I am still recovering from and reflecting on my recent ALA experience in Washington, DC. A key highlight to my four-day experience was a visit to the Library of Congress after hours.
I had only visited the Library of Congress once before, but was unable to visit the Main Reading Room; which was being used that day for a research group. My family and I stood in the gallery above looking at everyone reading and researching and wishing we could join them.
Sometimes the universe works in your favor. I am happy to report that I not only stood on the floor of the reading room along with librarians from all over the country, we also were allowed to go into the stacks where the card catalog is housed. A few facts I learned on my tour:
- 22,000 drawers
- 22 million cards
- Author, Title and Subject Cards are in one alphabet
- No new cards have been created since 1980
- Now records are added to the online catalog, 10,000 items each day
- The Copyright Office has 44 million cards!
One only look at the picture I took a week ago to realize that this building is America’s temple of knowledge. But what many people do not realize is how much of that information is freely available online. Consider the featured photo of Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. What a wonderful item to highlight for our national holiday.
A personal favorite that I try and check regularly is the digital collections page. The amazing variety of subjects, images, maps and music all freely available are a researcher’s dream come true. As the daughter of two veterans of WWII, I plan to spend time listening to the After the Day of Infamy recordings. Teachers and librarians can find helpful resources for their lesson plans here.
If you are ever in D.C, do add the Library of Congress to your list of places to visit. Perhaps you, too, will look up and realize that the Librarian of Congress is standing right next to you. If she asks you if you are having a good time, take my advice. Say yes, with enthusiasm and try not to swoon.