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Global Resources: The International Collections of the Library of Congress
[Image of Neptune Fountain]
The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building,
Neptune Plaza in the foreground

The Library of Congress is the world's foremost repository of the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humankind. Its diverse collections number some 130 million items; over half of its book and serial collections are in languages other than English. A part of the legislative branch of the United States government, the Library's primary mission is to serve the Congress. Its universal collections, which support research in all subjects except clinical medicine and technical agriculture, are also developed for and open to scholars from all over the nation and the world.

The Library's collections of foreign-language materials are stunning in their scope and quality. For many areas of the world, such as China, Russia, and Latin America, its collections are the finest and most comprehensive research collections outside the country of origin. For several regions in the developing world, where preserving research materials takes a back seat to more immediate human needs, the collections are superior to what is available locally and are easier to access.

The area studies divisions are a primary gateway to those collections dealing with the non-English-speaking world. The African and Middle Eastern, Asian, European, and Hispanic divisions roughly map the principal geographic regions and language specialties. A visit to reference personnel in these divisions is the logical first step for researchers seeking resources about these regions. The Library further urges researchers planning field study in these regions to visit its collections before departure in order to maximize the value of time spent abroad. Researchers may also be pointed to materials in the Library's general and special collections, the latter holding considerable non-English materials specific to certain fields. The Law Library, the American Folklife Center (its name not withstanding), and the Geography and Map, Manuscript, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound, Music, Prints and Photographs, and Rare Book and Special Collections divisions also house many unique international materials.

[Image of the Asian Reading Room]
The Asian Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
Photo by Robert Lisbeth

The organization of the Library's non-English collections by geographic region recognizes the interrelated nature of the geography, language, history, and cultures of the world's peoples even while honoring the distinctiveness of each language and cultural group and the commonalities of issues and human concerns affecting all peoples. Together with the general collections serviced by the Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, and Serial and Government Publications divisions, and the special format collections mentioned above--all of which cover the English-speaking regions of the world as well--the area studies collections facilitate a unique range of research opportunities, from in-depth explorations of narrow topics to broad synthesizing understandings.

Each of the four area studies divisions operates an impressive, dedicated reading room of its own, with specialized reference collections and Internet access, in the Library's magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building. Additional study facilities for qualified, long-term scholars are also available. The Library welcomes scholars from across the country and around the world to use its facilities and services.

African and Middle Eastern Collections

Library of Congress collections in the languages of Africa and the Middle East are the largest of their kind. Comprising three sections--African, Hebraic, and Near East--the African and Middle Eastern Division covers more than 70 countries, from Morocco to South Africa to Central Asia, and maintains custody of non-Roman script material issued in the area. Access to related electronic materials and the Internet is provided.


Unusually rich and extensive research materials on sub-Saharan Africa are available to the researcher, largely acquired through the Library's field offices in Nairobi and Cairo. Holdings in economics, history, linguistics, and literature are especially strong. While most materials are dispersed in the Library's general book and periodical collections, impressive holdings of Africana may also be found in special collections of legal publications, manuscripts, maps, microforms, music, newspapers, prints, photographs, posters, and films in various custodial divisions.

[Image of an Ethiopian painting]e Battle of Aduwa, 1986
Detail from an Ethiopian painting (20th Century)
depicting the Battle of Adwa, 1896
African Section, African and Middle Eastern Division

Examples of noteworthy holdings include the Rare Book and Special Collections Division's 1496 edition of Historia Naturalis by Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79), which records the Roman's impressions of Africa; a colored manuscript map of Ethiopia which belonged to Haile Selassie is maintained by the Geography and Map Division; and the records of the American Colonization Society, including detailed accounts of its involvement in the founding of Liberia, are available in the Manuscript Division. Within the African Section researchers may consult a reference collection of bibliographies, yearbooks, directories, selected scholarly works, and electronic resources. Latest issues of major periodical titles are available for browsing. A large collection of unique pamphlet material, arranged by geographic region and subject, is also accessible.


[Image of the Plaque of Holy Places]
Plaque of the Holy Places.
Watercolor depiction of shrines located in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. Palestine, 2nd half of the 19th Century.
Hebraic Section, African and Middle Eastern Divison.

