Sunday, June 19, 2011

Am I Dreaming? -- by Alec Frazier

The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building

I interrupt my regular blogcast to bring you news of my activities this past Wednesday.

The Dome of the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Am I dreaming? If so, I do not want to wake up.

The Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building

Because I work in the DC Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, I have certain connections. Through my connections to the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, I was able to get a behind the scenes tour of the Library of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson’s Personal Library

Although I am a major in political science, it is my dream goal to become either a special collections librarian, or an archivist in the same vein. As such, the Library of Congress means the world to me. That, and as I have mentioned in my blog before, the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is easily the most beautiful place in the world. And I’ve been all over. Yes, I’ve already been there twice during this trip, but that is not nearly enough to absorb the meaning behind all of the beautiful allegory in the building’s art and architecture.

The James Madison Memorial Hall

We started out having lunch in the cafeteria of the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress, the biggest library building in the world as well as our nation’s official memorial to the fourth president and “Father of the Constitution”. From there we made our way via the tunnel system that spreads beneath Capitol Hill to the Jefferson Building across the street.

The Main Control Room of the Library of Congress

Once there, we were given a very privileged look at the Main Control Room directly beneath the Main Reading Room. It is from this room that all requests for books in the Library of Congress issued forth. It also contains an old conveyor system, still working, to bring books to the desk of the Main Reading Room above. There is also a staircase leading directly to that desk.

The Book Stacks of the Library of Congress

From there, we went to the book stacks that have filled in the courtyards of the Jefferson Building since it was built. As is naturally the case with the biggest library in the world, these stacks are overflowing with copies of every single book ever copyrighted in the United States of America, and many from foreign countries as well.

The Card Catalog Collection of the Library of Congress

Many of these stacks also house the card catalog collection, which has records of every surviving book in the Library of Congress since its founding in 1800 up until 1968 when the records were digitized. We were told to be quiet, and a door was opened. I beheld the wonders around me.

The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

We were in the Main Reading Room. It is a space that to me, Alec Frazier is holier than any place of worship, and almost any concept that I can think of.

The Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress

We ended our tour by going through the Great Hall, which is the most richly decorated space that I can think of, and those of you who know me know that I can think of a lot…

Alec Frazier behind the Librarian’s Desk in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

At the end of the day, I applied for and received a reader’s card so that I may visit any of the reading rooms whenever I want! This was a magical experience and I am so glad that I could share it with you.

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