The Library Of Congress Is Born

Today, the Library of Congress celebrates its birthday.

On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved the appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of "such books as may be necessary for the use of congress."

The books, the first purchased for the Library of Congress, were ordered from London and arrived in 1801. The collection of 740 volumes and three maps was stored in the U.S. Capitol, the Library's first home. On January 26, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson approved the first legislation that defined the role and functions of the new institution on January 26, 1802.

The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress and is the oldest federal institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and holds the largest number of books. The head of the Library is the Librarian of Congress, currently James H. Billington.

The Library of Congress was established by Congress in 1800, and was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century. After much of the original collection had been destroyed during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold the library 6487 books, his entire personal library, in 1815. After a period of decline during the mid-19th century the Library of Congress began to grow rapidly in both size and importance after the American Civil War, culminating in the construction of a separate library building and the transference of all copyright deposit holdings to the Library. During the rapid expansion of the 20th century the Library of Congress assumed a preeminent public role, becoming a "library of last resort" and expanding its mission for the benefit of scholars and the American people.