WASHINGTON — The Library of Congress is getting a $10 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein to help fund a five-year renovation project to better engage visitors to its flagship Jefferson Building, Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress, said Wednesday.
The project, which will cost $60 million overall, got underway in September and envisions a modern orientation center where visitors will be able to see, among other things, Thomas Jefferson’s famous library books in a new setting.
Designers also plan to cut a hole in the cement, brick, and iron ceiling of the ground floor and install a 25-foot-wide glass oculus through which visitors can see the building’s ornate dome far above the first-floor reading room.
There are also plans for a snack bar, a learning lab, a new gallery for the library’s ‘‘treasures,’’ and a reworked entrance and exit to the 123-year-old Beaux-Arts building across from the Capitol.
Hayden said the idea is to give the library’s almost 2 million annual visitors more access to the contents of the ‘‘jewel box’’ that is the Jefferson Building.
She said the library has been promised $40 million from Congress for the project, and after Rubenstein’s donation, she hopes to raise the remaining $10 million from private donors.
David Mandel, Hayden’s exhibits and interpretation director, said: ‘‘We need to tell the library’s history [and] story better.’’
One way will be to move Jefferson’s library front and center into the new ground-floor orientation space. Jefferson sold Congress his 6,000-book library for $26,000 to replace those destroyed by the British in the War of 1812.