Earlier this month I’d gone to Washington DC for vacation, but it’s only now that I’ve had time and energy to share with you what I saw while I was there! Today I’m going to show you the magnificent Library of Congress, which is an architectural (and photographic!) dream.
Unfortunately these are the few areas open to the public. The rest of the library is comprised of specialized reading rooms for which you need a library card and certain credentials to access, administrative and staff offices, and various meeting rooms. The Library of Congress is unlike traditional lending libraries where you may enter, pick a book off a shelf, and take it home to read. All books from the Library of Congress must be used within the building. Only persons 18 years old and above may use the library, but you need not be a citizen of the United States to use it; all who can show proper identification and need may apply for a library card. There is a tour of the building that lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. The guides explain the art and architecture of the two main floors and if time permits they may also show you the Reading Room viewing gallery and answer any additional questions about the Library. There are also smaller exhibits on the second floor that showcase parts of the Library’s collections, including the reason for the founding of the Library of Congress–some of the preserved books from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. The original Library of Congress was destroyed in when British troops set the Capitol on fire on August 24, 1814. To help rebuild the Library, Thomas Jefferson sold his private collection to Congress for $23,950, which is now a pittance considering the breadth of scope and the types of books in his library.
Since that time the Library has grown steadily and it now adds 11,000 items to its collection daily–it not only includes books and other print material but photographs, drawings, manuscripts, recordings, maps, and sheet music. Some of the collection can be accessed online via http://www.loc.gov for free.
For those of you with the time and interest in history, art, and architecture–the Library of Congress is a whole day’s worth of amazing things to see. If you can’t spend that much time, at least schedule a solid 2-3 hours here for the tour and to see the grand lobby area. Enjoy your visit to the Capital!