Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The view from my desk

The view from my desk everyday in the European Reading Room in the Library of Congress:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The new poet laureate Joy Harjo

The Librarian of Congress has named the new poet laureate, the wonderful Joy Harjo. According to the Washington Post, "The poet laureate position, maintained through the Library of Congress, comes with a beautiful office in the Jefferson Building and a modest stipend, but no official duties. Each poet is free to design the one-year position however he or she would like." I have seen the poetry office, and I can say not only that it is beautiful, but it also has a spectacular view from the very top of the Jefferson Building.

The poet laureate position is one of the many things that make the Library of Congress great. And the poet laureate will kick off the literary season in Washington, DC.

Here is one of her poems:

'Singing Everything'
Once there were songs for everything,
Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting,
For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep,
For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war.
For death (those are the heaviest songs and they
Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief).
Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and
Falling apart after falling in love songs.
The earth is leaning sideways
And a song is emerging from the floods
And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the sun.
You must be friends with silence to hear.
The songs of the guardians of silence are the most powerful —
They are the most rare.

“Singing Everything” copyright © 2019 by Joy Harjo. To be published in “An American Sunrise,” by Joy Harjo (August 2019; W. W. Norton & Company). Reprinted in the Washington Post by permission of Anderson Literary Management.

Friday, April 5, 2019

"The Top of My List"

I was walking up the stairwell to the Library of Congress reading room with two 50-something women in jeans outfits and baseball caps. They were going to get library cards.

One said to me: "It's pretty great that we can get library cards from The Library of Congress!"

The other said: "It's at the top of my list!" 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library

Sociology professor Eric Klinenberg has written a great New York Times opinion piece based on his ethnographic research in public libraries and his new book. He states:
According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.”
He shows the variety of ways that people use public libraries and how libraries are precious social infrastructures for civil society.

Last night I was told by someone who works for a public library that I should write the librarians and tell them why I value the library so much. Join me and write letters to your public libraries letting them know why you value them!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Libraries as Respite (and Please Vote!)

From an article by Steve Kemple, librarian and branch manager in Cincinnati:

"The people in the Price Hill community rely on the library not only as a point of access to needed information, resources and entertainment, but also a respite from a stressful existence as well as a place to gather. When people walk up the steps and through the door, this is what they carry with them, this is what they seek, and this is what we try our best to provide."

"For those of you in Cincinnati, voting starts April 10th and Election Day is May 8th. If you value the important and inherently radical work that library workers perform every day, I urge you to publicly share your support for Issue 3, and, of course, VOTE!"

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Wonderful World of Books

I just read Rebecca Lossin's "Against the Universal Library." Lossin argues that librarians have come to hate paper, which is fully realized in the destruction of books (and newspapers, which is disconcerting because there are often fewer saved copies in libraries) to scan them and is symbolically expressed in the names like Kindle and Kindle Fire. This is effectively the burning of books in the name of "inevitable" technological progress. The Library of Congress has taken part in this destruction process by pioneering processes that destroy books. Libraries are now "becoming something other than a library -- a brick-and-mortar portal into the private sector." Lossin concludes, "Digitization, and the digitization of books in particular, is not benign. In both its utopian and pragmatic forms, digitization conceals a destructive impulse that not only eliminates books but threatens the very freedom of discourse it purports to promote; erodes the educational and experiences of those it claims to support; and monetizes, thus commodifies, intellectual life in the name of free access. And all of this dramatically alters the writing it contains, if it doesn't practically erase it."

