Studying at the Library of Congress

DAY FIVE // Did you know that the Library of Congress, the most comprehensive library in the United States, is a working library? Meaning, you can get a library card and get access to some parts of the library.

On our last day in Washington, D.C., Rachell and I ended up spending most of our day surrounded by old textbooks, in a place where so many great minds have partaken in studies themselves. In that sense, it was surreal to think about.

Our first stop was getting a library card. To do this, we had to go to the Madison building of the Library of Congress. We went to the registration room and from there, filled out an application just like how you would at a regular library. In addition to, you will get your photo taken. Be prepared! Haha.

If you have proper identification, then they will issue you a normal card. I, for some reason, totally forgot my California ID at a different bag but they accepted my college ID. The only thing is, my card is only good for the day. This is not a problem since it’ll be a long while until I come back (if ever), but it would have been awesome to have gotten the true card of Library of Congress as a souvenir.

Once we had our new library cards in hand, we waddled to the other LoC building, the Jefferson Building, where the real action took place.

*btw, there is an underground passageway from the Madison building to the Jefferson building that was pretty neat to go through!

Since being a tourist means trying to get as much out of the experience as possible, Rachell and I also opted for their tour. It started off with a quick video of what the LoC had to offer, and then everyone was split into groups with a tour guide for each group.

I enjoyed ours. He was a former university professor who had a sense of humor, and told us a lot about the history of the building and the architecture. If I had him as a history teacher in years as a student, I would have probably paid more attention.

With that said, even though I remember thoroughly enjoying my experience, I barely remember what he talked about! Aiyaya.

Ah well.. at least I hope you enjoy the photos!

After the tour was done, Rachell and I went to their beautiful Reading Room where we could actually put our new library cards to use. The room was massive, and beautiful, and daunting. When I walked in, the room was eerily silent.

I started taking iPhone photos of the room, and immediately was scolded by one of the librarians. Apparently, you can’t take any photos of the Reading Room. Whoops!!

We walked around the round room, just admiring everything. When we were ready to read a particular book that was not on the shelves, we had to fill out a form and hand it in to a librarian. Due to the sheer amount of books that the library has (they receive two copies of every book published in the United States, and is the most comprehensive library in the world with over 32 million books and 61 million manuscripts!), many are not displayed in the Reading Room. When you give a librarian your form, they will then get your book from storage and have it to you within 45 minutes.

The amount of detail in government buildings in Washington D.C. that was built back during the era when the founding fathers were still alive is astounding. For example, in this room, the statues that overlook the desks are prominent scholars in history. When you are in here studying, there is a powerful feeling in the room as if you are meant to feel inspired by these guys to study and think as you look up. I certainly did.

Remember when I said we couldn’t take any photos of inside the Reading Room?

Ah! I’m sorry but I just had to take one of me sitting and ‘studying’ The Odyssey! It’s the blogger in me! Please don’t crucify me! XD

I was SO tempted to ask for a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, thinking they would have a First Edition book, but the thought of having to wait 45 minutes kind of killed it. We hadn’t planned on staying that long.

This woman was just slightly impressed by the Giant Bible of Mainz, one of the last bibles prior to the invention of the printing press.

Haha, anyway.

If you go to Washington, D.C., I highly recommend getting a library card and exploring the Reading Room. I am amazed at how little people were there when we went! I mean, the amount of people going through the doors of the Library of Congress to tour the building was massive, and yet hardly anyone was at the Reading Room! WHYYYY?!?!

I know it takes a little more effort to get a library card and walk down, go through security, and such. But it’s a beautiful room and I think it was absolutely worth the experience.

And this, my friends, end our trip to Washington, D.C. Ah, it was a lovely trip full of history and education. We were super bummed that it didn’t work out with the Cherry Blossoms but at least the city held our attention the whole time we were there.

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