Beginning with Jacob H. Schiff's 1912 gift of nearly 10,000 books and pamphlets, the Library has developed and expanded its Hebraic holdings to include all materials of research value in Hebrew and related languages. Today, more than 150,000 items are available. Included are works in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, and Amharic. The collection includes an extensive range of monographs; a broad selection of Hebrew periodicals both current and retrospective, popular as well as scholarly; and a variety of Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers reflecting all shades of opinion. A comprehensive collection of Holocaust memorial volumes documents Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Second World War, and a large collection of rabbinic bio-bibliographical works in Hebrew is available. Holdings are especially strong in the areas of Bible and rabbinics, liturgy, Hebrew language and literature, responsa, and Jewish history. Access to online sources of Judaica is also available.

Among the 2,000 rarities in the collections are cuneiform tablets, manuscripts, incunabula, kettubot, micrographies, miniature books, and amulets. The more than 200 manuscripts include a Hebrew translation of the Koran, a selection of decorated Jewish marriage contracts, an early Ethiopian psalter in Ge'ez, various commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, and the Washington Haggadah, a 15th-century Hebrew illuminated manuscript. Also included are examples from among the first books printed in Portugal, Turkey, and on the African continent. With 24 Hebrew incunables--books printed before the year 1501--and an additional 15 in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the Library of Congress ranks as one of the world's most important public collections of Hebrew incunabula. Also unique are more than 1,000 original Yiddish plays, in manuscript or typescript form, written between the end of the 19th and the middle of the 20th centuries, intended for the American Yiddish theater.


In 1884, U.S. Congressman Abraham Hewitt visited Constantinople, and as a result Sultan Abdul Hamid II presented to the Library of Congress a rich collection of 375 volumes in Turkish and Arabic representing a cross section of the knowledge available in Ottoman domains at the time. While the Library has had a wide range of materials on the Middle East in its general holdings, primarily in Roman alphabet languages going back into the 19th century, the 1945 acquisition of the Mansuri Collection, with over 5,000 volumes on all phases of Islam and Islamic culture, provided the nucleus for the development of an outstanding Near Eastern collection that now consists of more than 256,000 items in 37 languages of the Near East, North Africa, and Central Asia.

[Image of Felix Teyard's Le Kaire]
Félix Teynard. Le Kaire. Tombeaux de Sultans Mamelouks (Tomb of the Mameluke Sultans, Cairo).
Salt print photograph, 1851.
Prints and Photographs Division.

The Near Eastern collections comprise books, periodicals, newspapers, government publications, manuscripts, and microforms, with many items acquired directly through the Library's field offices in Cairo and Islamabad. The major holdings are in Arabic (120,000 volumes), Persian (Farsi) and such cognates as Pushto, Dari, and Kurdish (70,000 volumes), and Turkish (35,000 volumes in both the Arabic script of the Ottoman era and the Roman script of modern Turkey), followed by Central Asian (12,000 volumes in Arabic script, with many more in Cyrillic), Armenian (13,000 volumes), and Georgian (6,000 volumes). In general, the collection is strongest in the social sciences and humanities but includes works in all subjects except clinical medicine and technical agriculture. Of special note are materials on Islamic religion, Arabic history and literature, politics, economics, philosophy, and the development of writing, calligraphy, and the book arts in the Middle East. Holdings include more than 7,000 periodical titles, approximately 110 newspapers, and an outstanding collection of official documents of Middle Eastern countries.

Among the collection's special features are a wealth of rarities, including early imprints and manuscripts. The Arabic manuscript collection is rich in works dealing with the Islamic religion, history, science, and literature, especially from the 9th A.H./15th A.D. to 12th A.H./18th A.D. centuries. There are substantial materials written in the 24 or so languages spoken by the Turkic and other ethnic groups living in the Central Asian region of the former Soviet Union, such as Uzbek, Turkmen, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Ossetic, Tajik, Tatar, and Yakut. Azeri publications are also included in this collection--both those in Cyrillic script coming from the former Soviet Union and in Arabic script coming from Iran. There are more than 15,000 volumes in a collection of famous authors. Of particular note are two major collections of Near Eastern pictorial materials located in the Prints and Photographs Division: the Abdul Hamid II Collection and the Matson Photo Service Collection. The former was presented to the Library in 1893 and consists of a 51 volume photographic survey of the Ottoman Empire showing views of military installations, naval vessels, schools, hospitals, and historic monuments. The Matson Collection consists of approximately 25,000 slides taken of the Levant region, mostly during the 1920s and 1930s.

