Something special from the vaults of the Library of Congress.
We are all familar with the story. Knight goes to fight the dragon, rescue the fair maiden and get rich off the dragon’s treasure. A less familar tale is dragon eats knight, fair maiden rescues herself and everybody except Sir Hor Douvre, lives happily ever after. And the treasure is a wonderous treasure of books, not shiny gold pieces. Sound familar no, didn’t think so.
However this treasure does exist in most places the world over. Spectacular libraries filled with life changing tomes new and old. A wealth of knowledge and wisdom, filled to the brim with unique artifacts of our history. People, young and old, can find something that sparks their interest and inspires them to action. Musems are also treasure troves, but that’s another post. The United States Library of Congress holds millions of items; maps, books, movies, audio recordings, newspapers and personal letters of historical people. Right now you can pull up letters that Thomas Jefferson wrote online via your computer, tablet, smart phone or in person. Maps from the 1500s, can you imagine the cartographers making those maps. These items are connections to our past and insight to our future. We need these connections to ensure we do not forget the lessons our forefathers have taught and to see the possibilities alive in our time. The trumphs we can accomplish and the obsticles and challeges we can and will meet head on.
Civilations have come and gone, empires have been forges and destroyed on the strength of their people and their leaders. Rome fell because the people stopped learning, caring and innovativing. Instead they became distracted with pursuits of leasure and pleasure. The empires of France and Britian fell becauae of courpt kings and leaders. We the people of the world need to learn from the treasure troves we have been gifted so our societies may grow and prosper.
A few days ago I shared a story about Ms. Carla Hayden being appointed as the new LoC director. I read several articles about the things she did at her previous library in Boston. She saw the importance technology could and would play in the library and took steps to make technology available. That spirit has been lacking at the LoC for some time. She understands the importance of giving people acess to knowledge via the public library.
A library is more than a building with books, computers, movies, and other stuff. A library houses a treasure of knowledge, and knowledge once gained can not be taken from you easily. They also are a way for people to connect. I smile over the image of students talking and the stern librarian shushing them. However the connection I mean is when a person today reads a sonnet by Shakespeare, they form a connection to the Baird himself, and every person that ever has or ever will read those same words. Knowledge is power, but so too is that connection joining past, present and future. Without libraries, I shudder to imagine what our world would become, education becomes unacessable and only for the elite. The populus would be doomed to a life of servitude dependent upon the educated.
Remember it has only been within the last 600 years that books became affordable and more prevelant. Before the Gutenberg Press in 1440, books were copied by hand and kept in private libraries, mostly church libraries at that. Knowledge was tightly controled by the both The Church and the aerostracy. With the creation of Gutenberg’s press, knowlege exploded into mainstream life. This was the beginning of our modern society. Think of all the books you have read through the years, those books wouldn’t have been possible without the Gutenberg Press.
Some food for thought the next time you pass your local library. Step inside and see the treasures within you may have missed. Cheers, james
You know I have become a Library of Congress convert recently. So I am tickled to share the new director of this proud historical institution. I wish Ms. Hayden all the best in her new duties.