On this day in history, April 24, 1800, President John Adams — the second president of the United States — approved the appropriation of $5,000 for the purchase of "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress," according to the website of the Library of Congress.

The research library — the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States — is celebrating its 224th birthday on April 24, 2024. 

The books that Adams referred to — first purchased for the Library of Congress — were ordered from London. 

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They arrived in 1801, the library also explains on its site.

The collection of 740 volumes and three maps was stored in the U.S. Capitol, which was the library's first home. 

Interior of the Library of Congress

An interior shot of one of the buildings of the Library of Congress today in Washington, D.C. On Jan. 26, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson approved the first legislation that defined the role and functions of the new institution. (Associated Press)

Then, on Jan. 26, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson approved the first legislation that clearly defined the role and functions of the new institution, the library also explains on its website.

Jefferson was the primary shaper of the Library of Congress, it notes, as he "believed that a democratic legislature needed information and ideas in all subjects to do its work."

It goes on, "From the beginning, however, the institution was more than a legislative library, for an 1802 law made the appointment of the Librarian of Congress a presidential responsibility. It also permitted the president and vice president to borrow books, a privilege that eventually was extended to the judiciary, officials of government agencies, and, under certain conditions, members of the public."

"Jefferson offered to sell his personal library of more than 6,000 volumes to Congress."

Jefferson, over time, remained keenly interested in the library, it says in its history — and instrumental to its continued existence.

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"In 1814, when the British invaded Washington, they destroyed the Capitol, including the Library of Congress. By then retired to Monticello, Jefferson offered to sell his personal library of more than 6,000 volumes to Congress."

Jefferson and Adams

Thomas Jefferson, on the left, our nation's third president, was the primary shaper of the Library of Congress, believing "that a democratic legislature needed information and ideas in all subjects to do its work." John Adams, right, second president, approved the appropriation of $5,000 to buy "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress."? (Kean Collection/Getty Images; Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

That purchase "was approved in 1815, doubling the size of the library. It also expanded the scope of the collections."

Notes the library as well, "Anticipating the argument that his collection might be too wide-ranging and comprehensive for use by a legislative body, Jefferson argued that there was ‘no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.’ The Jeffersonian concept of universality is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today's library."

It was not until 1897 that the Library of Congress moved into its own building.?

It was not until 1897 that the Library of Congress moved into its own building — almost 100 years after its founding.

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"Congress gave the Librarian of Congress sole responsibility for making the Library's rules and regulations," the library says, "and invested in the Senate the authority to approve a president's nomination of a Librarian of Congress."

"Since World War II, [the Library of Congress] has become an international resource of unparalleled dimension and the world's largest library," the library itself notes. 

book open on a library table

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., makes its catalog available to many thousands of subscribing American libraries and institutions. (iStock)

"In its three massive structures on Capitol Hill, the Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison Memorial Buildings, the Library of Congress brings together the concerns of government, learning, and librarianship — an uncommon combination, but one that has greatly benefited American scholarship and culture."

However, others stepped in and were responsible for the library's continued growth and development.

Spofford "linked the library's legislative and national functions, building a comprehensive collection for both the legislature and the nation."

Says the library on its website, "The individual responsible for transforming the Library of Congress into an institution of national significance was Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897."

He "applied Jefferson's philosophy on a grand scale," notes the library. 

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"He linked the library's legislative and national functions, building a comprehensive collection for both the legislature and the nation. In obtaining greatly increased support from Congress, Spofford employed a combination of logic, flattery and nationalistic rhetoric."

By 1867, "his acquisitions made the Library of Congress the largest library in the United States."

Among his other top achievements: In 1870, he centralized all U.S. copyright activities at the library — "which ensured the continuing growth of the collections by stipulating that two copies of every book, pamphlet, map, print and piece of music registered for copyright be deposited in the library — and construction of a separate building, a 26-year struggle [that was] not completed until 1897."

Through a service begun by Herbert Putnam, head of the Library of Congress from 1889 to 1939, the library makes its catalog available to many thousands of subscribing American libraries and institutions, Britannica.com points out.

Every working day, the library receives some 15,000 items and adds more than 10,000 items to its collections.

To Putnam, says the library itself, "a national library was more than a comprehensive collection housed in Washington. It was ‘a collection universal in scope, which has a duty to the country as a whole.’ He defined that duty as service to scholarship, both directly and through other libraries."

The Library of Congress has continued to grow over the years — "balancing its legislative, national, and, after World War II, international roles," it says.

"Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish (1939-1944) stressed the library's roles as a symbol of democracy and a cultural institution," the website of the library indicates. 

"Luther H. Evans (1945-1953) pushed forward the library's bibliographic and international activities. [And] L. Quincy Mumford (1954-1974) greatly expanded all the library's roles, but particularly its bibliographic activities and foreign acquisitions."

Then, under the leadership of historian Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian of Congress from 1975-1987, the library's "visibility" greatly increased, the library says of its own history.

The Library of Congress today contains over 173 million items.

"Boorstin's successor, historian James H. Billington (1987-2015) … vigorously pursued a similar course." The library said he "established private sector support groups and an educational role for the library, using new technologies to share the library's collections with the nation."

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On Sept. 14, 2016, Carla Hayden was sworn in as 14th Librarian of Congress, nominated to the position by President Obama on Feb. 24, 2016. Her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13, 2016. 

Here are some other facts and figures associated with today's Library of Congress (all figures courtesy of the library itself). 

15 fascinating facts about today's Library of Congress

1. It today contains more than 173 million items.

2. Every working day, the library receives some 15,000 items and adds more than 10,000 items to its collections.

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3. Since 1962, the Library of Congress has maintained offices abroad to acquire, catalog and preserve library and research materials.

4. About half the library's book and serial collections are in languages other than English.

Books on desk in library at the elementary school

Foremost among the Library of Congress Manuscript Division's holdings are the papers of 23 presidents — ranging from George Washington, first president, to Calvin Coolidge, the nation's 30th president.? (iStock)

5. The Law Library of Congress is the world's largest law library, with more than 2.9 million volumes.

6. The library holds the largest rare-book collection in North America (over 700,000 volumes), including the largest collection of 15th-century books in the Western Hemisphere.

The Library of Congress has the most comprehensive collection of American music in the world: over 22 million items.?

7. The library has approximately 100 extremely rare children's books, including "The Children's New Play-Thing" (Philadelphia, 1763) and "The Children's Bible" (Philadelphia, 1763).

8. Foremost among the Manuscript Division's holdings are the papers of 23 presidents, ranging from George Washington, first president, to Calvin Coolidge, the nation's 30th president. 

9. The Gutenberg Bible, one of the treasures of the Library of Congress, was purchased in 1930. The 15th-century work is one of three perfect copies on vellum in the world.

10. The Library of Congress, in addition, has the most comprehensive collection of American music in the world: over 22 million items, including 8.2 million pieces of sheet music.

11. The American Folklife Center administers the Veterans History Project, created by Congress in 2000 to preserve the reminiscences of the nation’s war veterans. To date, more than 100,000 submissions have been collected.

12. The American Folklife Center also administers and preserves the StoryCorps project, a nationwide grassroots initiative to record the oral histories of ordinary citizens. 

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13. Since 1931, the library has provided books for the blind in Braille and on sound recordings. 

14. The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled has replaced its inventory of recordings on audio cassettes with newly developed Digital Talking Books and digital playback equipment.

15. The X (formerly known as Twitter) account of the Library of Congress has 1.2 million followers. 

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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