Asian Collections

The Library's collections are the most significant outside of Asia, with over 1.7 million items including books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, microforms, and electronic media in the languages of East, Southeast, and South Asia. Originating in 1869 with the presentation of ten works in 933 volumes--offered to the United States by the Emperor of China--the Asian collections today have grown to represent one of the most accessible and comprehensive resources for Asian-language materials in the world. The collections embrace most subject fields, covering an area ranging from the South Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to China, Korea, and Japan. Complementing these collections are important materials on Asia in other areas of the Library, particularly in the special collections of legal materials, manuscripts, maps, music, films, and photographs maintained in other divisions. In addition, extensive Western-language materials on Asia are housed in the general collections. The reading room also provides access to the latest online information.

[Image of Cosmological Charts & Bonpo Ritual Sticks]
Cosmological Charts & Bonpo Ritual Sticks - 19th Century
Chinese Section, Asian Division


Since 1869, when the Library received its first Chinese books from the T'ung-chih Emperor, the Chinese collection has grown to become the largest and most accessible of its kind in the West. With almost 755,000 volumes in Chinese, holdings also include several thousand volumes in Manchu, Mongol, Moso (Naxi), and other ethnic minority languages of China. The collection contains materials on all subjects of value to scholarship, except clinical medicine and technical agriculture. The Library's collection of Chinese legal materials--the finest outside of Asia--is available in the Law Library.

Areas of special strength include classical Chinese literature, the collected writings of individual authors, documentary and archival materials of the Ch'ing and Republican periods, and traditional Chinese medicine. Of particular importance are approximately 2,000 titles of Chinese rare books and manuscripts, among which is the oldest example of printing in the world (passages from a Buddhist sutra printed in 770 A.D.) and about 1,500 imprints of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Notable holdings include some 4,000 local and regional gazetteers, mostly original Ming and Ch'ing editions from the period 1644-1911.

The collection has increased considerably through recent acquisitions of several hundred additional gazetteers in original editions, modern reprint editions published in Taiwan, newly compiled gazetteers published in China since the 1980s, supplemented by current Chinese local yearbooks and directories, and local and regional newspapers and periodicals published in China during the 1950s and 1960s. The collection also includes some 12,000 serial titles--of which approximately 2,500 are currently received--and 17,000 microfilm reels.


[Image of Cherry Blossoms]
Cherry Blossoms. 1921.
Japanese Rare Book Collections, Asian Division.

Begun in 1875, the Japanese collection has grown steadily to become, with 873,000 cataloged volumes, the largest collection of Japanese-language materials outside of Japan. Strongest in the humanities and social sciences, the collection also has significant holdings of scientific and technical journals and comprehensive runs of Japanese government publications at both the national and prefectural levels. Among its unique holdings are approximately 4,200 titles of printed books and manuscripts that predate the reign of the Meiji Emperor (1868-1912). These include collections of illustrated books and traditional mathematics, as well as materials on religion, history, and literature.

The Japanese collection increased dramatically soon after World War II, when nearly 300,000 volumes were added, including research reports of the South Manchuria Railway Company, one of Japan's largest semiofficial research entities in its day. The collection also includes valuable Japanese-language studies of such areas as Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, China, and the Pacific Islands of the pre-1946 period, trade and government publications covering a wide range of subject matter, approximately 25,000 periodical titles, several nationwide newspapers, and approximately 8,700 microfilm reels that include archival records from Japanese government agencies, journals, newspapers, and censored publications of the pre-1946 period.

