Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Library of Congress

Visit our largest library's online collection of multimedia goodies

Subjects & skills
  • Critical Thinking

  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (13 Reviews)

Take a look inside

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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.

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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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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

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?

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?

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

Teacher Reviews

(See all 13 reviews) (13 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Suzanne C. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Fairview Elementary School
Maryville, TN
Ready, Set, Learn

Although the sheer amount of information on the Library of Congress website can be overwhelming, there are tools to make it easier for users. Showing students how to access the Primary Source Sets, Online Exhibitions, or America's Story (which has much more kid-friendly text), will offset the vastness of the collection and make it manageable. The Library's staff and affiliate groups within the Teaching with Primary Sources program create lesson plans for teachers at every grade level which provide entry into the collection for those who are new to the website. The Library also offers links to digital content from partner institutions around the world and their staff works constantly to update and improve the site as well as digitizing and adding more content. I'm not sure how I would teach social studies without this site.

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