Let’s talk about books… and the world’s largest library!

Look at this library – whilst we may all have our moments and say with gusto “Only in America” you

Look at this library – whilst we may all have our moments and say with gusto “Only in America” you would have to say they do know how to do an impressive library. The Library of Congress is today’s central image.

Like our own National Library, I can only imagine the ideas and concepts embodied in the massive tomes in this comprehensive library and its collections – their collection of cartoons alone is impressive.

What I also find mind boggling is that from an armchair in my suburban home, I can delve into these collections almost as easily as if I travelled to Washington DC. Can you imagine keeping track of all these volumes and the riches they hold? How wonderful that the Dewey Decimal Classification system is still in use today, over 100 years after it was first published in 1876.

Do you remember the racks of drawers holding white reference cards in your local library? That black type, from a manual typewriter, on white card, revealed so many of the world’s secrets, helping me compile many an essay (frequently running late), let alone find the book which kept me from completing them in the first place. In this electronic age, the image below of the stacks of card holders for the now obsolete white cards is almost laughable.

Catalogue boxes

While searching the image, I learned that the Library of Congress:

  • Has not used these card boxes since the 1980’s but they can be used to find older titles;
  • Adds about 11,000 entries per day;
  • Holds original language copies of millions of books – more than half the library is not in English.

Tell us – have you visited the Library of Congress? What memories do you have of this monument or your local library?

Sometimes you find the most amazing books when you are not looking for them. I recently reviewed a simple, beautiful book called The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. I admit I don’t read many translations into English from other world languages, but on the occasions when I have, the journey has been so enjoyable. One of my favourite books is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery a book translated from its original French. Now a simply beautiful book translated from Japanese joins it.

Do you ever read books in another language? If you answer yes, I so envy you the gift of being multi-lingual! Please tell us: what languages do you prefer to read in? Do you read books in translation?

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Karen and the Book at 60 Team

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