The Library of Congress >> Global Gateway  
Centers for International Research

Access to the international collections varies by language and the type of material. The Library's reading rooms are the primary gateways to these resources. The Library's reading rooms offer in-depth reference assistance, provide substantive briefings on a wide range of subjects relating to the countries, languages and cultures represented within their collections, produce guides to specific Library's resources, and cooperate in developing and preserving the Library's unparalleled collections.

Area Studies Reading Rooms by Region of Specialization
[Image from the Sung Dynasty]
Image of a house on a
mountain top, Sung Dynasty, 11th - 14th Century.

Four of the reading rooms, comprising the Library's Area Studies Collection Directorate specialize in specific geographical regions:

Africa and the Middle East

The African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room (LJ-220) is the Library's gateway for materials in a wide variety of languages and scripts, such as Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, and Yiddish. The division's three sections--African, Hebraic, and Near East--cover more than 70 countries, from South Africa to Morocco to the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union.

Other Internet Resources for Africa and the Middle East:


The Asian Division Reading Room (LJ-150) serves as the gateway to material in all languages of Asia, about Asian American Studies, the Asian Diaspora, and the Pacific Islands. Reflecting the Asian Division itself, the reading room serves materials from China, Japan, Korea, Southern Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh), and Southeast Asia (Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines). The Reading Room also serves as a focal point to orient and assist researchers who seek to avail themselves of the opportunity to use Asian materials held throughout the Library of Congress.

Other Internet Resources for Asia:


[Image of a French political cartoon]
French political cartoon from "Fraternite de Soldats..."

The European Division Reading Room (LJ-250) is the primary gateway relating to European countries, from Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe, and from the Baltics to the Balkans. It also includes the Russian-speaking areas of Asia, but not Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The Reading Room has custody of current, unbound Slavic and Baltic periodicals, as well as collections of pamphlets and "gray literature."

Other Internet Resources for Europe:

Iberia, Latin America, and the Caribbean

The Hispanic Division Reading Room (LJ-240) serves as the gateway to those parts of the world historically influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage: Spain and Portugal, the indigenous cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the peoples of Portuguese or Spanish heritage in North America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The collections include archives of Hispanic culture and literature, manuscripts, documents, pamphlets, literary and dramatic works.

Other Internet Resources for Iberia, Latin America and the Caribbean:

English-speaking Nations

The historic Main Reading Room (LJ-100) is the Library's gateway to the English-speaking world. Reference librarians from the Humanities and Social Sciences Division provide specialized reference services and information on the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand (English-speaking nations of Africa and Asia are serviced by the African and Middle Eastern and the Asian Reading Rooms, respectively). Through its catalogs and databases, extensive reference collection, and Computer Catalog Center, the Main Reading Room is also the primary entry point for non-English language books and bound periodical materials integrated into the Library's general collections. These include materials in French, Spanish, German and other Western, Central, and Eastern European and Slavic languages.

Other Internet Resources for Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom:

Other Reading Rooms with Significant International Collections

The American Folklife Center Reading Room (LJ-G59) serves researchers interested in folklife. The Archive of Folk Culture, part of the American Folklife Center, includes multi-format, ethnographic collections that are diverse and international in scope, including over one million photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and moving images. It is America's first national archive of traditional life, and one of the oldest and largest of such repositories in the world.

The Children's Literature Center (LJ-100) assists users in gaining access to all children's materials dispersed throughout the Library. Children's books in English and some European languages are integrated into the Library's general collections, while non-English language children's books are housed in the respective language divisions.

In the Geography and Map Reading Room (LM-B02) researchers can access the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world. The collection includes materials in all languages and from all regions around the globe.

[Image of Russian administrative law books]
Russian administrative law books (the ornately decorated book belonged to Catherine the Great)

The Law Library Reading Room (LM-201) offers reference services to the world's largest collection of law books and other legal resources from all countries and provides digitized information with online databases and guides to legal information worldwide, including the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) which provides a database of laws, regulations, and other complementary legal sources.

The Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (LJ-G42) serves one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications.

The Manuscript Reading Room (LM-102) provides access to more than fifty million items in eleven thousand separate collections. While it includes some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture, its collections are also rich in materials that support scholarly research in many aspects of world political, cultural, and scientific history

The Microform Reading Room (LJ-139B) provides access to the general microform collections of the Library of Congress (other specialized reading rooms, such as Law and Manuscript or Area Studies reading rooms, also contain large microform collections). The materials in microform vary widely, not only in the nature of the original materials microfilmed--books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, dissertations, dramatic works, government documents, for example--but also in date, place of publication, language, and subject matter. While a number of these items duplicate items in the Library's print collections, most are available only in microform and they include an amazing variety of international materials as individual titles as well as distinct collections which may cover one or many subjects. Examples include: biblical and patristic manuscript books from Greek Orthodox monasteries at Mt. Sinai, Jerusalem, and Mt. Athos; diplomatic history; early printed books from Great Britain, Latin America, Russia, United States, and Western Europe, including periodicals, economic history, genealogy, government and international organizations documents and reports, especially United States, Great Britain, United Nations, Organization of American States, and League of Nations, inventories of French, German, Austrian and Italian archives and libraries, labor history, oral histories , photographic history, religious history, theater history and drama collections, press summaries and transcripts, social and economic development plans, women's history, and so on.

The Motion Picture and Television Reading Room (LM-338) provides access and information services for the motion picture and television collections, which include items from around the globe. An international community of film and television professionals, archivists, scholars, and researchers make frequent use these outstanding collections.

The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room (LM-133) provides public service to material in the Serial & Government Publications Division: current and retrospective newspapers, current periodicals, and government documents, including U.S. Federal Depository, United Nations, and European Union publications. Collections include material published in all Western European languages. The Library of Congress maintains one of the most extensive newspaper collections in the world, covering the past three centuries. With over 25,000 non-U.S. titles, it is the largest collection of overseas newspapers anywhere.

[Image of the courtyard of The Alcazar of Seville, Spain]
Courtyard of The Alcazar of Seville, Spain from Excursions Daguerriennes: Ules et Monuments les plus Remarkable de Globe, 1842

The collections available in the Performing Arts Reading Room (LM-113) of the Music Division include classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, microforms, and copyright deposits. The holdings span more than eight hundred years of Western music history and practice. The vast majority of items in the Special Collections date, however, from the past two and one-half centuries and include theater and dance materials as well. The Library of Congress is unique among national libraries because it embraces the complete range of music--newly commissioned and created works are performed and the original manuscripts are placed in the collections for the use of succeeding generations.

The Prints and Photographs Reading Room (LM-337) provides access to more than 13.6 million images, including photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. Unique in their richness and international in scope, the collections include many materials of interest to the global community.

The unique materials in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room (LJ-239) include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, title pages, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The collections include a very large number of distinctive foreign language materials, such as books from the libraries of the Russian imperial family and items confiscated from the Third Reich.

[Image of the Science Reading Room]
The Science and Business Reading Room in the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress.

The Recorded Sound Reference Center (LM-113) is the public access locale for the Library's audio collections, which are now the largest in the United States and among the most comprehensive in the world. These collections reflect the entire history of sound technology, from the first wax cylinders, through LPs and tape, to the latest compact audio discs.

The Science Reading Room (LA-508) and Business Reference Services provides reference and bibliographic services in all areas of business, economics, science, and technology (with the exception of clinical medicine and technical agriculture). The Reading Room is the starting point for research and international information in all major scientific, technological, and business fields including engineering, communications, ecology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, medicine, earth sciences, agriculture, military and naval science, industry, commerce, statistics, banking, insurance, economics, finance, and marketing. In addition, it maintains, services, and develops its own specialized collections of technical reports, military and worldwide industrial standards and international gray literature in the same subject areas mentioned above.

Library of Congress >> Global Gateway
August 22, 2007
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