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'America's Library' to Expand Access to Collections

Library of Congress Head Focuses on Making Vast Collections More Accessible
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'America's Library' to Expand Access to Collections

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The Library of Congress is using technology to make its collections available to people across the United States and around the world.

The library is the main research center of the United States Congress. It has books, recordings, photographs and newspapers.

The library also has maps, sheet music and even baseball cards among its collections. It is the largest library in the world.

Five months ago, President Barack Obama named Carla Hayden as Librarian of Congress. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to be appointed to the position.

Most who held the job before her were politicians or came from the world of education. But Hayden has worked as a librarian. She led a large library in Baltimore, Maryland. Before that, she served as chief librarian for the public library in Chicago, Illinois. She was also president of the American Library Association.

The Library of Congress has been criticized in recent years for a lack of leadership and for being slow to accept new technologies.

The library was created more than 200 years ago as a place where members of Congress could find information. Its workers also provide research for U.S. lawmakers and their aides.

Today, the Library of Congress is considered America’s library. It has more than 160 million items. They include more than 30 million books and print materials from around the world in more than 450 languages.

The library also has a Gutenberg Bible produced in the 1400s, and the world’s largest comic book collection. Hayden says the library adds at least 10,000 items to its collections every work day.

The general public can see materials in the library’s reading rooms, but is not permitted to take them off the grounds. Hayden wants to change that by making them available online and through other technologies.

Hayden says she wants the library “to open its arms to people around the world, to let people know it is available to them.”

“We have things on our website that bring the collections to people wherever they are. They can download materials. They can participate -- and we just added, this is pretty exciting, a 3D virtual reality tour where you can put the goggles on and you can physically tour the buildings.”

Hayden also wants the Library of Congress to make its materials available across the country through traveling demonstrations.

“Actually taking an 18-wheeler truck and loading it up with facsimiles -- sometimes there’ll be electronic information and devices on those trucks -- and actually going into communities.”

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA Correspondent Deborah Block reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

access -- n. a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone​

library -- n. a place where books, magazines, and other materials (such as videos and musical recordings) are available for people to use or borrow​

item -- n. an individual thing: a separate part or thing​

participate -- v. to be involved with others in doing something : to take part in an activity or event with others​

tour -- n. an activity in which you go through a place (such as a building or city) in order to see and learn about the different parts of it​

goggles -- n. special eyeglasses that fit close to your face​

mobile -- adj. able to move from one place to another​

facsimile -- n. an exact copy​