Information for Researchers
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in the Reading Room | Service
from a Distance | Obtaining
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The Prints & Photographs Reading Room provides
public access to the collections and services
of the Prints & Photographs Division (P&P)
and is open to patrons conducting research
utilizing the Division's collections. Unique
in their scope and richness, the Prints & Photographs
collections today number over 13.6 million
images. These include photographs, fine
and popular prints and drawings, posters,
and architectural and engineering drawings.
While international in scope, the collections
are particularly rich in materials produced
in, or documenting the history of, the
United States and the lives, interests
and achievements of the American people.
An overview of P&P collections and services
is available via World Wide Web at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/.
Full use of the collections can only be made with the help of Division
staff who provide assistance in understanding the Division's many
different cataloging/finding systems and who oversee the safe use
of the wide variety of materials which are served.
- Reference librarians are
on duty in the Reading Room to
- Patrons involved in complex
research are urged to call the
Reading Room and discuss their
search before making a visit.
- Arrangements must be made when patrons expect to view more
than 15 original items from the Division's collections of posters,
drawings, master photographs, and fine prints (this does not
include documentary photographs, the bulk of the Division's holdings);
when requesting unprocessed material;
when requesting fragile material requiring supervised handling
or special preparation, such as many architectural
drawings; for visits by a class or study group; or when the
number of images required by a project will far exceed average
use (e.g., searching thousands of images for digital publication).
- Tours and orientations are
Registration Is Required & Special Rules Are in Force
- Patrons must obtain a Library
of Congress Reader Identification Card before using the
P&P Reading Room. To obtain the card, patrons must first
complete an online application and submit proof of identity
and address. This is done in Room 140 of the Madison Building,
which is conveniently located near the entrance to the building
and on the way to the P&P Reading Room.
- In general, children are not allowed
to conduct research or accompany adults as they conduct
research in the Division.
- Patrons may not bring belongings
other than loose sheets of paper
into the Reading Room. Although
a cloakroom room is available
Room 140, next to the Reader Registration
station, researchers may prefer
to use the lockers located in
the P&P Reading
Room. Patrons planning to use
laptop or notebook computers should
bring battery packs,
because there are few electrical
outlets in the Reading Room.
- Patrons must agree to follow special
rules for the safe handling of
- As a preservation measure, the Library serves "surrogates" (e.g.,
digital, videodisc, or, microfilm images) in lieu of original
images when such ready reference copies exist.
Catalogs and Electronic Access
- There is no comprehensive published catalog describing the
Prints & Photographs Division's holdings of more than 13 million
items. Many materials are cataloged in groups, with no itemized
listing, and others are not listed in a catalog, but rather are
made available through "browsing" files in the Reading
- A portion of the holdings is available
on the Internet. Of special interest
are the over one million items (as
of 2005) from several of the Division's
that are represented by
catalog records and accompanying digital
images in the Prints and Photographs
Online Catalog; new records and digital
are added continuously. Access to the
online catalog, as well as to illustrated
guides, reference aids, and other information
about the Division's collections and
services is available through
the Reading Room's Home Page on World
Wide Web. The address is: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/.
Limited service is available by
email, fax, mail and telephone
- Inquiries about collections
and services may be submitted
via the Ask
A Librarian service,
which provides an online form
for sending reference staff questions.
An initial response is sent within
five business days and inquiries
generally are answered fully within
seven business days after receipt.
Requests made by mail and FAX
are answered in order of receipt
within two weeks of receipt. The
reference staff working in the
Reading Room answer telephone
calls when they are not busy with
in-person researchers. Therefore,
telephone service is limited to
only those questions that can
be easily handled by phone. See
Information page for
Division's collections are archival
in nature and are
made available chiefly for
original research. The staff cannot
lengthy searches, make editorial
selection of images, produce
long lists of images, undertake
extensive research projects,
or conduct appraisals. Requests
for specific images credited
to the Library of Congress
can be handled when limited to
or fewer items in the calendar
year. Researchers requiring
additional services may wish
to hire a freelance
researcher in the Washington,
D.C., area to work on their behalf.
- Copies of images may be obtained
from the Library's
Photoduplication Service, which
is a separate part of the Library
(telephone 202-707-5640; email: email@example.com).
In general, orders must be accompanied
by reproduction numbers or call numbers
that are used to identify the material
being ordered. It takes from 3 to
6 weeks to get copies.
- Other vendors also sell quality
copies of selected images. [View list
- Xerox machines are available in the Division's Reading Room,
but many images are too old or fragile
to be xeroxed. The staff does not provide receipts for costs
incurred in making xerox copies.
- Basic hand-held camera copying that
does not require lights or other equipment or special handling
of the images is allowed as an alternative to xeroxing.
- Digitized images appearing in
the Prints and Photographs Online
Catalog and on the web site can
be downloaded at public reading
room workstations. Higher resolution
images may require use of a zip
disk (100 or 250 MB) formatted
for use in IBM compatible
machines or a USB flash drive
for IBM compatible
machines, as the size of many
images exceeds the space available
diskettes. It is not possible
to download to CDs at the public
- Scanning equipment is not allowed
because of handling concerns and
the light they emit. Digital cameras
are allowed (see "Simple
hand-held camera copying" above).
- When material photographed from the Library's collections is
reproduced in a publication, the Library requests that the negative
or transparency number be published with credit to the Library,
such as: "Library of Congress, LC-USZ62- 13459."
- The Library does not grant or deny permission concerning the
use of images. While many images are unrestricted, it is not
true that all images in the Prints & Photographs Division are
in the public domain. Patrons need to be aware of the several
kinds of rights which might apply:
copyright, donor restrictions, privacy rights, publicity rights,
licensing and trademarks.
See Reference Information for a list of documents relating to service and copying policies, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
Mailing address: Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540-4730
Location: James Madison Memorial Building, Room
337, First St. and Independence Ave., S.E.
Metro Station: Capitol South [blue/orange lines],
1st and C. Streets, S.E.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(Closed on federal holidays)
Note: No materials are pulled after 4:00.
Telephone: (202) 707-6394 Reference Staff; (202)
707-6647 FAX (Note: Letters and faxes answered in order of receipt.)
Last revised: March 2006.