I had the chance to visit the Library of Congress' Main Reading Room recently on Presidents Day. I arrived early, about a half hour before it opened and was about 50th in line. Luckily the Reading Room is quite large and there is room to move around, but as I left and went back out to the main part of the Library, people were pouring in.
The popularity of visiting on this day became more evident as I left the Library and found a line of people down the street, just waiting to get into the building-- in 25 degree weather!
The Library of Congress was established in 1800. The main building of several comprising the Library in it's current incarnation, opened in 1897. The Library is touted as the largest repository of knowledge and creativity in the world, with a collection of over 150 million books, recordings, photos, movies and other items.
The Library faces the U.S. Capitol, and provides great views from it's second floor windows. (Some shots from these windows will be posted in my next series, detailing the U.S. Capitol)
|I was happy to be early enough to get some sunrise shots.|
|Hall above main 1st St. entry.|
|Ceiling of the Great Hall, which is 75 feet above the main floor below.|
|Names of the world's great thinkers and authors are embedded in the mosaic. I added this because I'm reading the Divine Comedy right now and in fact just finished part 1, The Inferno. Dante was a strange guy!!!!|
|The Main Reading Room is only open to the general public twice a year. Presidents Day is one of those occasions. The podium at the center of the room houses one of the rooms previously unknown features.|
|A secret door in behind the podium leads down a narrow stairwell.|
|This stairwell was 'previously unknown' because after the movie National Treasure 2, the whole world knows about it! Nicholas Cage fled down these stairs.|
|Stairwell leading down.|
|So many books........|
|The Main Reading Room contains 236 desks where researchers can use the Library's vast collection.|
|Typically, these small windows in the Main Reading Room Overlook provide the only view into the room for visitors.|
|I checked for secret compartments but didn't find the President's Book of Secrets. Guess Nicholas Cage has it after all.....|
|You name the topic, the Library has it, and there doesn't seem to be any order or method to the books locations. The books in the photo above were on a shelf directly above the books in the photo below.|
|The domed ceiling of the Main Reading Room rises 160 feet above and is loaded (like the rest of the Library) with symbolism.|
|This is a rare treat, getting to enter the Main Card Catalog!|
For more information on the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov can be of great assistance, whether you are looking for information on the collection, or on the building itself.
|Every book in the collection, which is basically every book in the world, is indexed here. Only about 1/2 are in English.|
|There are several of these archive rooms, and they go 10 stories below the ground! More are maintained offsite, along with many of the lesser-requested books and materials.|
|90% of the catalog has been indexed online, but, according to the curator I spoke with, there is no record of which 90%. They only know it includes everything archived after 1980. This means the old card catalog isn't going anywhere anytime soon.|
|This brought to mind an old be-speckled Librarian, sitting stooped over on a wooden stool, studying the card catalog for the location of an elusive book.....|
This marked my second year in a row to visit the Main Reading Room on Presidents Day and I recommend it to anyone if the opportunity arises. Remember, if you go, be there by 9:30 am or you'll be in for a wait!