Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Online Treasures of the Library of Congress

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Online Treasures of the Library of Congress

Article excerpt

When I select the "online treasures" for this column, I focus on resources that make a unique contribution. They are not necessarily the most comprehensive resources or the most well-known, but they are treasures because they provide needed information in a useful and usable format. This month's online treasure, however, is both comprehensive and well-known--it's the Library of Congress (LC). The electronic LC is an online treasure because it strives to preserve the treasures of American history and culture and to extend their availability to users outside the walls of the LC.

About the Library of Congress

The home page of the LC provides a good starting point to the information available through this site by organizing it into general categories. Resisting the temptation to start with the electronic exhibits, I began with the first heading--General Information and Publications. This section had information about the LC and its electronic resources. The LC's mission statement and strategic priorities were available, as was Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library Congress, by John Y. Cole, complete with illustrations.

For those planning a trip to the LC, there was transportation information and visitor information, including maps, while for those seeking employment there was employment information, including summer fellowships available through the LC Junior Fellows Program. Electronic versions of selected LC publications were available along with conference seminar proceedings and papers.

Locating Official Government Information

The second major category on the home page was Government, Congress, and Law. Following this link led to an organized list of links to government information. The first set of links on this page can be used to search federal legislation. The THOMAS database, which provides full-text legislative information on the Internet, was the first link. LOCIS, the Library of Congress Information System, was also available through another link.

The second set of links on this page were links to government resources organized by LC subject specialists. They were grouped into federal government resources, state and local government resources, and foreign and international resources. These links led to other links which led to other links, so I cannot begin to detail all the resources that can be found using this page as a starting point. I would recommend that you spend time following these links to familiarize yourself with the breadth of information that is available. I browsed census information, viewed relief maps, and read numerous text files.

The Special Collections

The next category on the home page, Research and Collections Services, was one I was quite excited to follow because it led to the historical collections for the National Digital Library, the American Memory Project. These special collections consist of primary source and archival material that represent American culture and history. At the time I accessed these materials, there were six photographic collections, one recorded sound collection, five textual collections and three motion picture collections available through Internet access. Other collections are in development and will appear on the Internet as they are completed.

Collections include the digital reproductions of the items, a search aid to help in locating specific items, and various accompanying materials such as background materials and bibliographies. Collections can be searched individually, through a cross-collection search utility, or through Pathfinder Pages that provide guides to the collections by category.

First-time visitors to the American Memory pages might want to start with the Learning Page for the National Digital Library Program. This page contained links to an educator's page with information on primary sources, lessons plans, and an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). There was also a tutorial and links to related Web sites of other exhibits and primary sources. …

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