One bright summer afternoon, I found myself strolling through a quiet corner of the city – Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC. This walk would have been nothing out of the ordinary – until it led me, not far from the cemetery’s main gate, to an unexpected and interesting find: the grave of former Librarian of Congress L. Quincy Mumford (1903-82).
L. Quincy Mumford was the 11th Librarian of Congress, serving from 1954 to 1974. Among his achievements is the rapid growth of the Library’s international collections. According to the Library’s Official Historian Dr. John Y. Cole, in 1958 Congress authorized the Library “to use U.S.-owned foreign currencies (under the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, PL-480) to acquire books for itself and other U.S. libraries and to establish acquisitions offices in foreign countries.” Title IIC of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (PL-89-329), a major Mumford administration achievement, also expanded the Library’s international collections significantly by providing funds for the Library to acquire “all library materials currently published throughout the world that were of value to scholarship.” The result was a significant expansion in the Library’s overseas offices and its international collections.
Today, the Library’s international collections serve as important resources for research and education. More than 470 languages are represented in these collections. The four area studies reading rooms – African and Middle Eastern, Asian, European, and Hispanic – are some of the main access points to the Library’s international collections. Although access to the Library’s reading rooms is currently restricted due to the pandemic, our area studies reference specialists are available to provide online assistance via Ask-A-Librarian. For more information about the Library’s international collections and services, read this blogpost, “Librarians Are (Virtually) Here: Online Services and Resources for International Collections at the Library of Congress.”