- Does the Library make the full text of books available on its website?
- Where can I find full-text books online?
- Can the Library tell me how much my book, artwork, or other item is worth?
- What do the different Library of Congress numbers mean?
- How do I read a Library of Congress call number?
- How do I find a book's Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number?
- How can I obtain copies of books and other materials from the Library? Does the Library allow users to borrow books?
- Why isn't my book held by the Library of Congress?
- How do I cite materials on the Library of Congress website? What resources are available for learning how to cite other electronic and print materials?
- Where can I find other lists of frequently asked questions on the Library's website?
1. Does the Library make the full text of books available on its Website?
Only a small percentage of the total number of books in the Library's physical collections have been digitized or are available electronically through its website. The bulk of digitized books available through the Library consist of (as of February 2016) approximately 136,000 books from the Library's General Collections scanned by the Internet Archive, though several thousand additional titles have been scanned as a part of other projects and services.
The easiest way to search for electronic or digital books (e-books) on the Library's website is to go to its main Search Books page and conduct a keyword search. A list of digitized texts available through the Library will be returned. Options for refining the list of results will appear in the menu at the left of the results page. Please note that some of the results will not be for full-text books, but instead for other materials, such as a book's table of contents.
You can also browse and search across or within specific digitized Library collections that include full-text books, though you can also locate these titles through the Search Books page as well.
Please note that full-text books available through the Library tend to be older publications published prior to 1923 that are no longer under U.S. copyright protection. Academic textbooks and recent works of fiction cannot be found on the Library's website, and recent nonfiction on the site is limited to Library of Congress publications such as annual reports, illustrated collection guides, Federal Research Division country studies, and a history of the Library of Congress. Your best option for locating contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction is to contact your local public library, which may provide access to an ebook service through which you can download books to your computer, Mac, or portable device. If a book is not available electronically or in print through your local library, you can often place an interlibrary loan request with your local library to access a print edition of a book from another library.
Dowloading Books to the Kindle, Nook, and Other E-book readers
Library of Congress e-books suitable for dowloading to the Kindle, Nook, and other E-book readers can be found through the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive includes the full text of more than 10 million online books and texts, including works of fiction, popular books, children's books, historical texts, and academic books. Books can be dowloaded and read in a variety of formats, including text (.txt), PDF, ePub, Mobi (for Amazon.com's Kindle), DAISY, and DJVU. Many Internet Archive e-books compatible with e-book readers can also be found through the Open Library, an Internet Archive initiative.
The Library has contributed approximately 136,000 full-text books, and 147,000 total items, to the Internet Archive, and plans to contribute additional books soon. While it is possible to limit a search of the Internet Archive to books digitized by the Library of Congress, readers interested in searching across the largest possible number of free e-books for their e-readers–not merely those digitized from the Library's collections–will find it preferable to use the Internet Archive's Ebook and Texts Archive to search for all e-books available through it. Readers who would like to limit their search to Library of Congress e-books available thorugh the Internet Archive can do so by entering search terms into the Search this Collection box on the Internet Archive's Library of Congress home page.
Users of specific e-readers will want to check online FAQs and help pages associated with their e-readers for more information about locating e-books they can download. See, for instance, Amazon.com's page on locating free e-books for the Kindle, and Barnes & Noble.com's listing of free Nook books.
Further details on how to access e-books through the Library of Congress and other sources can be found in Finding E-books: A Guide.
2. Where can I find full-text books online?
There are numerous organizations that provide access to full-text books online, though at present most free online books tend to be older materials no longer covered by copyright. Some publishers provide electronic versions of contemporary books, but unless you are able to access them through a public or university library subscription, there is usually a fee involved.
Several websites through which full-text books or listings of full-text book resources can be found follow:
- Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP)
More than 25,000 transcriptions of books published between 1473 to 1700, previously available only to academic institutions which subscribe to ProQuest’s Early English Books Online database, are freely available as open data in the public domain as part of the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP) at the Bodleian Libraries.
- Google Books
Google has partnered with over 20,000 publishers and authors, and several major research libraries, to makes their books discoverable through Google Books. While only limited text can be viewed from books still under copyright, the full text of many public domain books, especially those published before 1923, is available. Use the Advanced Search page to limit your search to full-text or public domain books.
- HathiTrust Digital Library
Through a partnership with more than two dozen research libraries, HathiTrust currently makes available more than 5 million digitized volumes, approximately 15 percent of which are in the public domain. The HathiTrust Digital Library complements content available through Google Books: while some content between the two services overlaps, HathiTrust provides some content Google does not, including digital collections unique to participating institutions, works from institutional repositories, and native born-digital materials. In addition to the standard HathiTrust search interface, a prototype search interface available through WorldCat Local is also available.
- Internet Archive: Ebook and Texts Archive
The Internet Archive includes the full text of more than 10 million online books and texts, including works of fiction, popular books, children's books, historical texts, and academic books. Books can be dowloaded and read in a variety of formats, including text (.txt), PDF, ePub, Mobi (for Amazon.com's Kindle), DAISY, and DJVU. Internet Archive online books can also be found through Open Library, an IA initiative.
- National Academies Press Books
The National Academies Press (NAP) now makes all PDF versions of its books, currently totaling more than 7,300 titles, available for free download by users. NAP is the publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council.
- The Online Books Page: Archives and Indexes
A large compilation of full-text literature resources on the Web. Includes sections on general-purpose collections with substantial English-language listings (large-scale repositories; significant indexes and search aids; and significant smaller-scale archives), foreign language and literature resources, and specialty archives.
The Library of Congress neither authenticates nor appraises books, manuscripts, works of art, or individual objects. Such services are provided by specialized businesses such as auction houses, professional appraisers, and antiquarian booksellers. Many of these businesses are listed in the yellow pages of metropolitan area telephone directories. In addition, many professional associations of booksellers and appraisers maintain online membership directories through which you can find a specialist to authenticate or appraise your item.
See, for example:
- American Society of Appraisers
- Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
- Appraisers Association of America
- International Society of Appraisers
- The Professional Autograph Dealers Association
Your local library is likely to hold general guides to collecting books and other items, as well as specialized price guides and compilations of auction records that will help you determine the range of prices at which specific items have recently sold. Standard price guides for books include American Book Prices Current (about) and Bookman's Price Index. A general idea of a book's current market price can also be found by checking listings of used and rare book sellers. Sites such as BookFinder and AddALL Used and Out of Print Search allow users to search across the combined listings of many online booksellers and to review asking prices for books.
A good starting point for learning more about the history and value of your book is Your Old Books. Authored by Peter Van Wingen and revised by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Publications Committee of the Association of College and Research Libraries, Your Old Books answers frequently asked questions about book collecting.
Suggested resources and organizations for locating appraisers of prints and photographs, newspapers and periodicals, and artwork are also available online through several Library divisions. In addition, the Smithsonian Institution maintains a more extensive online guide (also, Researching Your Art, from the Renwick Gallery) to determining the value of antiques, artwork, and other collectibles.
4. What do the different Library of Congress numbers mean?
There are several Library of Congress numbers which users often conflate. They are:
Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
A Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in union catalogs such as WorldCat and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or commercial suppliers. The Library of Congress assigns this number while the book is being cataloged. Under certain circumstances, however, a card number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Control Number Program. Please note that not all books that receive an LCCN are cataloged by the Library or added to its collections.
What is now known as the Library of Congress Control Number was originally known as the Library of Congress Card Number until the advent of machine-readable records for book materials in the late 1960s.
An LCCN can have one of two different structures, based on when it was assigned:
89-456 (numbers assigned before 1/1/2001)
2001-1114 (numbers assigned after 1/1/2001)
In the Library's online catalog, LCCNs are reformatted to remove hyphens and standardize character length. To see what reformatted LCCNs look like, and to find instructions for searching the Library's online catalog by LCCN, go here.
Library of Congress Call Number
A Library of Congress call number is a unique number assigned to items in the Library's collections that represents the item in the Library's online catalog, identifies the specific copy of the item in the collections, and gives its relative location on the shelf. Library of Congress call numbers are assigned by Library catalogers based on the the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system.
For information on the structure of LC call numbers, and how to read them, go here.
Copyright Registration Number
A unique number assigned to all works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. The copyright registration number is typically formatted as two or three letters (depending on the classification) followed by one to seven digits. Examples include:
Preassigned Control Number
A Preassigned Control Number (PCN) is a Library of Congress Control Number which has been "preassigned" to a given work prior to the work's publication. Works are assigned a PCN through the Preassigned Control Number Program. Please note that obtaining an LCCN for a book through the PCN Program does not guarantee that the book will added to the Library's collections or listed in its online catalog.
