Saturday, May 12, 2012
Library of Congress
I had gotten a reference question from a friend in Chicago that morning. He is an engineer researching Latvian archaeoastronomy in his free time. In an obituary he read that a man had published articles on this in a nature and history calendar (Dabas un Vestures Kalendars) of 1970-72. Could I help him find copies of this. I know we had this publication and these years at the Latvian Studies Center Library. I am not completely sure, but I think that the University of Washington didn't take these as they don't collect calendars, not realizing that the calendars from Latvia are hundreds of pages long and consist of articles. So I checked WorldCat - 8 libraries in the U.S. own this publication, but most did not list holdings or the ones listed were too recent. The Library of Congress is one of the libraries listed, so I write down the call number, as this is the day I am visiting LC.
I walk into LC and the sound of tourist voices echo in the Great Hall. I stop at the information desk. which is like those for museums or other tourist places with maps, guides, etc. I take them, but ask for the European Reading Room. He gives me directions through a maze of corridors. I see a sign that says "Staff and Researchers only." I almost turn back and then remember, oh yeah, I am a "researcher." Now I have entered the real hallowed halls of LC.
To get to ask for the calendars I wanted for my friend, I needed to get a Reader Card in the Madison building next door. OK, this will be a good experience in seeing the process a researcher has to go through. Most of my previous visits to LC were to catalogers in the Madison building, one of the most confusing buildings I have ever tried to navigate, even though they have tried to color code the corridors like in my childhood Parcheesi boards. Harry suggested I use the tunnels, so I didn't have to go outside or through security again, so I wound my way through the maze, though at one point when I was looking for an elevator, an elderly reader pointed it out to me with the comment "You looked like a tourist - no insult intended."
Registration was painless - you show your ID, they record it. Then you sit down at a computer and fill in your address, age (16-17 or 18 plus) and status. I could indicate I was a faculty member. I also had to fill out some of the same info on a paper form. Then a person pulled up my data, snapped a photo of me, and voilà I now have an LC Reader Card. I should be in the system permanently, but need to renew the card after two years.
I returned to the European Reading Room, ordered my calendars, made my copies, and emailed them to the friend. I knew that he would be impressed, but had to laugh when he asked where he could nominate me for a Emmy/Grammy/Oscar for librarians.