Are you a library lover? Are there tomes you’d like to read but can’t access? Or are you planning to visit Washington D.C. and want to peruse some historical documents? Good news, here are the four steps to get a library card from the Library of Congress!

Step one is to  pre-register for a card.

First Of Four Steps To Get A Library Card From The Library Of Congress

Read the legal statement and click the link at the bottom of the page to move forward. The next page is where you’ll begin completing the form.

Second Of Four Steps To Get A Library Card From The Library Of Congress

Step two is to provide your name, address, phone number and email address on the pre-registration page. Fill in the grey box if your physical address is different from your mailing. Choose your opt-in options and chose your user type. Tell your age (no worries, the choice is over 18 or not), your academic status, usage (personal/job or academic) and your academic status if necessary. Then press “Next>>”

Here’s an example of a completed application:

Completed pre-registration form
Sample Pre-Registration Form To Get A Library Card From The Library Of Congress

Double-check your information and verify that everything is correct before you press the “Submit>>” button. Then you’ll get to the “Finish” page! 

Verification Library of Congress page
Verify your Library of Congress information

Step three is to either print this page or screenshot it because you’ll need to bring this information and a legal form of identification to your in-person visit.  That visit will actually happen in the Madison building and not the Jefferson building. I accidentally entered the Jefferson building and pleaded not be sent outside in the heat to get to the Madison building. I just couldn’t do it. Luckily for me there are air-conditioned underground tunnels that connect all of the buildings. 

Verification Page
Print or screenshot this Library of Congress verification page

Tunnel to the Madison Building at the Library of Congress

Step four is to arrive at room LM 133, the Reader Registration Station, with your completed registration. I signed in, waited my turn, had a terrible picture made, and listened for my card to print. Then I had my card in my (still hot) hands!! WHOO HOO!!! I am sure your picture will be much better and not look like you are a yellow mushroom cloud!

Your Reader Identification Card/Library of Congress Card can be used online to access documents, images, and recordings. 

Here are some things to know:

  • Currently the research rooms require patrons to wear masks.
  • The Library of Congress is composed of three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson, the John Adams, and James Madison Memorial building. Each building houses specific collections and the librarians are delighted to steer you to the correct building depending on your research needs. 
  • Each reading room allows you to bring different items but none allow drinks, large bags, food, luggage or musical instruments.
  • The libraries are free of charge but the Thomas Jefferson building requires a timed-entry ticket.
  • Appointments to access reading rooms or to complete your registration are not required but are preferred. 
  • Right now the research rooms require patrons to wear masks

My search for an image of Sally Hemings, after visiting the Monticello plantation, led me to the Library of Congress’s  Madison building. The librarians were quick to tell me there probably weren’t any images of her but we would research and verify that. They showed me the best-search practices on the library desktops and went to search for additional information. We didn’t find any imagery of Ms Hemings and I don’t think any exists. But I am grateful for the assistance provided to me by the staff. I will return in-person to the library and probably continue my family’s genealogical research. But I can also do research online.

Library of Congress Reading Room
Jefferson Reading Room

Now that you know there are only four steps to get a library card from the Library of Congress, what’s stopping you? Add it to your next visit to Washington D.C. and take some time to do a bit of research on your favorite abolitionist or feminist. Let me know what you discover!