This post originally appeared on the Times Union Books Blog
I’m a nerd for anything that I can learn from, so a day and a half excursion to Washington, D.C. is a ripe opportunity to learn and admire. And there was no better place out of all of the touching and awe-inspiring memorials, monuments, and museums than the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building as a book lover and librarian. As one Facebook friend commented, “Mecca!” I truly would have, if I wasn’t going to be trampled by roving tourist groups and admirers, laid down in the middle of the ornate Great Hall and sighed a big sigh of love. A great love of books. And as my two souvenirs quoting Thomas Jefferson attest, “I cannot live without books.” One adorns my bookshelf and one will adorn my wrist.
As much as the fountains and facade were surreal and the overlook to the Main Reading Room was gorgeous and touring the building’s hallowed halls were epic, I spent the most amount of time learning about Thomas Jefferson’s collection, arranged in a glass-encased circle and organized in his three categories of Reason, Imagination, and Memory. Then, studying the two exhibits: America Reads and Jacob Riis: Revealing “How the Other Half Lives”. Both of these exhibits are temporary with Riis’ ending in less than a week and America Reads ending in December. It feeds the mind and is a feast for the eyes with stunning images, easily read captions, and a powerful story to tell.
Visit this jewel when in Washington, D.C.– the “world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, with a growing collection of more than 162 million items”. The library (and any library for that matter) is what will sustain us. A popular quote when positions and library funding is being cut is Walter Cronkite’s
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
And the $23,950 that was allocated in 1815 to purchase Jefferson’s collection when the British burned Congress’ first is just such a cost.
If I never get back there again, it will be okay– a new adventure in a new place to learn new stuff, but I’m richer for this experience. I stopped to breath it in and admire it in a way I hope the many visitors do even if they’re not nerds for it like me.What library have you visited that takes your breath away?