The Japan Documentation Center was established in 1992 as a joint undertaking between the Library of Congress and the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation. Its purpose was to collect and disseminate Japanese public policy information. The project successfully developed an information management system and a database of over 5,000 items that includes source materials in fields such as economics, commerce and industry, law, politics, the environment, and social conditions. The collection will be serviced by the Japanese Section staff. The Center collected difficult-to-obtain unpublished literature, often referred to as "grey literature." The collection included policy studies and reports, white papers and annual reports, draft legislation, think-tank reports, and public opinion polls. The bulk of materials were issued between 1993 and 1999, and about 95% are in Japanese. Each record in the bibliographic database has a detailed English abstract, and the web index file allows full text searching. Researchers can identify useful materials and request copies from the Asian Division.


The systematic development of the Korean collection began in the early 1950s. The collection has close to 130,000 monographs, 7,000 serial titles, and 250 newspaper titles dating back to the 1920's, making it the largest outside of East Asia. The collection covers all important subjects, ranging from the classics, history, literature, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. In addition, there are some 7,000 English-language and 15,000 to 20,000 Japanese-language books on Korea. While most of the collection consists of publications from the Republic of Korea, important research materials from North Korea, numbering approximately 10,000 monographs, are also included. One of the significant strengths of the Korean collection, holdings of government publications, is the outcome of an exchange agreement between the governments of the Republic of Korea and the United States, signed on September 24, 1966. In the 1920's, the Library acquired a notable collection of some 2,900 rare books published in Korea using Chinese characters, called Han'gukpon.


[Image of Jina]
Jina. Page from Kalpa-sutra.
Gujarat or Rajasthan, 17th Century
(Text in Prakrit)
South & Southeast Asia Section, Asian Division

In 1938 the Library inaugurated the Indic Project, which later became the Southern Asia Section, to manage and service collections it had previously acquired. Through various post-World War II acquisition projects, particularly after the establishment of Library field offices in New Delhi, Karachi, and Jakarta in the 1960s, the collection has now grown to include more than 216,000 volumes in the languages of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Tibet, Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands.

The collection now provides broad research coverage in most fields and disciplines with particular strengths in vernacular languages and literatures, modern history and politics, vernacular newspapers and periodicals, and government publications. The section also maintains a large and expanding collection of serials, monographs, and pamphlets in microform. It has custody of rare materials relating to South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Tibet, including the manuscript collections of the great Indologist Albrecht Weber, purchased by the Library in 1904-1905. Other unusual items are in Burmese, Thai, Tibetan, and in Malay written in Jawi script. Even more unusual are the folk-writings on bamboo strips from the Mindoro-Palawan region of the Philippines. Since 1962, the Section has made successful efforts to add to the collection materials from all Southeast Asian nations.

The Tibetan collection of the Library of Congress began in 1901 with a presentation of 57 xylographs and eight manuscripts acquired by William Woodville Rockhill, U.S. Minister in China, during his travels in Mongolia and Tibet from 1888 to 1892. Between 1901 and 1928, approximately 920 original xylographs and manuscripts were acquired for the Library, primarily by Rockhill, Berthold Laufer, and Joseph Rock. Currently, the collection is one of the largest in the West, consisting of approximately 7,130 volumes made up of hundreds of individual titles. The Library's Tibetan collection is representative of the entire corpus of Tibetan literature, from the 8th century to the present: Buddhist and Bon-po philosophical texts and their commentaries, history, biography, traditional medicine, astrology, iconography, musical notations, the collected works of over 200 major Tibetan authors, bibliographies, traditional grammars and linguistic sciences, modern science, social sciences, and modern literature. Among the Library's holdings are several rare xylograph redactions of the Buddhist canonical literature, the Kanjur and the Tanjur, and possibly the only copy in the West of the Bon-po Kanjur. The Derge Kanjur was acquired for the Library by William Rockhill in 1901, and the Narthang Tanjur was acquired by Berthold Laufer in 1928. The complete Coni redaction in 317 volumes acquired by Joseph Rock in 1928 is one of only a few known to exist today.

