Studying at the Library of Congress Main Reading Room

I was in Washington, DC for a conference this week and had a little free time in the afternoon.  I had some writing to get done as it is always hard to keep up when you’re traveling.  After thinking of a few neat places to write in the city, I decided to head down to the Library of Congress to study in the Main Reading Room.  I strongly encourage anyone in town for an academic conference to take a few hours for studying at the Library of Congress Main Reading Room.

My little spot in the foreground in the Main Reading Room

Some spaces are just conducive to writing and the Main Reading Room is one of them.

I often tell students and faculty that if you need to jumpstart your writing that changing spaces can be valuable.

Unfortunately (or fortunately as it probably keeps the crowd down), you can’t just walk into the reading room.

But it isn’t very hard to get in and took me about 30 minutes including getting turned around a couple of time and having to ask directions.

Directions for studying in the Main Reading Room

1.  Go online and register for a Reader Identification card. (You don’t have to do this but it saves time).

2.  Go to room LM140 in the Madison Building. (Down the hallway on your left after going through security)

3.  They will check your driver’s license and take your photograph for the reader card.

4.  After getting the card, you can head to the Jefferson Building.  The easiest way to do this is to leave the office and head left to the stairs.  Go down to the cellar to take the underground bridge.  After walking through the tunnel, you’ll come to an elevator.  Take it to the ground floor.  After exiting the elevator, follow the hallway toward the back of the building to the cloakroom.

5.  You have to check your bag and other items that you’re not taking to the reading room.

6.  After checking your bag, you head up one flight of stairs, show your new reader identification to the guard and sign a book.

7.  Find an awesome spot and be productive.

At every conference, I try to sneak away for at least a few hours and see the city.  It is too easy to sit in a conference hotel or convention center and barely see the city that you’re visiting.

Surely, DC has as many different places to visit as any city in the country. However, I encourage you to file this post away and take time for studying at the Library of Congress Main Reading Room.  You will get to see a historic space and be productive at the same time.

What could be better?