Website review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Library Of Congress

Visit our largest library's online collection of multimedia goodies

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 13 reviews
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1–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Critical Thinking

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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.

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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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.

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.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

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 Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

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 Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

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.

Common Sense reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Amy K. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cornell Senior High School
Coraopolis, United States
A wealth of primary sources to explore!
This website contains a wealth of knowledge, but even for experienced users can be hard to navigate. Using already curated primary source sets, or links like Chronicling America, are easy for students. I also print out primary sources for students to use. Their "ask a librarian" button is available for teachers and students who are struggling to navigate the site. Additionally, they have regional partners around the country (generally colleges), that will train teachers to use the site and even print re ...
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