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an eight-digit number which identifies all periodical publications as such, including electronic serials. Most countries have an ISSN National Center responsible for assigning ISBNs to serials. In the United States, ISSNs are assigned by the U.S. ISSN Center at the Library of Congress.
Users sometimes confuse the following numbers with a Library of Congress number:
International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was approved as ISO standard 2108 in 1970. It is a 10- or 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. The Library of Congress does not assign ISBNs to books. Instead, there are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, each of which is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. The United States ISBN Agency, R. R. Bowker, is the only source authorized to assign ISBNs to publishers supplying an address in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and its database establishes the publisher of record associated with each prefix. Review the ISBN FAQ for further information.
Universal Product Code (UPC) Number
Also known as a bar code. The UPC number is a string of digits that typically appears on the back of books (and other consumer products). The UPC number appears in association with a machine-readable code that appears as a series of black and white strips or bars. In the United States, UPC numbers are assigned to products by the organization GS1 US. An overview of the UPC can be found on the HowStuffWorks website.
5. How do I read a Library of Congress call number?
A number of libraries have created guides, videos, and interactive games designed to help users understand how to read Library of Congress call numbers. A selected list of online learning resources are provided below:
- "Understanding Library of Congress (LC) Call Numbers," American Museum of Natural History Research Library
- "Finding a Book on the Shelf--Library of Congress Classification," Colorado State University Libraries
- "Library of Congress (LC) Call Numbers," University of Michigan Library
- Video: "How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number," University of Arkansas Libraries
- Video: "Library of Congress Classification System," Valley Forge Christian College
Interactive Flash-based Games
- Shelving by LC Call Number, Carnegie Melon University Libraries
- "Library of Congress Call Number and Shelving Tutorials," Kent State University Libraries
6. How do I find a book's Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number?
There is no comprehensive resource or database that you can check to locate a book's Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number or Dewey call number. The best place to begin your search is the Library of Congress Online Catalog. When you open a record for a book in the catalog, look for a field labeled "Dewey Class No." If this field is listed, it will give the book's DDC number, as below:
Dewey call numbers (a call number consists of a classification number plus additional numbers or notation that distinguish items with the same classification number from each other) for books and other items are not available through the Library of Congress.
Not every book cataloged by the Library includes a Dewey Decimal Classification number. The Library's Dewey Program participates in the Cataloging in Publication (CIP) Program by assigning a DDC number to every CIP record. Because the CIP Program limits eligibility to titles that are most likely to be widely acquired by the nation's libraries, the Dewey Program directly serves those libraries. The Dewey Program also assigns Dewey numbers to books in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
To find a book's Dewey call number, or a book's Dewey Decimal Classification number when the DDC is not available through the Library's online catalog, try using OCLC's WorldCat database. WorldCat functions as a collective catalog of thousands of libraries around the world. A subscription version of WorldCat is available at some public and many academic libraries, while a free version is available on the Web at www.worldcat.org/. The subscription version of WorldCat will often provide the Dewey class number (the first part of the Dewey number) for a book, and both the subscription and free versions list libraries known to hold copies of a book. Search the catalogs of the public libraries that WorldCat lists as holding a copy of a book to see if any have assigned the book a Dewey Decimal Classification number or a Dewey Decimal call number. The numbers may vary slightly from one library to another based on local guidelines and standards, but they will give you an idea of the Dewey numbers that libraries have assigned to a specific book. If you are cataloging a book, you can use or adapt one of these numbers to suit your local needs.
Perhaps the best option for locating a DDC is to search a database developed by OCLC known as Classify. Classify is designed to support the assignment of classification numbers for books, DVDs, CDs, and many other types of materials. Using Classify, you can identify a work by title, author, ISBN, LCCN, UPC, or OCLC number. The record that is returned will include the Dewey Decimal classification (as well as the LC classification) most commonly assigned to that work by WorldCat member libraries. Dewey call numbers are not provided through Classify.
7. How can I obtain copies of books and other materials from the Library? Does the Library allow users to borrow books?
There are two options for requesting books and other materials from the Library of Congress.
- You may request materials on interlibrary loan (ILL) through your local library. The Library of Congress does not loan materials to individuals, but does send out materials to other libraries on a case-by-case basis. These requests must be initiated through your local library. Generally, your local library will first attempt to request materials from another library before contacting the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress does not charge for this service; in some cases, local libraries charge a nominal fee for interlibrary loan. Additional information about the Library's interlibrary loan service is available online at www.loc.gov/rr/loan.
