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Origins of the Library’s ST&B Division

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Famous American-Born Inventor: Sir Benjamin Thompson. One of the books from Thomas Jefferson Library
Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. American physicist and inventor. Author in Jefferson’s Library

I bet most people don’t know that an estimated 40% of the Library’s books and journals are science and business materials. The significance of this can be traced back to our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who sold his personal library to Congress in 1815 for $23,950. Jefferson collected titles from around the world in all subjects, including agriculture, astronomy, chemistry, commerce, economics, medicine, and zoology. His collection contained over 500 volumes in the sciences, with an even larger number of business-related titles. These and others books became the foundation of the Library of Congress.

Science and Technology

In June 1949, following the boom in scientific research after WWII, the Science and Technology Division was formed to provide specialized reference and bibliographic services and to develop the general collections of the Library in all areas of science and technology. The Technical  Reports and Standards Unit holds much of the  WWII-related scientific research such as the OSRD Collection and  Historical PB Collection.


It was not until 1991, in response to a growing recognition of the need for staff with specialized skills to work with the business and economics collections, that a separate administrative unit, the Business Reference Section, was established.

Originally established within what is now the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, the Business Reference Section benefited in its early years from collaboration with the Business Research Project (no longer in existence). This fund was established in 1993 by Edward Lowe of Edward Lowe Industries (inventor of kitty litter!) in order to promote access to business research for entrepreneurs. This collaboration enabled the Section to develop several signature products which continue today, including BEOnline and The Directory of Small Business Information Providers.

Science and Business Reading Room, John Adams Building
Science and Business Reading Room, John Adams Building

Science, Technology and Business 

For many years the Business Section and the Science and Technology Division, along with their collections, both resided in the John Adams Building. In the late 1990’s plans were underway to merge the two. In June 1998, the Business Reference Section was transferred administratively to the Science and Technology Division, thus forming the new Science, Technology and Business Division. Today, it seems like a natural fit. Science and business go hand in hand. Patents, inventions, industry, and manufacturing draw from science, but you also need business know-how and funding to be successful.


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