The intention of this Handbook is to furnish such an account of the new building of the Library of Congress as may prove of interest to the general reader, and at the same time serve as a convenient guide to actual visitors. To this latter end, a system of headings and sub-headings has been introduced, and the building has been described throughout in the order in which a visitor might naturally walk through it. Criticism has been avoided in the general description, but a brief survey of the artistic qualities of the Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting is given in Mr. Caffin’s supplementary essay.
The writer had intended at first to give rather a full account of the collections of the Library, of the Smithsonian system of exchange, of the operation of the copyright law, and of the general system under which the Library was carried on. So much of what he might have thus described, however, would have been entirely changed, and so much more considerably modified, by the new methods of administration made possible and necessary by the new building, that it was decided to pass lightly over all matters connected with the administration of the Library. Should another edition of the Handbook be called for, it is hoped that there will be an opportunity to supply this omission. In the meantime it will be found that Mr. Spofford’s paper on the Function of a National Library will serve to indicate the general scope of the institution.