\"On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved an appropriation of $5,000 to purchase \"such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.\"
Books - mostly on history, economics and law - were ordered from London. They arrived in 1801 and were shelved in the new U.S. Capitol. The collection consisted of just 740 volumes and three maps.
Next week, on April 24, millions of books and much history later, the Library of Congress celebrates its 200th anniversary as an institution that grew, in the words of one of its biographers, into \"a symbol of American democracy and faith in the power of learning.\"
The celebration includes a major exhibition, \"Thomas Jefferson,\" featuring the first-ever reassembly of Jefferson\'s 1815 library in one place, arranged by the system he devised. A commemorative stamp and two coins will be issued. A new Web site for families, \"America\'s Library,\" will be introduced.
When it still amounted to little more than a few books on a few shelves, the library had the good fortune to capture the interest of the one American with perhaps more interest in books than any other.
\"I cannot live without books ...,\" Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1815.
As president in 1802, Jefferson approved the first law setting out the role and functions of the new library. While the law gave Congress the authority to set the library\'s budget, it awarded the appointment of the Librarian of Congress to the president. That gave the new institution a government-wide reach.
In August 1814, an invading British army intervened. It seized Washington and burned the White House and the Capitol. The Library of Congress, which by then had about 3,000 volumes, was destroyed.
With one act, Jefferson became the founder of the Library of Congress as it now exists.