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The Best Libraries in Washington, D.C.

The Best Libraries in Washington, D.C.

Picture of Lauren Gruber
Updated: 4 November 2016
Washington D.C.’s libraries house some of the most important documents and literature in history. Read ahead for our guide to where you’ll find the best material, activities and sights in a few of Washington D.C.’s best libraries.
An event is held in one of the shelf rooms at the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress

One of the most famous and the largest libraries in the world, the Library of Congress is both a research and architectural marvel. Often ranked on numerous lists as one of the best libraries in the world, the Library of Congress is worth the visit even if not searching for anything particular. Walking into the building, guests will see the impressive Beaux Arts architecture with marble halls, murals and Corinthian columns, Visitors may view Thomas Jefferson’s original book collection or take a glimpse of the Gutenberg Bible. The library boasts 160 million items including 37 million books and other print documents, 3.5 million recordings, 14 million photos, over 5 million maps, over 7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts. The oldest federal cultural institution in America, has guided tours of the art and architecture. The amount of material is impressive as is their librarian staff who will aid in searching for materials spanning over 450 languages.

Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave SE Washington, DC 20540 202-707-5000

The interior of Folgers Shakespeare Library mirrors the style of old Elizabethan days.

Folger Shakespeare Library

Located on Capitol Hill, this library hosts the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s printed works. Innovators in preserving rare materials, they also house major collections of rare Renaissance books, manuscripts and pieces of art. The library is an internationally recognized research library and offers advanced scholarly programs in the humanities. There are tons of cultural and art program at the library that include theater (they have their own Elizabethan theater), music, poetry, exhibitions, lectures, screenings and family activities. This is perfect for both visitors and locals to learn and experience the cultural atmosphere of Washington DC that is unique to any other library. Folger is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E Capitol St SE Washington DC 20003 202-544-4600

An interior shot of Georgetown Public Library.
©Andy /Flickr

Georgetown Public Library

Old charm and characterize Georgetown Public Library with its paneled wooden walls. This library boasts a decent selection, resources and a magazine collection. The first and second floors are open daily, while the third is a special collections section. If the semi-private reading cubes get too stuffy, the library sits on a high hill that looks over the river and is perfect for reading. Children’s stories and music are hosted every Thursday at 2PM.

Georgetown Public Library, 3260 R St NW Washington, DC 20007 202-727-0232