Library of Congress Research Basics
by Diana DeLugan
In law school I was taught how to conduct meaningful legal research. But when I began researching my own family history, I suddenly realized that there is much more to research than the legal kind. Whether you are working on your family history or you are an author researching some historical nuance to bring your characters to life, you will want to obtain information from reliable sources. One of my favorite resources is our nation’s Library of Congress (LOC).
There are three ways to access the information at the LOC:
- Visit the library in person
- Obtain information online
- Request an inter-library loan
I conduct the majority of my writing and family history research online, but it is nice to know that I can work with my local library to borrow items from our nation’s library, if needed.
VISIT IN PERSON
The Library of Congress is located in Washington, D.C. Hours of operation vary for researchers and all other visitors. To locate hours of operation and event offerings, call (202) 707-8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The library is located at:
Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street SE
Washington, D.C. 20540
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ONLINE
The United States Library of Congress is located online at LOC.gov. Any serious researcher can find value or inspiration navigating the site. If, like me, you have an interest in genealogy, or you are looking to add an historical anecdote to your fiction or nonfiction book, here are a few excellent LOC resources:
Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers is a treasure trove for any serious researcher. Established through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the LOC, this National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) contains more than 8 million pages of historic newspapers dated from 1836 to 1922. Advance search features allow you to search by state, by newspaper, and even by word proximity. For proper citation of any record located, you can use the clip feature located on the top right of the news screen (identified by a pair of scissors). Proper citation will be identified on the clipped image.
Maps and Prints
For family history research, you can find photographs, diaries, stereograph cards, and other digital treasures of specific individuals, locations, and world events. The digital collection includes many records from the Revolutionary, Civil, and modern wars; Japanese-American internment photographs at Manzanar; The George Grantham Bain Collection, one of the earliest news picture agencies; Suffrage scrapbooks, slavery photos, and more.
Remember, just because an item is available online at the LOC does not necessarily mean that the material is in the public domain. To use certain material for commercial purposes, you may need to obtain permission or licensing. Conduct your due diligence to determine how or whether the document can be used for your intended purposes. For more information on copyright, visit http://copyright.gov/ or consult an attorney who has experience with copyright.
You can also search the LOC online catalog to locate items of interest. Books and microfilm collections from the LOC can be borrowed, but you have to use the items at the premises of the library that obtained the item for you. Most items can be borrowed for about two months. Unfortunately, no renewals are allowed. The best part: the loan is free to libraries in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. To learn more about the Interlibrary loan process visit http://www.loc.gov/rr/loan.
The LOC resources are immense. But this is just the start of our inquiry into the world of research. In my next post, we will look at my favorite online resource for genealogists.
NOTE: Diana typically blogs on the 20th of the month. We had an opening, so she graciously agreed to supply a filler post.
Diana DeLugan, J.D., is the author of two books, as well as an historian, researcher, speaker, and singer. Her book Haunted Otero: Ghost Tales from the American Southwest is available on Amazon.com in print and ebook formats. The Otero Arizona Land Grant Documentary, limited edition, is available at bookstores in Tubac, Arizona. The mass market edition of the book will be available in winter 2014. Diana blogs each Sunday at OurArizonaHistory.com and here on the 20th of every month. Her newest book is Guide to Free Arizona Family History Research. For more information visit her website, subscribe to her YouTube channel, friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or add her to your circles on Google+. Reach her directly at email@example.com.