- You may purchase reproductions of some materials from our Duplication Services. This is a fee-based service. The Duplication Services website includes ordering and price information, as well as a page for first-time users. Contact Duplication Services directly with specific questions:
Library of Congress Duplication Services
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, D.C. 20540-4570
Telephone: (202) 707-5640
Fax: (202) 707-1771
Web Form: www.loc.gov/duplicationservices/customer-service/contact/
Please note that all orders must be accompanied by the reproduction number, call number, or digital ID for each individual item (these numbers can be found in online catalog records and are often included in publications). If numbers are not found via these means, they must be identified through your research or by requesting research services in the reading room that has custody of the material.
8. Why isn't my book held by the Library of Congress?
The Library of Congress acquires books and other materials for its collections through donation, exchange, and several other methods. The core of its collections are comprised of materials deposited with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you have not already done so, please contact the publisher of your book and encourage it to submit two copies of the book to our Copyright Office for copyright registration. Your book, as part of the registration process, will be considered for addition to the Library's permanent collections. It takes a number of months for works submitted to the Copyright Office to be processed, cataloged, and listed in our online catalog, so even if your work is selected for the Library's permanent collections, it will not immediately be available to the public.
Not all works received by the U.S. Copyright Office are selected for retention in the Library's permanent collections, however. Works not selected will not appear in the Library's online catalog. The selection of materials for the Library's permanent collections is governed by its Collections Policy Statements, which you can consult for guidance on the types of materials (including self-published or vanity press books) the Library may not be likely to acquire.
If your book is not added to the Library's permanent collections, a record for it will still appear, once processing is completed, in the online Copyright Office Catalog, which includes records for works registered with the Copyright Office from 1978 to present.
9. How do I cite materials on the Library of Congress website? What resources are available for learning how to cite other electronic and print materials?
The Library of Congress’s Teachers page offer guidance on how to cite primary sources on the Library of Congress website. The examples are based on style guidelines commonly used in history (The Chicago Manual of Style) and language arts (MLA style) disciplines.
In addition, many bibliographic records (e.g., https://www.loc.gov/item/wpalh000034/) for items from the Library's digital collections now include a "Cite This Item" link through which you can find suggestions for citing the item according to Chicago, MLA, or APA style.
You should consult the current official edition of the documentation style being used for authoritative information on how to cite materials according to that style (consult a local librarian to identify the current edition of a particular style manual). One website that includes helpful information on generating appropriate citations in a variety of different styles is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue University)
Many electronic databases available through libraries now provide automated suggestions for citing materials according to several documentation styles. Consequently, be sure to check entries in electronic databases to see if they include suggested citations. Many databases also allow users to export citations into reference management software such as RefWorks, EndNote, and Zotero that facilitate the creation and organization of bibliographic citations.
While the functionality of reference management software varies, most allow users to create and extract citations not only from database entries, but also from a host of primary and secondary sources, including books, articles, Web pages, audio recordings, video recordings, and legal documents.
10. Where can I find other lists of frequently asked questions on the Library's website?
Frequently asked questions specific to a Library division, collection, or online content area are available throughout the Library’s website. A selected lists of frequently asked questions elsewhere on the Library’s website follow below; you can search the Web for additional FAQs.
- About the Library of Congress
- Accessibility of Library Facilities, Programs, and Services
- American Memory
- Bibliographic Framework Initiative
- Business Reference Services
- Cataloger's Desktop
- Cataloging in Publication (CIP)
- Chronicling America
- Duplication Services
- Electronic Copyright (Filing a Copyright Registration Online through eCO)
- European Reading Room
- Federal Research Division
- Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) and Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC)
- Global Gateway (International Collections)
- Handbook of Latin American Studies
- ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)
- Jobs, Internships, Fellowships, and Volunteer Opportunities
- Law Library of Congress
- Letters About Literature
- Library of Congress Publishing Office
- National Film Preservation Board
- National Recording Preservation Board
- Online Catalog (see also: Requesting Materials in the Online Catalog; NUCMC)
- National Book Festival
- Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room
- National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped - BARD
- Poets Laureate of the United States
- Preassigned Control Number (PCN) Program (LCCN)
- Prints and Photographs Reading Room
- Research and Reference at the Library of Congress
- Search Help
- Songs of America
- Talking Book Program (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped)
- Teachers' Resources
- Veterans History Project
- Visitor Information
- World Digital Library