The Transition: My Secret Shame
This semester I did something that I never did in my four years in undergrad; I visited the Library of Congress. I am ashamed of that fact, but I also realize that I am not the only graduate student who attended a DC university that can relate. I also did something else that I am ashamed that I never did before, I checked out a book from the stacks in Founders.
Please do not judge me. I read a lot in undergrad and spent my refund check in the bookstore instead of on clothes for Homecoming. However, I never had a need to check out a book from Founder’s. I either bought the books I needed or went to the Martin Luther King Library near Chinatown.
So what event in my life pushed me to these two libraries that were once foreign to me; a late refund deposit into my bank account. I did not have the money for my textbooks yet, so I looked online to find the books that I would need to complete my first few assignments in class. Two books could be found in Founder’s while all of the rest were at the Library of Congress. I had heard the horror stories of misplaced text books in the stacks, but I had no trouble finding the books that I needed. I could not check out the books in the Library of Congress, so Nicholas Owens, a colleague of mine in grad school, and I sat in the reading room until it closed catching up on our required reading assignments together.
Technology has afforded us the opportunity to find our required reading online or placed on reserve on the internet, but I fear a world where our young people will not know the beauty of looking for a book amongst droves of texts on a library shelf. The Library of Congress is the most beautiful library I have ever seen and I am proud to own my own research card. The architecture and artwork is gorgeous, but the fact that I can find any book that I desire on its shelves is a book-lover’s dream. Founder’s library is a historic place and an underappreciated jewel in the landscape of the nation’s capital. It was on its third floor where future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and his contemporaries would lay out their argument for Brown v. Board of Education.
In spite of its history, Founder’s library has a long way to go to be equivalent to some of our neighboring university’s libraries. I have also realized that the definition of a library is changing in this new technologically driven world. Most of the journals that graduate students need for research can be found on Howard’s online library database which is accessible from home. Most reference books are also available on the internet. Casual reading can be bought from I Tunes, Amazon, or half.com for a discounted price. When I was a little girl I could be found checking out 15 library books at a time, devouring each one, feeding my intellectual curiosity. Due to technology, I could just read the Cliff notes or find a discussion board online discussing the major points. Eventually, any book that one wants to read will be found online.
I say all of this to encourage undergrads not to make the same mistake that I did, visit the Library of Congress and really go to the stacks and check out a book. In the next decade, true libraries may be a thing of the past.