We all know about the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, a towering structure that overlooks Capitol Hill, containing a gilded Reading Room and a massive archive that holds some of the world’s most precious books and media. But most people aren’t aware that the Library of Congress also contains a lawyer’s secret hidden ally: the Law Library of Congress, located in the Madison Building directly across the street from the Jefferson Building.
The Law Library of Congress (or the LLC) is the largest law library in the world, containing a collection of approximately 5 million items and spanning nearly all areas of law. You do not have to be in D.C. to fully utilize the LLC’s services; research can be done online, and there is even a phone number you can call for research assistance if you find yourself in a bind. A breakdown of everything offered by the LLC can be found in this pamphlet.
The ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress connects the ABA to the LLC and further provides a plethora of useful information on helping lawyers fully utilize the library. For instance, you can head over to the “Resources” tab in the Standing Committee’s page and find helpful links and videos related to legal research and the LLC.
The Law Library of Congress runs another website that is useful to lawyers and legal professionals. This new website, located at Congress.gov, replaces an old legislative information service called THOMAS, and provides a wealth of information regarding legislative information and activities. Information on everything offered through Congress.gov can be found in this pamphlet.
Beyond the LLC and Congress.gov, the Library of Congress offers a range of digitally archived materials available for your use. For instance, are you in need of music to help you study or work? The Library of Congress runs a program called the National Jukebox, which contains a collection of over 10,000 historical recordings available to you. Are you in need of a great poster or photograph with historical value? The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog contains over 1 million digital images, ranging from Work Projects Administration posters to historic photographs.
Personally, I’ve found these resources to be extremely useful when conducting legal research as a law student. The LLC’s website can help with your research, guide you through its various database websites (many of which are available for free from any location), and point you towards related law review article, periodicals, and records from both the U.S. Federal Courts and the Supreme Court. Specifically, I believe the most useful feature of the LLC’s website is the Legal Research Guides. There are several guides ranging in topic from administrative law to international law, and they help fill in the gaps that a law school’s first-year Legal Research course may not have time to fully teach. Or, if you’re practicing in a new area of law and are seeking basic legal research guidance, the LLC’s guides break down the research process so that you may fully understand these new research skills and techniques.
I hope you find these resources useful throughout your future researching endeavors. If you have any questions regarding Library of Congress materials, don’t forget that you can always call the hotline at (202) 707-5080 or use the Ask a Librarian web form.