European Collections
[Image of 13th century Icelandic Law Code]
13th century Icelandic Law Code (Jónsbók). 16th century edition
Law Library, Rare Book Room

The Library's collections from or pertaining to Europe as a whole began in 1814 with the acquisition of Thomas Jefferson's personal library, which contained many books representative of European culture. Since Jefferson's day, the Library's European collections have grown in size and quality, to the extent that they can meet the needs of Congress and of the scholarly community in all disciplines except clinical medicine and technical agriculture. The Library's holdings of books and other materials from almost all European countries are larger than those anywhere else in the world except in the countries themselves. Holdings are especially strong in history, language, literature, economics, government and politics, geography, law, and the arts. Access to the latest electronic information is also provided.

In 1906 the Library purchased the 80,000 volume collection of Russian bibliophile Gennady Yudin, making the Library of Congress a leading center for Slavic research in the United States. To process and service this collection, the Library created a special unit that assumed responsibility first for Eastern European materials and then, since 1978, for materials from or about all of Europe except Iberia, which are under custody of the Hispanic Division, and Great Britain and Ireland, which are the responsibility of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division.

In terms of size, German, French, and Russian are the Library's largest foreign-language European holdings. The German-language collections are the largest and most diverse in North America, comprising approximately 3,000,000 volumes, with an annual increment of about 30,000 volumes. Many of the Library's best-known and most valuable holdings are German materials. Historical materials relating to German tribes, the medieval empire, and modern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are numerous, and special collections covering the German-speaking countries of Europe are extraordinarily broad in many specialized areas such as law, music, prints, and maps. French items in the general collections are estimated at over one million volumes. These include materials published in all French-speaking countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. The French collections offer in-depth resources for the study of France, Belgium, and Switzerland--from the Renaissance to contemporary times--as well as extensive resources related to North America, Africa, and Asia. The Russian-language collections number about 800,000 volumes with nearly that many volumes about Russia and the Soviet Union in other languages. These collections include materials that were not available to researchers in Central and Eastern Europe under the communist regimes. The Russian collections, with extensive holdings of serials, scholarly works, government publications, and émigré literature, are by far the largest and most comprehensive outside Russia itself, making the Library of Congress a major resource for research on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Materials from the countries of former Soviet Central Asia can also be found in the African and Middle Eastern Division.

[Image of Poster--USSR between 1965 and 1980]
[Poster--USSR between 1965 and 1980]. Poster Collection. Prints & Photographs Division.

There are rich and well-balanced collections of materials from and about other European countries as well. The collections boast an estimated 600,000 books in Italian or about Italy. There are more than 150,000 books in Polish and perhaps as many about Poland in other languages, particularly English, Russian, and German. Works on Hungary and Hungarians and by Hungarian authors amount to about 130,000 titles, including 2,700 periodicals and 120 newspapers. Dutch and Flemish collections consist of about 190,000 items. The Czech and Slovak collections are estimated at more than 115,000 volumes, including about 2,000 periodical titles. There are Swedish and Danish collections of about 80,000 volumes each, a Norwegian collection of approximately 40,000 volumes, a Finnish collection of approximately 50,000 volumes, 70,000 volumes in Ukrainian, over 50,000 in Modern Greek, about 40,000 in Rumanian, 25,000 in Bulgarian, and about 130,000 in the other south Slavic languages, with smaller collections of Albanian, Estonian, Icelandic, Latvian, and Lithuanian materials in the 4,000 to 10,000 volume range.

The European Reading Room is a public reading room with a reference collection of about 10,000 volumes that includes dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographical, historical, and genealogical works, guides, directories, statistical yearbooks, economic and physical geographies, demographic studies, atlases, specialized catalogs, and guides to major European collections in the United States and abroad. In addition, the reading room provides current issues of many periodicals published in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as several of the most important French, German, and Italian newspapers. A staff of area and country specialists and multilingual reference librarians provides research assistance and online access to a wide range of clients.

Hispanic Collections

The Library's Spanish and Portuguese collections, among the finest in the world, have been developing for almost two centuries and are rooted in America's interest in the cultures and societies of the Luso-Hispanic nations. The first books in Spanish or dealing with Iberia were acquired in 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's collection. The Spanish-American War in 1898 focused the Library's attention on the Latin American area. Knowledge of the Library's growing specialization in the Hispanic field began attracting important gifts, such as the collection of pioneer American anthropologist Ephraim George Squier. In 1927 Archer M. Huntington, philanthropist, Hispanist, poet, and president of the Hispanic Society of America, established the Huntington Endowment Fund as the first of several important donations for the purchase of books related to the Spanish and Portuguese areas. It was with Huntington's support and encouragement that the Library established the Hispanic Division in 1939 to service this growing body of material.

