Calling all bibliophiles: the U.S. Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, just put 25 million of its records online—for free.
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The MARC Open-Access, as the records are officially called, is now available on the Library of Congress Website at no additional charge to the user. Composed of books, images, music, manuscripts, and more, the data covers nearly forty-five years of library records, with the oldest material dating to 1968 and the newest to 2014.
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This would be an impressive stretch of information for a normal library, except the Library of Congress is not most libraries. Founded way back in 1800, the Library of Congress serves as the main research institution of the U.S. Congress and houses both the U.S. copyright office and roughly 164,403,119 items in its hallowed collections. So why release its largest treasure trove to date?
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“The Library of Congress is our nation’s monument to knowledge and we need to make sure the doors are open wide for everyone, not just physically but digitally too,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden explained. Beacher Wiggins, director of the Library’s Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access division, agreed, stating “From more efficient information-sharing and easier analysis to visualizations and other possibilities we cannot begin to predict, we hope this data will…enhance learning and the formation of new knowledge.”
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The Library is not the first major institution to freely open its records to the public—NASA, the Guggenheim Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History have both put large swaths of their archives online for both layman and scientist to study.
Here’s hoping that the democratic (and legal!) spread of information continues to grow.
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Featured image courtesy of the Library of Congress