For the Love of Libraries: Library of Congress

This post is an installment in my For Love of Libraries series, about the intersection of libraries and travel, and is intended to show my personal support for the 2010 Columbus Metropolitan Library levy. These posts are not meant to imply the guest authors’ support.

Today’s post was written by Jennifer Seebauer, a dear friend who has achieved her fairy tale.  She’s married to a wonderful man, parents three amazing children, and spends her days as a school librarian. She deeply thanks her fairy godmother. To learn more about her days as a librarian, please visit her at Seebauer’s Suggestions.  She’s @jsuzanj on Twitter but be careful – she shares about more than just library silliness.

***

I am a bit of a library connoisseur.  Moving mid-childhood, I had the pleasure of knowing both a rural and a suburban library.  My employment as a teen was at my neighborhood library; during my collegiate experience I enjoyed 4 years at my academic library exploring its 8 floors. I’ve explored rural, suburban, urban libraries in my own communities, my friends’ communities, and my vacation spots.  As we’ve entered the virtual age, I investigate many libraries that I may not ever set foot in.  I love libraries and will seek them out.

It was not, however, until my 10th+ trip to our nation’s capital that I finally discovered the library that rekindled that fire for the building plus its contents, the combination of both the wrappings & the gift inside.  In 2006 I stepped inside the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress by Hugaholic, from Wikimedia Commons

The Library of Congress, like many buildings in our Capitol, is a grand affair.  In fact, the Library of Congress is not one building but three setting upon Capitol Hill.  My tour was of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Its multiple layered stairs take you up and around to the front doors.  As you stroll up the stairs, you are greeted by the tall columns standing around and above tall windows.  The building gives you the impression it means serious business, yet the stairs compel you to walk in. They pull you in so you can see the wonders within.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress interior by Diliff, from Wikimedia Commons

Once inside you are greeted by a building that is a functional art piece.  High ceilings, many are stained glass lights, painted detailing, high marble arches span above you.  The floor is as magnificent with its detailed designs.  But you know you are in a library as it is not only majestic, it is a learning center meant to serve its patrons.  The spaces are geared toward movement, functionality, simplicity.  My favorite space was a walkway that allowed guests to look down into the library, to see into the stacks, to watch patrons using the requested materials, to see the library hum its natural tune.

The Thomas Jefferson Building has three floors offering many galleries of special exhibits and collections.  My companion and I toured these rooms, viewing the paintings and encased displays.  However, my mind was not focused on what I was seeing but thinking about what I was not seeing.  I wanted to know about those spaces that made the library function.  I wanted to see the behind-the-scenes spaces that were off limits to the public: the room filled with cataloguers, the rooms filled with materials needing processing, and the stacks and stacks of archived materials.

I must admit I got a bit overwhelmed with emotion thinking about how fortunate we, Americans, are to have not one but multiple buildings devoted to Libraries.  It preserves some of the most fascinating, rare, and common documents, paintings, books, and more.  The Library of Congress offers not only an archival services but typical library services.  Finally they are an authority for cataloging materials. What a gift our Forefathers left us; what a gift we continue, and rightfully so, to preserve.

As I left the Library of Congress I felt my seeking could stop; my circle had finally made its full revolution. I had again found the building that had put together the full package, the wrapping meshed with the interior wealth.

***

Libraries are incredibly romantic–full of stories, history, knowledge, and promise. I love libraries that echo this romanticism in their architecture, temples built in reverence to literature, learning, and the arts.

Like Jenn, I was also moved by seeing the Library of Congress. I remember getting a little teary, going up the staircase. So tell us, friends, do any libraries make you weepy, or are Jenn and I just saps?


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One Response to For the Love of Libraries: Library of Congress

  1. potagergardengirl says:

    not weepy but truly & deeply excited. I love their smell especially.

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