By Michele Malloy

Michele is a Research Librarian at the Congressional Research Service, with a specialty in health policy. This will be her first IFLA pre-conference.

Visiting Local Libraries

“Philadelphia bookseller George J.C. Grasberger, full-length portrait, facing right, pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with books,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2015650301/.

When I travel, I love to stop in and visit local libraries. Not only do they showcase important national treasures, but they host events and reflect the activities of residents. Beyond the Library of Congress (see our blog post “Setting up Tours Around Capitol Hill” to learn more about Library of Congress tours), DC is home to a number of beautiful and influential libraries!

Public Libraries
“Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St., NW, Washington, D.C,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010641350/.

The DC Public Library has 26 branches around the city , with Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as the central location. Visitors need a library card to check out books or use the public computers, but even visitors can come in, browse the library, and participate in events such as childrens’ story time. Public Libraries in adjacent Maryland and Virginia also offer wonderful community spaces if you are staying outside DC.

Academic Libraries
“23. November 1969 RIGGS LIBRARY STACKS, THIRD FLOOR, SOUTH WING – Georgetown University, Healy Building, Thirty-seventh & O Streets, Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at http://goo.gl/RTD2XL.

Universities abound in DC, with specialized collection locations focusing on various topics. A few interesting examples include: George Washington University’s Textile Library , Georgetown University’s Bioethics Research Library , and the African Heritage Collection in Howard University’s School of Divinity Library . Most of these university libraries have different visitor policies and hours, so please research or contact them before you visit. Also keep in mind that different individual libraries within the same university system have specific visitor policies and hours. Many require government ID and a sign-in procedure during visitor hours. Many also provide visitor access to wifi! Below, we list the major academic library groups in the vicinity:

Government Libraries & Other Special Libraries
“View of the north tower porte cochere and flag tower, looking southwest (duplicate of HABS No. DC-141-19) – Smithsonian Institution Building, 1000 Jefferson Drive, between Ninth & Twelfth Streets, Southwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at http://goo.gl/YZ5YYx.

Other special libraries in the DC area can be worth a visit if they correspond with your personal (or professional) interests. As a medical librarian, stopping by the National Library of Medicine seems perfect for me, but you may be interested in any of the special collections listed below or searching for others!

Are there other DC libraries you’ve visited or want to see?

If so, please let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at #IFLAPREatLOC.

Setting up Tours Around Capitol Hill


While visiting us in DC, you or anyone traveling with you will probably want to explore some of our notable landmarks. Some, like the monuments and can be memorable even without a guide. However, other sites either require setting up a tour or may be even more enjoyable with someone to provide background information and point out sites or stories you might not notice on your own.

U.S. Capitol
“View of the Capitol’s East Front Plaza,” U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center Photograph Downloads, at https://goo.gl/vto4gl.

If you want to tour the historical indoor areas of the Capitol beyond the Capitol Visitor Center , you’re required to reserve a guided tour . Since these tours can be in high demand, it’s a good idea to book in advance!

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, you can request a tour through the offices of your Representative or Senators . Offices sometimes offer staff-led tours, and work directly with local constituents to provide a tailored experience.

Anyone, including non-citizens, can reserve a tour through this online system , and if you’d like to reserve space for a group larger than 15, please use the group reservation system .

Even if you don’t pre-book, same-day tours are sometimes available, so stop by the Information Desk at the Visitor Center.

Be sure to check out the Capitol Visitor Center’s Plan a Visit site, which offers all the basic information – from visitor hours (Monday – Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm) to frequently asked questions (Tours are only offered in English, but visitors can request listening devices for some foreign-language versions . There are also brochures in a number of languages ).

Library of Congress
Picture taken by Anna Groves.

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the Library buildings throughout the pre-conference, but we hope you’ll also experience some of our history and collections through our tours!

For those who want to investigate on their own, we have brochures for self-guided visits in a number of languages . You also may enjoy our online tours before you arrive – then you’ll feel at home when you get here!

The Library offers daily tours without reservations at set times, so if you have a packed schedule feel free to drop in for a one hour tour. Other guided tours require reservations and are available as group tours by request. Be sure to check out the guidelines & tips before you tour the library.

Picture taken by Anna Groves.

We also have a number of reading rooms and exhibits you may want to visit. From the African & Middle Eastern Reading Room to the American Folklife Center , there are amazingly diverse collections to explore. Prior to visiting these specialized areas, please obtain a Library of Congress Registration Card . (You will need a government ID — either a driver’s license or a passport — to obtain the Registration Card.) It makes a fun souvenir! Family activities are also available, and you can check out our public events listing to learn about lectures, exhibits, concerts, and more!

Other D.C. Tours and Landmarks

When you have free time from our packed conferences, or while your accompanying person explores the city, we hope you will be able to experience some of the wonderful things our city has to offer! Below, we talk about a few sites that may be on your mind.

“Inside the White House,” the White House, at https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house.

Setting up a tour of the White House requires advance notice (no less than 21 days), so it may not be an option on this trip. U.S. citizens request White House tours through their individual Members of Congress, while citizens of foreign countries work with their embassies to submit a tour request. However, it can still be enjoyable to take a virtual tour or just walk by the exterior of the White House .

The Library’s next door neighbor is the Supreme Court , and you can stop by for a or also participate in docent-led “Courtroom Lectures,” 30 minute programs available Monday-Friday every half hour from 9:30am-3:30am. Before your trip, check out their helpful information on planning your visit . Translations of the visitor’s guides are available online .

Many museums and landmarks across the city offer free tours led by helpful docents, so check out the visitor’s information before you go. Also, many visitor and travel sites offer advice on free and paid tour options across the city.

Are there other DC spots you’re thinking of touring? Would you like to share advice with other attendees?

If so, please let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at #IFLAPREatLOC.