the development, observation and exploration of the moon. “American Moonshot” by Douglas Brinkley celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing with a fresh look at the American space program. “Chasing Denali” by Jon Waterman is the legendary story of four miners (called “sourdoughs”) who claimed to ascend and descend Denali all in one day.
“Shortest Way Home” by Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a Democratic candidate for president of the U.S. in 2020, explores the resurgence of a dying city. “D-Day Girls” by Sarah Rose documents the extraordinary women who became British spies to help pave the wave for Allied victory in World War II. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates explores the importance of lifting women up in all societies with data presenting the issues we need address first for the benefit of everyone.
“The Scribbly Man” by Terry Goodkind is a new Richard and Kahlan novella, the first book in the Children of O’Hara fantasy series. “The A List” by J.A. Jance is an Ali Reynolds mystery. “Wild Card” by Stuart Woods is a Stone Barrington mystery. “Miracle at St. Andrews” by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge is a story about golf. “Someone Knows” by Lisa Scottoline reunites three friends who share an unbearable secret. “The Last Second” by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison is a thriller pitting two special agents against a private French space agency. “The Cornwalls Are Gone” by James Patterson and Brendon DuBois features a female Army intelligence officer. “Machines Like Me” by Ian McEwan takes place in alternative 1980s London.
“Open Range” is an action western starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner and Annette Bening. “Puss in Boots” is a Dreamworks animated family film. “Seed” is a multiple award-winning documentary about seeds, 94 percent of our planet’s varieties having disappeared in the last century. “Boy Erased” is a biographical drama film that received two Golden Globe nominations. “No Passport Required” with Marcus Samuelsson explores food and traditions across America. “White Fang” is the Jack London classic adventure story. “Unknown Soldier” is the Finnish classic war drama, the most expensive movie ever produced in Finland. “Reilly Ace of Spies” is a real-life dramatization of an agent who inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond. “The Mayo Clinic” is a documentary produced by Ken Burns.
Thanks to our donors
We are grateful for donations from Wendy Mirr, Tammy Shrader, Carla Robinson and our anonymous donors.
Quotable quote
“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.” — Lucille Ball (1911-1989), American actress, comedian, studio executive and producer.
For more information on library books, services and programs — and to reserve books, e-books, CDs and DVDs from the comfort of your home — please visit our website at

This story was posted on May 16, 2019.