Product Review of Library of Congress
Library of Congress is an online version of the real thing: the world’s largest library and all of its resources. There’s no login or way to save information; it’s just a place to visit and find information in all formats, including text, audio, and video. The homepage features a carousel of collection highlights (some timely) as well as links to the library catalog, digital collections, trending topics, the LOC blog, current exhibitions, and LOC news. Click on any of these, and you’ll be taken to engaging content.
The Teachers tab unlocks the real treasure, though: Primary Source Sets, Classroom Materials, Professional Development links (including a blog just for educators), Family Engagement Resources (perfect to support distance learning and family involvement), Library of Congress: Engage! (multimedia sets organized by themes), and Free to Use and Reuse Sets (thematic, image-rich sets).
Also notable is the GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story! weekly video series with Jason Reynolds, who is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Every week, Reynolds leads his viewers through a Write. Right. Rite. activity, especially suitable for upper elementary and middle school learners.
To get started, bypass the Library Catalog and even the Digital Collections tab and go straight to the Teachers tab. There, you’ll find the Classroom Materials link, which has great resources for getting learners oriented, including Primary Sources Sets and the accompanying dense but thorough lesson plans. As an intro for younger learners, you may want to focus on using the Primary Sources Analysis Tool: a graphic organizer that will help structure learners’ thinking. For cross-curricular opportunities, check out the Everyday Mysteries link, where there’s a deep dive into science facts, or consider integrating one of the many primary sources of great American authors’ work into a history unit.
Once learners have a good handle on what the site offers, and have built up the skills necessary for primary source analysis, the Library of Congress can be a go-to bookmark for learners to kick off any future research project.
It’s the Library of Congress. It’s amazing, but allow yourself time to explore the site and pick out some highlights for yourself and your learners before introducing it — even to older learners. While it has improved over the years, the site is still not as well curated as some others, and could feel stale or dry to learners without appropriate scaffolding. But even so, the vast, digitized collection — and all of the supporting resources — are so extraordinary that the sky’s the limit. 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, watch the National Book Festival webcast, or listen to concerts held at the library. So while the Library of Congress site requires some deft teaching to make sure learners see the potential, once they do, they’ll have access to resources that can anchor just about any research project or topic.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Student and educators will find that the resources are high-quality and seemingly endless. That does mean, however, that even advanced or older learners will benefit from a teacher-facilitated intro.
Curriculum and Instruction
Incredible depth and variety give learners the chance to make discoveries about America’s history. The Primary Source Sets support interdisciplinary work and invite learners into the world beyond memorized facts.
Diverse in historical representation and wide-ranging in multimedia content, the Library of Congress truly offers something for everybody. There’s good attention to accessible design.