SOME LIBRARY facts and fallacies:
* The Library of Congress does not own two copies of
every book ever copyrighted. Although copyright law requires it be given two, no one ever said it had to keep them all.
* Of the 20 million books owned by the Library of Congress, fewer than a fourth are in English.
* When it started out as the library for Congress in 1800, the Library of Congress owned 740 books and three maps.
* It is not the best place for writing a college paper -- sheer volume should discourage that pathetic fallacy. Horror stories abound, such as the one about the student who spent an entire deadline morning looking up articles in the periodical card-file, only to learn that the titles on the cards were of magazines, not of the articles in them.
* The Library of Congress doesn't discriminate. It'll have bad books on Shakespeare among the good (221/2 card-file drawers full). Whereas a college library (with maybe two drawers) makes intellectual choices and tailors them to the curriculum. Same with your county library, which follows social trends to provide books of interest to its readers.
* You can't take books out of the Library of Congress, unless you're another library or a member of Congress. If the Library of Congress has the only two copies of a certain book on Chinese noodles and you absolutely require one of them for the Szechuan cookbook you're writing, your local library may effect an inter-library loan.
* The Library of Congress has a longstanding practice of providing talking books for the blind; for information, write the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20542.
* The card catalogue only goes up to 1980. Books catalogued after that appear only in the computer catalogue, which goes back to 1968.
And not everything in the Library's collections will appear in either card or computer. Some collections are catalogued only in special reading rooms.