All Libraries Great and Small

LOC Main Reading Room

We at Smack Dab continue to celebrate libraries. My favorite library is the Library of Congress, founded in 1800. Their online collection is extensive, perfect for when I teach my how to research courses. I have used their online library extensively for researching my historical fiction.

 The LOC has a fascinating history. In 1814, British troops burned the Library, then housed at the Capital, building, and destroyed its collection of 3,000 books.  When the Library was rebuilt, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson's personal library of 6,487 to start its collection.

 Some amazing facts about the LOC:

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It has about 838 miles of bookcases, filled with more than 36 million books and other print materials, 3.5 million recordings, 13.7 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 6.7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts.
The smallest book in the Library of Congress is Old King Cole. It measures at 1/25” x 1/25”, which is about the size of a period. To turn its pages, one has to use a needle.

The largest book is the 5-by-7 foot picture book filled with color images of South Asia. The book was composed by a team of MIT students, recording the ancient life and culture of Bhutan, making over 40,000 digital images made for the Bhutan National Archives. A copy of the picture book was donated to the LOC.

The oldest example of print are passages from a Buddhist sutra printed in 770 AD. The Library’s oldest example of writing is a cuneiform tablet dating from 2040 BC. The LOC also has an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible, printed in the 15th century.

Speaking of libraries great and small and their librarians, some famous librarians include Jacob Grimm, Mao Zedong, Golda Meir, Laura Bush, Marcel Proust, Melvil Dewey, and Lewis Carroll.

America’s first lending library was established in 1731, Philadelphia, by Benjamin Franklin. It was a paid subscription-based service, but paved the way for the library systems we use in North America today.

The world’s oldest known library was founded sometime in the 7th century B.C. for the “royal contemplation” of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal. Located in Nineveh in modern day Iraq, the library included around 30,000 cuneiform, including the 4,000-year-old “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C.,  his former general Ptolemy I Soter took control of Egypt. Soter established the Library of Alexandria, which became the intellectual jewel of the ancient world. At its peak, the library may have included over 500,000 papyrus scrolls containing works of literature and texts on history, law, mathematics and science.
The al-Qarawiyyin library, located in Morocco, is part of the world's oldest continually operating university, al-Qarawiyyin University, which opened in 859.

There are more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the world.You can build your own library!

Author Cynthia Cotten's Little Free Library. It's bigger on the inside.

 The second largest library in the U.S., and the fourth largest in the world,  is the beautiful New York Public Library, founded in 1908. The iconic lions that lounge outside the New York Public Library’s main building at Fifth Ave. and 42nd Street are named Patience and Fortitude.

Patience, waiting patiently to see you soon!

What's your favorite library?

Thank you for stopping by!
Bobbi Miller


  1. Thanks for sharing these interesting facts about libraries Bobbi. I've never been inside the LOC but now I plan to visit it.

    1. It's a trip all to itself, I dare say. Their online catalog is amazing, too. This includes thousands of historical documents, photographs and films. It is truly "America's Library."

  2. Fascinating! And I love Little Free Libraries!

    1. I agree! And Cynthia's Free Little Library is set up next to the river. A perfect setting for a gentle walk and a quiet read!

  3. Replies
    1. Libraries are full of fun facts, all puns intended! Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Very cool post -- and definitely plan to visit, now... next time I'm in DC.

  5. ADORED these facts! Especially the teensy book you have to read by turning the pages with a needle!

    1. Can you imagine writing a book that tiny?? Amazing!!


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