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Frequently Asked Questions About the Library's International Collections

1. Does the Library of Congress collect materials only from the United States or from around the world?

The Library of Congress collects materials from all over the globe. Its 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 world, where preserving materials takes a back seat to more immediate human needs, the collections are superior to what is available locally.

2. How many languages are represented in the Library's collections?

Over half of the book and serial collections are in languages other than English. More than 460 languages and several scripts are represented.

3. How many countries are represented in the Library's collections?

The Library's goal is to collect materials from every country.

4. Why should I use the collections of the Library of Congress when I can go directly to the country of my interest and use materials there?

Prior to travel, researchers planning international field study can use the resources of the Library to obtain current information about their destination that will help to establish a more focused plan of action so that they get the most value from the time spent abroad In addition, for many areas of the world, the Library's collections are more accessible or better preserved than they are in the country of origin.

5. How may the Library of Congress help me to prepare to use international research institutions?

The Library of Congress has inventories and catalogs of foreign archives and libraries to help you identify resources and their locations. You may consult user guides written by these institutions at the Library. Based on first hand knowledge, the reference specialist may also advise you on foreign research such as research services and facilities, requirements for use and professional colleagues to contact.

6. Where may I find information about other countries?

The Area Studies divisions are the primary gateways to begin your research on other countries using the international collections. Visiting the reference staff in these divisions is the logical first step for researchers. When possible, users of area studies materials are urged to contact the appropriate staff prior to their arrival.

The Portals to the World page is the place to begin your search for information about other countries from electronic links. These aggregations of links are arranged by country and selected by Library of Congress specialists. They provide authoritative and in-depth information.

7. What are the entrance requirements for the Area Studies reading rooms?

The entrance requirement for each Area Studies reading room is a valid reader registration card.

8. What are the hours of the Area Studies reading rooms?

The reading rooms are available Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-5:00 p.m. The Library of Congress is closed on all Federal Holidays. For more information--or to inquire about special arrangements--contact each reading room directly.

9. Does the Library offer research grants or fellowships to encourage the use of its international material?

At the present time the Library offers a variety of research opportunities administered by the Kluge Center.

10. Does the Library offer internships and volunteer opportunities to work with its international collections?

Occasionally. Interested persons may contact the specific Area Studies division.

11. May I search the Library's catalog for international material from home?

Yes. Several options are provided on the online catalog search page including searching by language of publication. However, not all Library of Congress international materials currently appear in the online catalog. Check with the Area Studies reading rooms for additional holdings.

12. May I borrow material from an international collection?

The Library lends material via its inter-library loan service to libraries not to individuals. Check with your local library for specifics.

13. How does the Library acquire foreign language materials and material from foreign countries?

The Library acquires material primarily by purchase, gift and exchange. For more details contact the Acquisition Directorate.

14. Are international electronic resources available?

Check with each reading room for access to significant electronic resources.

15. Is fee-for-service research on foreign and domestic topics from the Library of Congress available?

Yes, but such service is limited to agencies of the United States Government and the District of Columbia. Federal contractors, with proper authorization, also can use this service under Federal Acquisition Regulation 51.1. Others can obtain fee-based research and analysis from the Library of Congress via the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Contact the Federal Research Division for details.

16. What is the Area Handbooks/Country Studies series?

Books within this series provide basic background information on each country's history, culture, economics, government and politics, and national security. The Department of the Army, which had been the sponsor since the 1950s, terminated funding for the project in 1998. These publications may be out of date as to current data but continue to provide valuable, in-depth background on a country's history, culture, geography, and society. The Library of Congress is working through a variety of channels to revive the program and thus continue to expand and update both the print versions and Country studies online versions.

17. May I arrange to have a tailored international collection briefing for my special group, or graduate class?

Yes. Contact each division directly to be connected to the unit or specialist you need to make arrangements for this service.

African and Middle Eastern Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4820
Phone: 202 707-7937
FAX: 202 252-3180
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Asian Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4810
Phone: 202 707-5420
FAX: 202 707-1724
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European Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4830
Phone: 202 707-5414
FAX: 202 707-8482
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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
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Office of Scholarly Programs
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4860
Phone: 202 707-3302
FAX: 202 707-3595

Library of Congress >> Global Gateway
October 9, 2008
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