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The Library of Congress Website: Go Exploring with Primary Sources – Bookmark-It

The United States Library of Congress started with Thomas Jefferson’s personal library – 6,487 books. Now it’s an enormous collection of information on almost any topic a person wants to study. The library’s history page notes that “… it has become the largest repository of recorded knowledge  in the world and a symbol of the vital connection between knowledge and democracy.”

The resourceful staff at the Library have a finger on the cultural pulse of the country, so not only do the collections include books, papers, music, film, historical documents, and images, but now the library is digitizing its collection. As of February 2009 there were 15.3 million digitized items and anyone can access and download this information to a computer. According to the Library of Congress blog (subscribers welcomed), if all of those digitized items could be saved to CD-ROM disks, the pile would be a mile high, and that was more than a year ago.

The Library of Congress website is just the right place to get started with research for a class project or homework assignment. Start by going the section for kids and families, with features that are mostly, but not exclusively, useful to elementary and middle school students. Some of the searchable features in this section include:

  • Today in History
  • Portals to the World – Links to just about anything international for those country and current events assignments
  • Wise Guides to LOC – Monthly guide to thousands of resources available from the Library’s website, archived monthly back to 2002. Subscribers automatically hear about new additions.
  • Places in the News – Facts and maps about important news stories.
  • Everyday Mysteries – Answers to science questions, searchable by question or by topic.
  • America’s Library – American history resources in the form of interactive  games, timelines, mysteries to solve, and more.

An important research area of the Library’s digitized collection is the American Memory Project — a link to American Memory is also in the Kids and Families section. The Memory site is a collection of digitized United States history documents. It includes pictures, prints, maps, speeches, music, and much more, all of which can be used, with proper credit, in a school assignment, report, or project. The best thing about using the American Memory Project to search for information? Your  child explores and uses primary sources.

A substantial section for educators explains how teachers can use the American Memory Project  and other primary sources in their classrooms. Share this with your child’s teachers.

Finally, don’t miss the Library of Congress fascinating facts page, in the library’s About section. A few facts are below, and more are at the website. Did you know that the Library:

  • receives about 22,000 new items each day but only adds about 10,000 of them to the collection?
  • has 745 miles of bookshelves?
  • includes 33 million books?
  • has 5.3 million maps?

As back-to-school season gets closer, take some time explore the Library of Congress site with your children. It will be a homework asset once the school year begins.

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