Common Sense Review
Updated November 2013

Library of Congress

Visit our largest library's online collection of multimedia goodies
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • The Teaching with Primary Sources program helps educators use the site's content.
  • The Ask a Librarian feature allows you to contact a librarian (and maybe even chat).
  • Kids and Families is filled with content that kids can enjoy directly on the site.
  • Everyday Mysteries is a fun way for kids to discover the answers to scientific questions.
Pros
A well-designed resource is bound to exist for nearly any subject you look up, and everything is totally free.
Cons
It's a bit overwhelming, like walking into the actual Library of Congress; there's almost too much to look through.
Bottom Line
The Library of Congress delivers the best of America's past and present, but it's a little tricky to navigate.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Design is simple but not super kid-friendly. Some content is pretty dry, but you can find engaging multimedia. It's the Library of Congress, so it's hard to complain -- the resources are quality and seemingly endless.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Incredible depth and variety give kids the chance to make discoveries about America's history and beyond. They'll  also see why it's important to document the events and people that make up a culture. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Library of Congress has Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr extensions, and there's help when needed. It could be a bonus if kids could log in and save favorites or revisit a book they've been reading online.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

You can send older students here to explore and and perform research on their own. For younger students, you may want to find snippets of content and adjust the information for your own lesson plans. It could also be fun to create a "virtual field trip" to the Library of Congress. You can share the library's beginnings as a government institution, show students images of the building itself, and then let them take a look around online.

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What's It Like?

Library of Congress is an online version of the real thing -- the world's largest library and all the resources housed therein. There's no log-in or way to save information; it's just a place to visit and find information in all formats, including text, audio, and video. The home page features a rotating group of Collection Highlights under subjects like American Memory, Prints and Photographs, Maps, Historic Newspapers, and more. Click on any of these, and you'll be taken to the full list of content by subject. For the most kid-friendly stuff, click Kids and Families; you'll find links to subsites like Everyday Mysteries, a place full of fun science facts, or Today in History.

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Is It Good For Learning?

It's the Library of Congress: Overall, it's amazing. You can see actual manuscripts of unperformed Yiddish plays from the early part of the century, look at a map of the Governorates of Bahrain, or hear Judy Blume speak during a National Book Festival webcast. The library has done an excellent job digitizing this content, and it's a great gift to have these resources readily accessible. However, even with the thoughtful organization, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be difficult to find content especially for kids, and some of the links designated as kid-friendly are a little dry for young people to explore on their own.

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