Last week I went to Washington, DC with my family. Freshman year, my dad promised me we’d go before I graduate. I graduate high school on Friday. We called it a little close, but it happened.
I didn’t realize the Library of Congress is actually three buildings: the Jefferson Building, the Madison Building, and the Adams Building. We visited the Jefferson Building because it was closest to where we ate lunch and I couldn’t convince my siblings to see all three.
The original Library of Congress was established in 1800 by President John Adams, and it had 740 books and 3 maps. They were kept in the Capital Building until the British burned it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered his 6,487-volume personal library to replace it. The current library opened in 1897 (later renamed the Jefferson Building when the library expanded) and was the first building in DC constructed with electric lights.
There were some awesome exhibits, like Thomas Jefferson’s original library (I wanted to take pictures, but they didn’t allow photography in the exhibits). But I expected to see more books.
Apparently it’s called the Library of Congress for a reason. Only members of Congress and their aides can read the books. And even they aren’t allowed to browse the shelves themselves – they decide which book they want and an automated retrieval system brings it to them.
The only room in the building where you can actually touch books is in the far corner of the basement: the young readers center. I took my 11-year-old sister there and discovered they have a YA room.
Even though it was not exactly what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Library of Congress. I wish I could have explored the other buildings, too. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves books – as long as you don’t expect 20-foot bookshelves.
(Apologies for the bad lighting in some of the pics – camera flashes weren’t allowed in the building.)