Washington, DC, America’s most literate city according to many surveys, unsurprisingly boasts the best and most stunning libraries around the nation. Students, teachers, scholars, and the general public frequently visit these libraries for their research, studies or for simply broadening their horizons. Read our guide to find out about some of the best libraries in Washington, DC.
Library of Congress:
The Library of Congress is known as one of the largest libraries in the world. Its universal collections, spanning three buildings on Capitol Hill, feature more than 170 million items written in 470 different languages from all around the globe, including millions of books, photographs, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, films, sheet music and sound recordings.
It has a world-class team to help you find what you are looking for. They offer assistance to online visitors of the Library’s website, as well.
In addition, it houses the Law Library of Congress, which is the world’s largest law library that contains almost three million law books and other legal resources from every country in the world, along with the US.
From October 2019 to September 2020, the Library of Congress welcomed over 565,000 in-person visitors, and circulated 20.3 million copies of braille, audio and large-print items to blind and print disabled individuals, and more than 359,700 physical items for use inside and outside its campus.
Address: 101 Independence Avenue, Southeast Washington, DC 20540
Phone: (202) 707-5000
Georgetown Public Library:
Located in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, this popular neighborhood library is part of the District of Columbia Public Library. With its magnificent historic building designed in the Colonial Revival style, its extensive book and magazine collection, as well as its friendly staff, it is known as one of the best libraries in the nation’s capital.
Its reading rooms are perfect for studying or reading peacefully. Since its opening in 1935, it has been home to the collection of Peabody Library, which was established through a donation of George Peabody in 1872. It also hosts outdoor storytime for babies and toddlers on its side lawn on certain days of the week, which also includes singing songs and fingerplays.
Georgetown Public Library requires visitors — ages two and up — to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Address: 3260 R Street Northwest Washington, DC 20007
Phone: (202) 727-0232
Folger Shakespeare Library:
Taking pride in housing the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger Library offers the ultimate resource for those interested in the works and the life of the great writer. It also features a significant collection of Renaissance books, manuscripts, and other items. It was opened in 1932 by founders Henry and Emily Folger, and is still actively working to enhance its collection with new materials.
The library currently has approximately 260,000 printed books, 60,000 manuscripts, 90,000 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and other works of art, as well as films, recordings, playbills, and stage costumes.
In fact, the Folger is more than just a library; it also offers its audience a wide range of cultural and art events, including theater, music performances, literary readings, exhibitions, lectures, podcasts, and programs for families.
Address: 201 East Capitol Street, Southeast Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 544-4600
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library:
First opened in 1972, the 37,000m2 building recently went through a major renovation that cost the District of Columbia around $211 million.
As a result of the three-year project, the library had been transformed into a fantastic combination of historical and modern elements, when it reopened its doors to the public in September 2020 — thanks to the Netherlands-based architecture firm Mecanoo and the local OTJ Architects.
The library now has a transparent main entrance that allows more natural light into the building; a large auditorium and conference center; creative spaces for fabrication, music production and art creation; ground level café with patio; double-height reading room; and a rooftop terrace.
It is home to part of the special collections kept at the District’s library system, including books, maps, census records, newspaper archives. You can find more than a million photographs from the Washington Star newspaper, as well as theatrical video collections from the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive.
It also features a Black Studies Center and a 11,000-square-foot Digital Commons, which has computers, wireless Internet, a 3-D printer, study cubicles equipped with devices for group work, projectors and more.