The Reading Room

Library of Congress

Me: I have an all-day training session at the Library of Congress.
The husband: Oh, that will be fun for you.
Me: It’s in the Madison Building though.
The husband: You should go for half of it and then spend the rest of the day in the Main Reading Room. Take a page from my book on attending teacher training conferences.
Me: Hahaha. But hmmm. I have never been to the Reading Room. Can I get in there?
The husband: Your badge will get you in.
Me: It will? I’ve never tried. I can get into the main part where all the people are researching and all the tourists look down on them from the glass cage up above, like specimens?
The husband: Yeah. You should check it out, you’d love it.
Me: They’ll really let me in?
The husband: Yes. And then you can dance around like Belle.

That’s what sold me. Taking a lunch hour to be in the largest library in the world, a place with limited access and practically unlimited volumes of knowledge and wisdom (and Harry Potter!) was really an opportunity it would have been silly to ignore.

So after the husband and I ate our leftovers on the Library of Congress patio (Madison Building) I strolled over to the Jefferson Building (there are four Library of Congress buildings, btw. The Jefferson Building is the main one, the one people picture when they picture the LoC.) and tucked in through the carriage entrance.

I told the kindly gentleman at the information counter that I was there for the Reading Room and showed my Congressional staff ID. Amazing what that little bugger can do for you! He directed me through the winding halls of the building and soon I was at the entrance to the Reading Room. The kind but no-nonsense security guard told me I was supposed to have checked my bag in the cloakroom downstairs, since I wasn’t there on official business. I asked him what would constitute official business and maybe I could make an argument for it, but I was just a staffer there on my lunch hour. Congressional staff? Do you have your badge? Go ahead.

Go ahead I did. With a kid-in-a-candy-store grin on my face, I floated as if on a cloud walked through the “mountains of books, cascades of books!” I even took some of the winding secret staircases I came across.


With no direction but feeling like I should pull at least one book from its shelf, I wandered until finally, there it was. Who’s Who in 20th Century Great Britain. Baroness Margaret Thatcher had passed away just that morning. The husband and I had (middle) named the little oyster after her, and it seemed only fitting to pay a small tribute to her in this way. I pulled the book from the shelf, searched for Thatcher, and read the small blurb that, of course, as yet only included her birth date and marriage dates. I left the large volume open on the research table and went back to work.

reading room

Enraptured though I was, I did not, in fact, dance around like Belle. Maybe next time.



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