[Image of Descriptio Indiae Occidentalis]
Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas
(1559-1625). Descriptio Indiae Occidentalis. 1622. Geography and Map Division.

The Hispanic Division is a center for the study of the cultures and societies of the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, the Caribbean, and other areas where Spanish and Portuguese influence has been significant, such as the Philippines and areas in the United States, covering some 55 countries or regions. Primary and secondary source materials are available for the study of all periods from the earliest Iberian, Celtic, and Roman periods and the pre-Columbian era to the present. Of the nearly 20 million volumes in the general book collections of the Library, more than 2 million are concerned with the Spanish, Portuguese, and Caribbean world and of the 110 million items in the collections approximately 10 million relate the Luso-Hispanic areas. Holdings are particularly strong in history, politics, government publications, religion, literature, the social sciences, and law. The collections contain over 250,000 titles dealing with Spain, its regions, and related autonomous territories. More than 4,000 serial titles and over 200 current and retrospective newspapers are maintained. Typical of the holdings for particular countries, the Library's Brazilian items number approximately 150,000 titles. The well balanced and rich Mexican collections surpass 100,000 titles, with special strength in official publications and historical and legal materials. The Hispanic newspaper collection is arguably the most extensive in the world.

In addition to books, serials, and newspapers, the collections include rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, fine prints, posters, feature and documentary films, newsreels, videotaped television programs, recordings, and sheet music. There are noteworthy collections of political and historical pamphlets relating to the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America for the 1900-1940 period, and other collections for more recent political pamphlets dealing with Latin America and the Caribbean, all of which have been microfilmed. The Hispanic Division houses vertical files which contain finding aids for Hispanic materials housed in special collections of the Library. Also available in the Hispanic Reading Room are current local Hispanic newspapers, selected scholarly journals, newsletters, a clipping file of English-language newspapers, and access to a large variety of online information. Other materials relating to Spanish, Portuguese, and multi-lingual Caribbean societies include debates of parliamentary bodies, ministry reports, official gazettes, and national, state, and provincial government imprints.

As examples of Hispanic materials held in other units of the Library, the Manuscript Division houses the 16th-century Columbus Codex, a 1547 Mexican treatise on native languages, and a 1542 letter written by Hernán Cortés to Charles V, recommending that the Indians of Mexico be placed under the protection of the Spanish crown, as well as valuable manuscript holdings in the Harkness collections for Mexico and Peru, the Hans P. Kraus Collection, and the Drake corpus. The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division houses treasures such as the first book printed in the Americas, namely, Juan de Zumárraga's Dotrina Breve published in Mexico City in 1543, and many valuable items in the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, as well as an outstanding collection of rare books by Cervantes. The Law Library has assembled the most comprehensive Iberian and Latin American legal collection in the world, ranging from items such as a 13th-century edition of Fuero Juzgo of Spanish Visigothic law, to contemporary laws, statutes, and legislation. Much new material is offered online through the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN). Another area where the Library is rich in Hispanic holdings involves geographical materials. Accounts by foreign travelers supplement the holdings of the Geography and Map Division, which offers single sheet, series, and serial maps and atlases.

Of special interest are the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape and the Handbook of Latin American Studies. First begun in 1942, the Archive contains original voice recordings of selections of the writings of contemporary poets and prose writers. In recent years, interviews with authors have been videotaped. Recorded to date are some 640 authors, among whom are eight Nobel laureates. The complete list of writers appears on the Hispanic Division's home page on the Internet.

