I'd like to get a Reader Identification Card from the Library of Congress (as a unique and personalized souvenir) and am curious as to how I'd go about doing so. From the link it sounds like all I need to do is go to a Reader Registration Station at Madison Building, Room LM 140. It also doesn't sound like an appointment is necessary.

But, if that's all there is to it, then why would one want to pre-register online?

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    It would save five minutes? And I'm not sure what this has to do with travel? Aug 7, 2015 at 15:01
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    Voting to reopen. The library card here is to be used as a souvenir.
    – JoErNanO
    Aug 10, 2015 at 9:53

2 Answers 2


The LOC expressly prohibits obtaining a library card as a souvenir. So the strictest answer to your question is: You can't.

However, it's fairly easy to fudge, if you're either dishonest and say your intended purpose is to do research. Or, my preferred method: Actually spend some time doing some research! I spent an hour or two researching George Washington while I was there, which was an interesting experience (I learned a lot more about the LOC than I did about Mr. Washington).

The actual registration process is fairly straight forward (details here). I believe it took me about half an hour, and I had to fill out a few forms (I believe one said I would be using the card to perform actual research, and not as a souvenir).

At least that's how it worked for me about 3 years ago when I was there.

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    Do you have a link to the library policy forbidding cards as souvenirs?
    – JoErNanO
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:29
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    @JoErNanO: I can't find a specific mention of that on the LOC web site. I know the tour guide told me that when I took the LOC tour. And when I applied for the card, they asked (probably in writing) what I would be researching with the card. It's also easy to find references to the souvenir prohibition on various other online forums. It is, of course, easy to fudge. But I suggest doing what I did: Do some actual research in the library while you're there.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:36
  • Ok so maybe add that in the answer. ;)
    – JoErNanO
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:37
  • Interesting - I suspected they might have a prohibition like this and was quite surprised when I couldn't find any evidence of one! Aug 12, 2015 at 18:14

I can't speak to the Library of Congress but from experience, the British Library has a similar system - you can preregister online or turn up in person, in which case you fill out more or less the same registration form on a terminal in the reader registration office before going through the same interview and approval process. (Worth noting in passing - the BL's interview checks you do need to use the collections, so 'get a souvenir card' probably wouldn't work there. The LoC seems to be less restrictive.)

In the BL's case, they encourage preregistration as this lets the reader order material before getting admitted - otherwise you turn up, register, and then have to wait while material is delivered to the reading room, which can take a while. I have dug around on the LoC's site for a while but can't seem to find out whether a pre-registration allows you to order material in advance. If so, this would be the major advantage.

If not... well, as the comments note, it'll save five minutes and avoid any nasty surprises when you don't have the right information to hand. (Every librarian at a major institution has stories about a researcher who flies half-way across the world to consult a vital manuscript, gets there, and discovers they need one particular piece of ID that they didn't think to bring...)

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