The largest library in the world is the Library of Congress. It has more than 32 million catalogued books. In terms of number of books and shelf space, it has no equal.
The Library of Congress was created in 1800. It is the oldest cultural federal institution in the US. For the majority of the 19th century it was at the US capitol.
The War of 1812 destroyed a lot of the books. In 1815, Thomas Jefferson 6,487 books to the library. These books were his own personal collection. The end of the Civil War and the early 20th century saw even greater expansion.
The Library of Congress is contained in three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson Building, John Adams Building and the James Madison Memorial Building. They are linked by underground passageways.
Collections and Holdings
Aside from the 32 million books, the largest library in the world also has printed materials in over 400 languages. The library contains 61 million manuscripts.
Its collection of books is the biggest in the United States. The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence is housed in the Library. One of the four Gutenberg Bibles is also kept there.
Other holdings include one million US publications. There are also a million issues of newspapers from all over the world. This collection spans three centuries.
The library has over 14.7 million photos and prints. These include architectural drawings, art pieces, fine arts and pictures. The buildings have 3 million sounds recordings, 6 million works of sheet music, 5.3 million maps and 6,000 comic books.
There are also thousands of films. Nearly half a million microfilm eels and 33,000 bound newspaper volumes are also in the library.
Apart from research, the institution functions as a repository for copyright registration and protection. The US Copyright Office is located there. Every publisher is required to place a couple of copies at the library.
Every business day, an estimated 22,000 new copies are published at the Library of Congress. An average of 10,000 items is added to the institution daily. All significant published works in English have a copy available at the institution. So the collection continues to increase.
The collection at the largest library in the world can fill a shelf 745 miles (1,199 km) long. By comparison, the collection at the British Library collection fills up only 388 miles (625 km) of shelves.