The Hispanic Reading Room's web page offers a succinct online view for the reader who wishes to learn about the division's resources. From automated indexes of genealogical sources to biographies of Hispanic American Members of Congress, the web page also allows access to the Library's book collections using either English or Spanish, and can direct users to finding aids for specific subjects such as the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The Handbook of Latin American Studies, published by the University of Texas Press, was brought to the Hispanic Division in 1939 by its first chief, Lewis Hanke. It is the Library's--and the world's--oldest and most authoritative reference source on Latin America. Its editorial staff helps shape the Library's collections, ensuring that they develop in a systematic manner in response to demands in the field. The staff is also available for specialized reference consultation. The more than 130 scholars who help edit the volume are among the most expert researchers in those collections as well as annotators of the books and articles listed in the annual volumes. Beginning with volume 50 of the Handbook, the first to be fully automated, the entries are accessible through the LC Online Catalog. The Fundación MAPFRE América of Spain, with the assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, financed the retrospective conversion of the first 53 volumes of the Handbook to CD-ROM format and the heirs of Lewis Hanke underwrote the mounting of the CD-ROM on to the Internet. The Fundación Histórica Tavera, which is continuing the MAPFRE project, is preparing a revised edition of the CD-ROM that includes volumes 1-55. HLAS Online, the Handbook's web site, is the most authoritative database on Latin American studies, comprising all annotated items from the printed volumes beginning with volume 1, unnanotated citations to items that were not selected for print, and citations to appear in forthcoming printed volumes.

Specialized Research and Scholarly Programs

The Library of Congress, with its near-universal collections policy, is a unique and accessible resource that can provide entry to a dazzling array of languages, formats, and subject matter. Because its primary responsibility is to serve the Congress, the Library strives to keep its materials current. Holdings are constantly augmented through purchase, exchange, and cooperative agreements.

United States government agencies wishing to exploit the resources of the Library of Congress may receive assistance and direct access to the collections via the Library's Federal Research Division. The expert staff of the Federal Research Division provides Federal agencies with foreign area research and analysis in tailor-made formats based on specific agency requirements. Services range in complexity from document delivery to translations, database development, and comprehensive studies and reports. Many of these directed-research products are also made available to the general public and, as such, constitute additions to the Library's collections. One such product is the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series--some 106 hard-cover, multidisciplinary volumes covering 143 sovereign countries and 15 dependencies. In addition to the traditional print format, the Library of Congress now offers these books on the Internet's World Wide Web. Other major Federal Research Division products, based on archival materials transferred to the Library of Congress and now available online via the Internet, include the index to declassified U.S. Government POW/MIA documents from the Vietnam War era and full texts of documents (in Russian and English) and reports retrieved from Russian archival sources concerning unaccounted-for Americans.

This brief survey can only suggest the scale and depth of the collections held by the Library of Congress. A less well-documented strength is the Library's outstanding reference staff who provide expert assistance to all. All users of area studies materials are urged to consult appropriate reference staff prior to their visit. Those with more general interests may wish to begin their visit in the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson Building, where they may take advantage of services offered by the Humanities and Social Sciences Division staff.

In addition, researchers engaged in long-term projects are invited to contact the Office of Scholarly Programs for information about special services. The Scholarly Programs office acts to engage the scholarly community in the ongoing exploration of the Library's rich collections and to build a genuine community of scholars and researchers within the Library. Through conferences, meetings, special programs, lectures, publications, and other services, the office encourages deep and fruitful long-term relationships between the Library of Congress and the national and international intellectual communities. For additional general information, researchers are invited to consult the office's brochure, An Invitation to Scholars and Researchers.

For further information, please contact:

African and Middle Eastern Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4820
Phone: 202 707-7937
FAX: 202 252-3180
Ask a Librarian

Asian Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4810
Phone: 202 707-5420
FAX: 202 707-1724
Ask a Librarian:

European Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4830
Phone: 202 707-5414
FAX: 202 707-8482
Ask a Librarian:

Federal Research Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4840
Phone: 202 707-3900
FAX: 202 707-3920

Hispanic Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4850
Phone: 202 707-5400
FAX: 202 707-2005
Ask a Librarian:

Humanities & Social Sciences Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4660
Phone: 202 707-5530
FAX: 202 707-1957
Ask a Librarian:


Office of Scholarly Programs
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4860
Phone: 202 707-3302
FAX: 202 707-3595
Library of Congress >> Global Gateway
April 26, 2005
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