Researching a Short...at the Library of Congress
Last Monday, no fooling, I found myself on my own in Washington D.C. It was a very cold morning that I was not prepared for that left me wishing for a pair of gloves. The wind especially had a bite to it. While looking for possible things to do, I knew I wanted to visit the Library of Congress to get my library card. I figure it is the ultimate library card to have.
I was oddly excited as the Library of Congress came into view, while it was tempting to climb the steps of the Supreme Court Building and walk in the footsteps of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this would have to wait for another day. I decided to stay focused and keep going. I arrived at the Library and walked up the steps to reach the General Public Entrance. Security was surprisingly tight. I even had to remove my coat to get through security. The cold makes me a bit punchy but when I asked the security guard “Do you know how cold it is?” he immediately replied “yes ma’am we are right by the door” very politely. That did make me smirk as I proceeded through the detectors and into the Library.
Next I stopped at the Information Desk. The gentleman there answered all my questions in regards to tours and how and where to get a card. He was very nice and polite and told me to “enjoy yourself, it is after all, your library”. This would be a phrase I would hear all day to my delight. I opted to get the card first and come back for a tour later since the card is really what I came for. Little did I know that I would get so engrossed in the Library itself I would not make it back for a tour…
I finally found the Registration Room after only 2 distractions; 1) there is a Map Room located in a different building and 2) there is a Gutenberg Bible display similar to the one in Austin at the Harry Ransom Center. It was really interesting to see another one on display. Registration itself was very quick. I filled out a form on a computer and another person took my picture. (I spent more time walking down the stairs to the coat check room to drop off my bag and coat.) With new card in hand I set off to explore as a registered Researcher (this will come in handy later). The Registration Security person pointed me down a hall “check out this room, it is worth seeing”. She was absolutely right! The main reading room is breathtaking. It took me a while to actually look for a book as I was too busy looking around at all the windows, statues and rows and rows of books on multiple floors.
It was in this room that I encountered my first of several Librarians. I was given a map of the subjects and a general overview of how the room was arranged. “Your Library” was repeated again and off I went to find something to read. My intent was to do some research for The Book (see the other blog section) but I was content to just find something to read and spend more time in this amazing room.
I wandered among the alcoves reading titles and having an absolute blast. There were so many books! I finally wandered into the History alcove and then the Atlas and Almanac and Encyclopedia alcove. There I found the book I didn’t know I was looking for…The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. I could research the lingo I need for a short story idea I’ve been working on since February (along with The Book). I found a place to sit and started reading and taking notes (they allow tablets, computers, as well as the basics, paper and pen).
Quick as a wink and it was time for lunch. While packing up and attempting to put the resource away, another Librarian told me I could fill out a card and reserve my reading spot for 90 minutes. I happily did this, retrieved my bag and coat, and met my daughter, who works nearby, for lunch.
I made a few changes after lunch. I had my suitcase with me this time in order to go straight to the airport. I also entered through the “Researchers” entrance instead of the General Public entrance. Talk about feeling important! Finally, I used the coat check that was right by the entrance for added convenience since I really didn’t want to carry my suitcase down several flights of stairs. With everything checked I made my way back to the book which was right where I left it and continued my research.
The hours flew by. A text from my daughter jolted me back from my spirit book and I had to put the final touches on notes and pack everything up quickly. I returned my book to the desk and thanked the Librarian profusely and let him know that “I have had the best time today”. He replied “Glad you enjoyed your Library” and off I went with a huge grin on my face.
Retrieving my suitcase, coat, and handbag was easy but security to exit took longer than expected. They check everything! I even had to open my suitcase. I realized they were looking for stolen materials, which makes sense after all people can be so weird, so I tried not to look like I was in a huge hurry after reading well past the time I had planned to. My leisurely walk to the metro would have to be more of a walk with purpose.
Luckily the weather had improved, less windy and warmer, making the walk much nicer. The cherry blossoms were stunning and I was glad I chose to walk down the Main Mall, even though I was on the wrong side for a while. Finally, I found the Metro station I was looking for, and was able to experience that extra thrill/rush of getting off the escalator and walking right onto the train. It was even the correct train and I was only a few stops away.
Long story short, I made it to the airport, through security and to the gate with 45 minutes to spare (a little closer than I like). Once on the plane, I looked over my notes, smiled to myself, and started piecing the Spirit World short story together…more on that one to come. If you ever find yourself in DC with some time I highly recommend a stop at the Library of Congress. I know I’m going back as soon as I can with my card in hand and going in the Researchers entrance!