The Library of Congress is one of my favorite haunts
The first time I had to sneak in because I was still in high school. I confess this, hoping that the statute of limitations has expired. While other folks ditched classes to cruise the mall, I transgressed once by riding with Dad into the District to research a senior term paper, "The Effects of The Great Depression on Communist Party Membership in the United States."
I had already tried the Richard Byrd branch library. Its only book-- a 1958 tome by J. Edgar Hoover--warned that the shoe salesman peeking up my skirt might be a communist.[h/t to civil liberties lawyer Paul Wolf (email) for the excerpt from his archival research resources] The college libraries weren't much better.
I would have repeated such forays, but the truant officer called and when I got home Mom told me I was lucky he asked the right question:
He asked whether I knew you were not in school and I said yes. If he had asked me if I knew you were skipping school I would have told him the same thing.Later, I'd visit the rare book room where you don cotton gloves and trade your pen for a pencil stub to wonder at William Blake's original illustrations ( still available--not sure if this link will work--and you can also view the digital copy of the 1794 edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
At last count there were 93 items by William Stafford and a shelf they'll lend you as an "independent researcher to amass a temporary private stash.
Partnership with Flickr marred by censorship
The shortage of books at the local and college libraries was my first experience with the remnants of McCarthy era censorship. Imagine, instead, the Library of Congress, a place where everything in print was available!
So I was disappointed to learn that the Childrens’ Internet Protection Act (ALA resources) was causing access problems to the LOC's partnership with Flickr announced by Matt Raymond announced the at the LOC blog today in a post titled, "My Friend Flickr: A Match Made in Photo Heaven."
Molly Large commented there on CIPA:
I’d like to encourage the LOC to mirror the data on their own site. The vast majority of districts I work with block Flickr because of CIPA compliance. Since Flickr names images within their root directory, and only links to those from the subdirectory, it doesn’t seem to work for the district to unblock www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress.As I noted in my response, rather than mirroring, perhaps Congress should fix the underlying problem with the legislation which results in the blocking of Flickror the libraries should fine-tune their implementation, if the law already allows.
But until then, as long as you're not on a blocked computer, you can interact with a portion of LOC's photo collection. As of today, there are two sets of photos there awaiting your tags and comments:
- 1,615 color transparencies taken by the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939-1944; and
- 1500 glass black and white negatives from the Bain News Service depicting sports, theater, crime, strikes, disasters, and politics, especially in new York City during the period 1910-1912.
Besides the Flickr photographs, you can view the catalog. But there's much more. Try out the Thomas legislative database, the American Folklife Center, the American Memory project, the Veterans' History project, online versions of exhibits and more.
The thing missing (besides the books, the desks, the reading lamps....) as I sit here tapping away at the computer is the social aspect.
During college, while other folks hooked up in bars, I met a fellow who took me to the Kennedy Center as I worked my way through all the works of Flannery O'Connor. Another introduced me to my first Fellini flick, La Strada.
So by all means, visit the library online. But, next time you're in DC, why not stop in at the actual library...