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Library of Libraries

Round library (Public Library of Stockholm, Observatorielunden).

Written by Nina Earle

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. What are your first thoughts? Do you think of the Gutenberg Bible that they present as the oldest printed book? Or do you think of Thomas Jefferson and all the books he donated to start our nation’s library, or is it just a place filled with books?

The vision I had was a circular building full of rich wooden bookshelves. I imagined running my fingers over the spines of dozens of books as I looked around. I could find a desk and crack open any book and learn something new. What I was imagining was only one room in the whole building. The reading room, where the sanctuary that I had built in my head was not a space open for me to wander. It was an in and out five minutes to absorb all the books, architecture, and knowledge in the room. Within five minutes of entering, we were pushed back into the hustle and bustle of the rest of the building. I don’t think that the rest of the library felt like a library, it was like any other Smithsonian Museum. It saddened a part of me that this library had been turned into a circus of another type. For a place that, I thought, would be dedicated to research it fell very short.

Hundreds of people were there all trying to get that perfect picture to show that they had made it or to capture the beauty of the building. There were exhibitions throughout the building for visitors to see. Even with tickets to get in, we still had to wait in line with everyone just to get in. This experience was unlike any I have ever had. If you ever can go, do it. It may not have been the experience that I was prepared for, but I enjoyed it. Be prepared though if you go, for there will be many people. It is a free experience. Visitors can also easily get a library card to do research at the Library of Congress. There is an aura to the reading room that makes it peaceful and full of potential.