The Library of Congress
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
If she had lived in this building, I can safely assume that she would have been the happiest woman in the world! As was I when I first walked through the doors of the Library of Congress.
Last Friday, I had to go to the Library of Congress for a volunteer training for the National Book Festival. I know this might come as a shock to many, but I had never been inside the Library until last week. I can see why it was a good thing I had not entered this place before—I would never have left!
The Library of Congress was first established in 1800, and was destroyed in 1814 when the British set fire to the Capitol Building, where the library was housed. Its collection of 3000 book was completely destroyed. Within a month of its destruction, Thomas Jefferson offered to give his personal library—a collection of over 6000 books. He had spent 50 years collecting books and accumulated an impressive collection on a wide variety of topics.
In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson's offer and bought his entire collection from him for $23,950 for 6,487 books.
In December 1851, the largest fire in the library destroyed over 55,000 books which included two-thirds of Jefferson's original collection. Congress immediately set to work to replace the lost books.
I was in awe of the architecture and the artwork that filled every wall of this building, but more impressive was the fact that I was walking the hallowed halls of the largest library in the world!
For this, and many other reasons, I love living in DC!
While I was here, I managed to take in a couple of exhibitions: Books that shaped America (whose list I downloaded and started planning on reading as many of them as I could), and Thomas Jefferson's library.
Someday, I would love to have a library like his!
The other spectacular view in this library was the Main Reading Room. Magnificent in architecture and an air of reverence for the books that resided in this space, one is breathless with wonder when one sees this room from behind a glass wall, for the first time. I could spend hours taking in the details of this room, not to mention, all the days of my life reading its contents. No photography allowed, so google it :)
It was a wonderful trip to the world's largest library! Checked it off my bucket list :)