Sunday, February 26, 2012

Local Travels: The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is one of my favorite places in DC.  A small library first only for the use of members of Congress has grown into our national library, a place where all aspects of the American story are being preserved. Where knowledge and learning and bookworms (the people, not the actual worms) are celebrated. 

Fun Facts*:
The Library of Congress (LOC) was originally located in the Capitol but is now a complex with 3 buildings named after past presidents: Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

After the British burned the Capitol in 1814, including much of the library, which at that time held exclusively law books, Congress purchased the personal library of the then retired Thomas Jefferson. At first, Congress only wanted his law books, but Jefferson convinced them that if lawmakers were going to make laws about the vastness of American life, then they better have a knowledge about all aspects of that vastness. Jefferson could be very persuasive. Congress bought his entire collection 6,487 books for $23,950. 

Construction on the Jefferson building, or what I referred to as the pretty building, was begun in 1886 and finished in 1897,  it was completed on time and under budget. Yes, once upon a time, the US government completed something on time and under budget. 

Since 1870 the LOC has held the US copyright, which means that anyone that applies for a US copyright must send two copies of their work to the library. 

The Library holds more than 144 million items including more than 33 million books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 63 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America;  the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings, and the contents of President's Lincoln's pockets the night of his assassination. 

The  heart of the Jefferson Building is the Main Reading room. While the rest of the library is pretty much open to visitors, the reading room is open only for researchers, and no photography, even from the upstairs viewing gallery is allowed. Except if  you visit on President's Day or Columbus Day.

I visited on President's Day.
The Great Hall

What's he taking a picture of? The ceiling:

The Main Reading Room


And this is where my heart stopped and I started to hyperventilate 

I dream of owning a card catalog one day, and organizing and storing little bits of knowledge in neat little drawers .

*Fun Facts come from the million tours I have taken, and from the LOC website.

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