08 December 2008

Feeling scholarly


On Saturday I visited the Library of Congress to--get this--do research. Yes. That's right.

I've been a few times before, but it's generally been for tourism-related reasons. Which are valid enough; it's a beautiful building with great exhibits and other things to see inside. But this is the first time I was there to sit down with rolled-up sleeves and my glasses slowly sliding down my nose while I craned over hard-bound tomes belonging to our nation's official source for congressional research.

So yeah, I felt pretty cool. Here are some highlights of a visit to the LOC, whether for research purposes or otherwise:
  • It's like a full-service library. When you know the call number of the book(s) you want, you fill out a slip and hand it to the librarian. In a little while they bring your books to you at the desk you've chosen. And they're all really helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable if you need any help with your research.
  • It's full of history. The original LOC burned down in 1814 when a bunch of drunk British Canadians ransacked our capital. As we rebuilt, Thomas Jefferson donated his personal (and quite extensive) book collection to form the foundation of the new library. The builders also decided to stick it to the Brits by making the building better than ever, using the finest materials. Up in the rotunda there were some accoutrements that called for metallic leafing, so they used the rarest and most expensive metal available at the time: aluminum.
  • Aluminum leafing aside, it's a beautiful building (as I mentioned before). The inside of the rotunda and all of the vaulted ceilings in the public areas are all covered in mosaic. I love mosaic. More about the art and architecture incorporated into the LOC here.
  • People are quiet inside because it's a library. If only people would be quiet in the Lincoln Memorial, seeing as it proclaims itself a temple.
  • They've got a Gutenberg Bible in a glass case. So cool.

11 comments:

Cabeza said...

P.S. The title of this post was originally going to be "Feelin' scholarly," but it left a bad Palin aftertaste. A pox on her for ruining casualspeak.

Darren said...

"Feelin' scholarly" would only remind me of Palin if there was a big "durrrrrrrrrrr" at the end.

Jen Brooks said...

Ah the Library of Congress, my favorite building in all the land. I would find it hard to do research while there; I’d be staring at the ceilings and windows the entire time.

Christina said...

As a former library employee and a self-professed lover of libraries, I'm jealous. I've only been there as a tourist. I need to get on the ball and get myself a library card for the LOC. I fear, however, that I would fare no better than Jen. I'd be too distracted by the history, beauty and all-around awesomeness (in any sense of that word) of the building.

So was it worth it? Did you find sources there that only the LOC can provide?

JKC said...

Dude, the LOC rocks. When I did my semester in DC, I used to do homework in the main reading room just so I could say that I did homework in the LOC. So cool.

BTW, the word verification word is "cowshi." Cowshi: a raw beef dish prepared with seaweed and rice, served with soy sauce and wasabi.

Anne said...

Did you visit the Thomas Jefferson library exhibit while you were there? If you didn't, you should probably go back and check it out. It is fantastic.

I was a patron of the LOC when I worked on the hill. I'd request a book and they would deliver it to my office. Best service ever!

ke said...

Aluminum leafing, like covered with the de-papered bit of gum wrappers aluminum leafing?

Cabeza said...

Christina--I did indeed find a book that I wasn't able to get anywhere else, and it was pretty valuable to my research.

Anne--I have NOT seen Jefferson library exhibit you speak of. I'll have to check that out.

KE--Er, something akin to that. But nicer looking than your binder in high school.

David M. Miller said...

Great historical synopses, and I love the Great Hall pic (did you take it?)

Didn't Jefferson sell his library to congress, rather than donate it? Also, did you happen to see the CVC? What did you think?

Cabeza said...

Everything I've heard/read on the subject indicates that the Jefferson collection was a donation, but I could be wrong on this point.

I did not take the Great Hall picture--swiped it off the internet.

What's the CVC?

Warren said...

I've spent I don't know how much time there doing research. I'm impressed with the collection of books they have, they had about every history book written in Portuguese that I wanted, and one written in French by a guy from Portugal. Although it would take forever for some of the books to arrive. I started ordering the books on one day and then going the next day to read them.