From my own experience, I have been immensely frustrated with Google Books. For 20th century books, I find them often completely inaccessible or I can receive only three search results in snippets or I can get some small section of the books. I can almost always go to the Library of Congress and look at the whole book, but these books are not available to most people in the world. One day in my sociological research methods course, we were looking at documents in the archive of the university. A group of students decided that the most fascinating thing in the archive was a published book. One of the students said, "It has so much information!" I believe that Lossin is right about the wonderful world of printed books, which we can read in a sustained way.  Lossin writes:
The best thing about a printed book, however, is what it does not do. I cannot use it to watch television or check my email. My mother will never call me on it. My boss will never use it to interrupt me. In an age of constant media distractions, having a single object dedicated to a single activity -- reading -- is increasingly important.
To sit and read, especially in a peaceful, quiet public library with others, is truly a wonderful experience. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Book about The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is great! And it is the topic of a new book: John Y. Cole. America’s Greatest Library: An Illustrated History of the Library of Congress. According to Booklist Review:
Library of Congress historian Cole (Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress, 2005) has been with the institution for over 50 years. He utilizes his vast experience in this fact-filled history of the world’s largest library. From its inception in 1800 through the historic swearing in of Carla D. Hayden as the fourteenth Librarian of Congress in 2016, interesting and important dates and facts run throughout the book. Interspersed are plentiful black-and-white and color illustrations and brief background essays. This volume is recommended for anyone with an interest in the rich collections and cultural history that constitute the Library of Congress.— Jim Frutchey
Maybe I should now say that the Library of Congress is the greatest!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Get a Couple of Library Cards

In support of public libraries, I encourage everyone to get a library card for your local public library and the Library of Congress, as well as any other libraries you have been thinking about using. As many of you likely already know, a library is often a very pleasant place to sit, browse books, use a computer, write, etc., a place open to everyone. Everything public is potentially under attack. Local politicians look at the # of the population vs the # of library cardholders. If the % of cardholders to population isn't high, then they think, "Why are our people being taxed for this service?" Getting a library card is an act of support in ways bigger than you imagined. And you might find yourself spending even more glorious time in a glorious library. #lovemylibrary #supportlibraries #publiclibrary

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Librarian of Congress to be sworn in at noon

Watch Carla Hayden Swearing-In LIVE Sept. 14

Carla Hayden will be sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress by Chief Justice
of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in the Great Hall of the Library's Thomas Jefferson
Building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 14. Speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives Paul Ryan will offer remarks. Hayden will be the first woman and
the first African-American to serve as Librarian of Congress. Hayden was nominated
by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The feed begins at 11 a.m. EDT here, and the ceremony begins at noon EDT.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Become a "Library of Congress is Great" Scholar in Residence

Applications are now welcomed for "The Library of Congress is Great" Scholar-in-Residence Program. Scholars in residence must have a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card and thus, as a result, have all the benefits of being a reader in the Library of Congress. The residency does not provide housing, stipend, or salary of any kind. Join the illustrious "Library of Congress is Great" Scholar-in-Residence Program!

The application is as follows:

Is the Library of Congress great? __ Yes    __ No (disqualification)
Length of residency:
Project (summarized in one sentence):

Please submit your application (or any questions) below as a comment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

By Popular Demand: Writing Retreat Extended!

Yes, due to popular demand, the Second Annual Library of Congress Writing Retreat has been extended another week, so we'll be in writing action through Friday, May 27th.

Feel free to post your writing plans/commitments below.

For more info on the Writing Retreat, see here

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Second Annual Library of Congress Writing Retreat

Everyone is invited to the Second Annual Library of Congress Writing Retreat: Monday, May 16th to Friday, May 20th 8:30am to 5pm (self-funded lunch 12-12:30 in the 6th floor cafeteria in the Madison Building). Free and open to anyone 18 years of age or older. The main activity: writing without distractions, getting writing projects done, writing with joy, or whatever makes sense to you. 

The only requirements are that, before you arrive on Monday morning, you have a specific writing goal or specific set of writing goals for the week and that you make some sort of time commitment to the writing retreat (for example, writing in the Library of Congress all five days or four out of the five days or whatever you wish). In addition, the Library of Congress requires that you obtain a library card before going into the reading rooms. For those who wish to meet for lunch, we can talk about our writing plans, etc. 

Finally, it would be great if you would comment on this blog post, letting me know if you are planning to take part and maybe your personal writing goals for the week. Of course, those having their own writing retreats in other wonderful public libraries around the world can comment and let us know the details of their own writing retreat. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Opening Day of the Southwest Courtyard

Today, during a break from writing in the European Reading Room, I got some peanuts from the machines right below the Jefferson Building cloak room and then waltzed right into the Southwest Courtyard. It is looking great. Lots of flowers. Everything has been spruced up. Happy Opening Day!

For more info and photos of the SW Courtyard: