or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

C-SPAN Documentary on the Library of Congress

   July 28th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Library of Congress signIf you've already seen the new Harry Potter and Captain America movies and thus have run out of things to watch, never fear - C-SPAN to the rescue!

C-SPAN has a new documentary on the Library of Congress, which is definitely worth watching (if you're interested in the history and function of the LoC, that is). I think it originally aired on Monday, July 18, 2011, and it kept me interested for the full hour and thirty minutes.

I've toured the LoC twice, and yet almost everything in this documentary was new to me. My favorite parts were the murals depicting good and bad forms of government (as a result of embracing or rejecting knowledge), and the tour of the preservation area, including the "document bath."

Not that you need it, but here are more teasers from their website:

“The Library of Congress” reveals details of:

  • The Great Hall, Reading Room , and exterior of the Jefferson Building
  • Some of the treasures among its books, maps, photos, and presidential papers
  • The History of the Library of Congress and its Jefferson Building
  • The Jefferson Library and other treasures of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division
  • The painstaking care of the Library’s collections
  • The use of technology to reveal new information about historical documents

About the Library of Congress:

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with nearly 150 million items. It was started in 1800. Its first books were bought from England with a $5,000 appropriation from Congress. Housed in the U.S. Capitol, the library was destroyed in 1814 when British soldiers burned the building. Hearing of the fire, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell Congress his book collection. After much debate, Congress agreed to buy the collection for just under $24,000. In 1851, another fire destroyed 2/3 of the library’s holdings. In 1870, Congress passed copyright legislation that required two copies of every book published be sent to the Library of Congress. Subsequently, the holdings of the library grew extensively. Congress debated whether to give the library its own building. That didn’t happen until much later. The library moved out of the Capitol building and into the Jefferson building in 1897. Today, the Library of Congress spans over a total of 8 buildings.

Something I just noticed: The Jefferson building of the Library of Congress was built in 1897, and the Chelmsford Library was built in 1894 - that was a good decade for libraries.

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