DC's Landmark Libraries

This tour covers Washington's libraries that have been historically-designated over the years. Some of the libraries on this tour are internationally-recognized places of research, such as the Library of Congress and Folger Shakespeare Library, with their large and distinctive collections. In addition to these well-known institutions, this tour will highlight some of the public libraries found throughout the city's neighborhoods.

These library branches serve Washingtonians on a daily basis, whether it is the student working on a school project or the local resident looking for the latest best-selling novel. Finally, one stop on the tour -- the Central Public Library, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie -- is no longer a library. It was recently repurposed to serve as both the DC History Center and an Apple Store.

This tour can be completed by walking, public transport, and/or car. Since the landmarks are spread out, it is advised that you map out your route to determine distance before beginning.

Petworth Neighborhood Library

Construction of the Petworth Library (historically known as Petworth Branch Library) was long in the making. The first expressed desire for a library in the community came in 1927 when the Petworth Women’s Club library committee, with support from…

Central Public Library

Built between 1899 and 1902 by architects Ackerman & Ross, who had been selected in a national design competition, the Central Public Library was the first public building in DC to be built in the Beaux Arts style. The library is one of 1,679…

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (and Interior)

The Martin Luther King Memorial Library (MLK Library) is a four-story steel and glass International-style building in downtown DC, designed by world-famous German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and completed in 1972. The modern…

Library of Congress (Jefferson Building)

Founded in 1880, the original Library of Congress collection included 740 books and three maps. This collection lived in the Capitol until 1814, when invading British troops burned the Capitol and destroyed the library inside it. Former President…

Folger Shakespeare Library (and Interiors)

The Folger Shakespeare Library was constructed on the site of Grant's Row, owing to the acquisition of the land in 1928 by Henry Clay Folger. Folger, a millionaire Standard Oil executive, devoted a great deal of his life to the acquisition of the…

Southeast Branch Library

In 1921, Congress approved $10,000 of funding for the construction of the Southeast Branch Library. With the additional support of Andrew Carnegie’s monetary donation, the Southeast Branch Library was dedicated a year later with the expectation to…

Circulating Library

The circulating library played an important role in the daily lives and treatment of Saint Elizabeths’ patients. By 1913, the library’s collection included around six thousand books. Almost ten years later, in 1924, this amount doubled in size, and…
Please note that this list does not include the libraries that reside within historic districts, such as: Georgetown Library at 3260 R Street NW, Mount Pleasant Library at 3160 16th Street NW, Northeast Library at 330 7th Street NE (in the Capitol Hill Historic District), and Takoma Park Library at 416 Cedar Street NW.