Large dark marble columns. Bronze statues of influential authors encircling the uppermost levels. Stained glass windows reflect the white and gold of the ornate domed ceiling. Curved wooden desks with glass tops and desk lamps that take you back to university libraries of old, a matching wooden desk chair sits at each station. Dark patterned carpet muffles any footsteps that may fall.
There’s no denying the beauty and sacredness of this place.
. . . . . .
The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress may be the most ornate room I have ever been in. The feeling begins the moment you walk into the building and make your way toward the Room.
Once you check your bag, bringing only what you need in a clear plastic carry bag, you make your way through the marble lobby of the Library and into a winding hallway. I felt I was being led down a secret passage, like I was being let in on an age-old secret. Take the elevator one level up, and you walk into the entry to the research area.
I stopped to take in my surroundings and just oogle at everything in front of me. I almost cried at the mere sight of it all. I was overwhelmed, in the best way possible, and I couldn’t wait to spend time there working. The receptionists and research assistants asked me a few times if I needed any help.
“Oh, no,” I told them, politely giddy, “I’m just exploring.”
They gave me polite nods in return, with a “let me know if you need anything,” but their expressions told me I may have been the most excited person they had seen enter the building. They probably thought I was crazy.
. . . . . .
Ever since I learned to read, I have been enamored with words and books. I used to annoy my parents just reading every sign I encountered. I would check out stacks of books from the library only to return them a few days later and replace them with more. I was the child that read multiple books at a time. In fact, I got in trouble for reading. Specifically, I once got reprimanded in a junior high English class because I was trying to read my book under the table while we were watching Romeo & Juliet (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio).
Being someone who loves books, I love libraries. I love looking at the architecture, the layout, the offerings of texts. When I got to my first university, I had to drag my mom to the library just to look around. I would hang out on a high-level floor in-between classes just because I reveled in the silence. When that library was redone, I spent even more time there. When my husband and I transferred universities, he chuckled as I begged him to let us explore the library of this new college so I could just see it.
Being an hour from Washington D.C., I decided a few months ago to get my Reader Card for the Library of Congress. This gives the card holder access to the Reading Rooms of the Library, which means access to the books. Granted, you can’t remove books from the premises, but it was still so magical to me.
Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited, but I guess that means I’ll just have to go back.
. . . . . .
Today I got to put that Reader Card to use.
I spent about three hours in the Library. Maybe two of those hours were me writing, working on my memoir, and exploring what books I may find. The last hour was me perusing the Library Shop because there’s no way I could leave without purchasing something. (I went for a t-shirt with a Hermione Granger-inspired quote: “When in doubt, go to the library.”)
I could have spent much more time there, but I got really cold. (They must have had the air conditioning turned on super high.)
This was one way for me to get in “the writing zone” and take my writing seriously. And in that room, I felt like a writer. It was an incredible feeling. I worked on my memoir, editing and adding, and separating certain paragraphs that would fit better in another location of the memoir. I began constructing the layout of the memoir, the general theme, and stories I could add to it.
I felt so inspired.
It was a moment where I thought this is what God has me doing… I suddenly felt this is what it means to take my writing seriously.
I can’t wait to go back.