Book Church: The Library of Congress

posted in: Paean 1
Not pictured: 29 million books.
Not pictured: 36 million books.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now — if you could zap yourself somewhere this instant — where would you put yourself? The zen answer is: “Why, I’d want to be exactly where I am!” and if this is how you answered the question, congratulations. You are an Enlightened One and may I say, the soft glow emanating from your head gives a lovely light.

For those of us who answered the question differently, I salute both your imagination and your discontent. I can only imagine the wonderful responses:

“I’d be at a racetrack!”
“I’d be at gramma’s house!”
“I’d be scuba diving in shark infested waters!”

Enlightenment sounds lousy, anyhow. What, you just sit around seeing the Nature of Things? Emerging from your nonage? Boooring. Bring a book. Speaking of books, if I could zap myself anyplace in the world, I would choose The Library of Congress.

I’ve never been inside but I have plans to visit soon. The Library of Congress, as many readers know, is located in Washington, D.C., in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It is the largest library in the world.** Contrary to popular belief, the library does not hold every book ever published ever in the universe, but the truth is so jaw-dropping there’s no need to dress up the stats: 158 million items can be found on the shelves of the LOC, shelves that measure a total of 838 miles. The LOC website tells us that the collections hold “more than 36 million books and other print materials, 3.5 million recordings, 13.7 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 6.7 million pieces of sheet music and 69 million manuscripts.” Also, the Gutenberg Bible is there. Also, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. Also, my book!

It’s all contained in a Beaux-Arts building that looks like the enormous lovechild of a wedding cake, a sultan’s summer home, and The Coliseum.

When I find myself in D.C. next, I’ll take my journal and several books to the Main Reading Room in the Jefferson Building and sit myself down in the glory, glory. I’m sure I’ll have to get some special pass or I.D. sticker and I’m happy to do so. I am still a student, which should help.

So that’s where I’d zap myself. The LOC. There, the lights are low but focused. Like the light of Enlightenment, but available to us all.

**In the world!

  1. […] Image via Mary Fons […]

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