Press contact: Bibi Martí (202) 707-1639
Public contact: Center for the Book, (202) 707-5221

August 13, 2004

New Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress to Be Published in November

An Authoritative, One-Volume Reference Work Nine Years in the Making

The Library of Congress, together with Bernan Press, will publish this November "The Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress: For Congress, the Nation & the World," an authoritative one-volume reference work of newly written and researched essays, articles and statistical appendices. Edited by John Y. Cole and Jane Aikin, the encyclopedia describes the historical development of the collections, functions and services of the world's largest research institution from its origin in 1800 to 2004.

Approximately 450 pages in length, the encyclopedia contains more than 200 black-and-white photographs plus a 10-page color portfolio depicting the Library's spectacular Thomas Jefferson Building, itself a significant aspect of the institution's history. Many of the volume's essays, articles and photographs document not only the growth of the Library of Congress, but also of American librarianship in general.

Initiated in 1995 by senior editor John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and an authority on the Library's history, the encyclopedia is co-edited by library historian Jane Aikin. More than 40 Library subject specialists contributed to the volume, which includes an extensive section devoted to resources for further research and reading.

The "Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress" presents a comprehensive overview of the Library, particularly how cultural circumstances, politics and strong personalities shaped its early development and expansion into what eventually became "America's Library," a national and international institution of great significance and influence. In addition, the encyclopedia provides answers to questions such as:

  • How and why did Thomas Jefferson's personal library become the core of the Library's collections?
  • Which Librarian of Congress served simultaneously as a battlefield surgeon?
  • Why was the appointment of poet and writer Archibald MacLeish as Librarian of Congress in 1939 controversial?
  • Where, outside of Washington, D.C., were the Library's "top treasures" stored during World War II?
  • Why were the contents of President Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night he was assassinated in the safe in the office of the Librarian of Congress and not discovered until 1986?

Following the lead essay, "America's Library: A Brief History of the Library of Congress," individual essays describe the Library's electronic resources and its digital future; its relationship with librarianship and the American library community; the development of the institution's international and scholarly roles; unique Library of Congress functions such as the Congressional Research Service, the Law Library, the Copyright Office and the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; the Library's relationships with both the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives and Records Administration; and essays on the development of the Library's American literature and film collections.

"The 13 overview essays summarize themes in the Library's evolution for readers who might not be using the book primarily for reference purposes," said Cole.

Most of the 78 shorter articles, alphabetically arranged, describe the Library's collections and principal administrative units. They also include biographies of the 13 Librarians of Congress and descriptions of the Library's principal buildings. The article topics include a range of subjects from acquisitions to cataloging, local history and genealogy to the National Book Festival, publishing and publications to reference and research services, and reading rooms to special collections.

"The appendices are especially valuable," Cole said, "since they bring together information about the Library of Congress never before compiled." The five appendices are: Senior Library Officials: A Selective List; Library of Congress Legislative Appropriations, 1800-2004; Growth of the Library's Collections, 1801-2003; Major Gifts and Endowments for the Library Collections, 1869-2004; and Chairmen of the Congressional Committees on the Library, 1805-2004.

Librarian and historian John Y. Cole has headed the Library's Center for the Book since it was established in 1977. In 2000 the American Library Association awarded him its Joseph W. Lippincott Award for distinguished service to the profession of librarianship. He has published four books and more than 100 articles about the Library of Congress, including "Of Copyright, Men & A National Library" in The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (April, 1971); "For Congress and the Nation: A Chronological History of the Library of Congress" (Library of Congress, 1979); "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress" (Library of Congress, 1993); and, co-edited with Henry Hope Reed, "The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building" (W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).

Historian Jane Aikin, co-editor of the encyclopedia, has written widely about the Library of Congress and research libraries in general. Her publications include "Foundation for Service: The 1896 Hearings on the Library of Congress" in Libraries & Culture (Winter, 1986); "Patronage and Professionals: The Transformation of the Library of Congress Staff, 1890-1907" in Libraries & Culture (Spring, 1991); "The Nation's Great Library: Herbert Putnam and the Library of Congress, 1899-1939" (University of Illinois Press, 1993); and "High Culture, Low Culture: The Singular Duality of the Library of Congress" in American Studies (Fall, 2001).

"The Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress: For Congress, the Nation & the World" sells for $95 in a hardcover edition. It can be ordered from Bernan Press (order no. BP9718) by telephone (800) 865-3457, fax (800) 865-3450 or online at, where a pre-publication table of contents may be viewed in PDF format at The encyclopedia will be available in the Sales Shop in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building following its November publication.

# # #

PR 04-147
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top