on October 21, 2006
We went to the Library of Congress on Saturday morning. There were quite a few people there, but it wasn't crowded by any means. You need to go through a metal detector and have your bag searched to enter the library. Once inside we immediately found children's materials to help them enjoy the art in the library. There were tour groups, but we opted to do a self-guided tour (with 3 kids, it seemed more fair to the other visitors).It seems strange to go to a library and not see rows of books, but that is the case here. Of course, there are millions of books, but not in the public areas. You start up one floor from the main entrance. One of the impressive sights is the Gutenburg Bible. I'd seen one page of a Gutenburg before, but never a whole Bible. There was a big sign saying not to take photos of it, because they could deteriorate the book.The floor, ceiling and walls of the library are all adorned in beautiful artwork, including mosaics, paintings, and sculpture. There are references to American authors, and poets, but also to ancient gods and goddesses. The children's book pointed out several bits of art that the children could try to find and identify, so it helped a lot. It is much easier to look at things if the kids are looking too, instead of asking "can we leave yet?".There is one reading room that you are allowed to look into, but only with a tour group, so we hopped into a tour group so I could sneak a peak. No photography is allowed in there either. The reading room is actually several stories tall, with tables and computers for reading, but again, not stacks of books. The library has several reading rooms, and they are based at least partly on geography.There were a couple of hallways that we could look down, but not walk through. The art was beautiful down the halls too and made me wish I was there to find some books. There is a wing that is a museum of sorts, but the kids didn't want to stay to see that, so we left fairly quickly.A stop at the gift shop allowed us a sneak peak at the rest of the library, in the form of a children's non-fiction picture book. The book called "The Library of Congress" (go figure), had pictures of staff and other rooms, and explained the history of the library in simple language. The gift shop also has lots of educational toys and standard gift shop stuff. We bought some pens that were on clearance for $0.50 each.The library is open for tours Monday-Saturday only. There is no admission fee.
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