Woke up early for 8am gathering at the hotel lobby. The destination was the Library of Congress, at an event hosted by the LC-Globe group. When they heard about us coming into town for the conference, they wanted to invite some of our authors for a reading. In addition, they offered us a tour of the LoC and I was one of the fortunate ones to have been able to secure a place on the tour.
The LoC is the American version of the British Library, housing a vast collection of books, papers, music, audio and all sorts of research material. Anything that is copyrighted has a copy at the LoC, and they do not limit by subject, format, or language.
We started at the lobby and the balcony, as the tour doesn’t go into the actual library itself. Really really impressive, opulent decoration. As our guide Nick said, the purpose was to
The view from the balcony into the library was enough to show how wonderful it is.
We were able to see Thomas Jefferson’s library, a collection of books contributed by Jefferson from his personal library. Over 6,000 books that the LoC paid US$24,000 for. What was interesting was that he classified his books under 3 main categories: memory, reason, and imagination. For instance, a history book would fall under memory and a science book under reason.
Some of the books were lost in a fire, but the LoC has been diligently replacing what they could from the library’s own archives or by purchasing elsewhere. Again, impressive.
There was also several exhibitions inside the LoC. The America Reads exhibition showed a selection favourite books chosen by the public. Lovingly preserved first editions of many popular classics. Another exhibition was of the personal papers and works of Jacob Riis. Then another one of maps. We also saw one of 3 copies of the Gutenburg Bible. All in all, lots to see.
We walked through one of the underground tunnels connecting the buildings to the reading. Felt like a member of the Secret Service. The author reading was attended by our group as well as LoC staff. Great authors reading their representative works. Afterwards when they had a signing session, I went over to the registration office and applied for a Library of Congress library card. They looked at my driver’s licence, took a picture and I had my own card in 5mins. Very cool!
Got back to the hotel with just enough time to get my registration badge before the conference started. After the introductions and acknowledgements, we went straight to sessions. I attended two vastly different sessions: one on how to overcome distractions when working from home and another one that touched on this year’s theme of diversity. I skipped the third session to get a breather and to explore the vendor room. I brought a few things for the silent auction so I took them down too.
The first evening is always the ice cream social. I’d only had some string cheese in the morning and a doughnut whilst at the LoC so I was hungry. The ice cream helped. Someone said there was beer tasting at the bar so a few of us went. The tasting was only a small sample of a locally brewed porter. It was nice, so we ordered a glass each.
Dinner was from a food truck that was organised specially for us this year. They were late, but didn’t matter. A bunch of us went outside to the car park. Today it was barbeque. I had the platter: chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork and chose 2 sides of mac’n’cheese and collard greens. Came with a cornbread. Went really well with the porter.
Went over to the lounge and was “kidnapped” to join a dinner group. I was still hungry but it was the opportunity of joining this group that was the incentive. Learned a lot just from a couple of hours in their illustrious presence.