I doubt that bookworms go to Heaven, but I’m guessing that if they had their druthers, Heaven would look an awful lot like the Library of Congress. Located in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world (in terms of physical space) and, if you need a book to read, I’ll wager money that this massive archive has it.
On April 24, 1800, President John Adams signed an Act of Congress transferring the seat of government from Philadelphia to a new city, named after the first President. Part of the Act set aside $5,000 for the purchase of books and maps, as well as a place to house them. The Library of Congress was born when the first 770 books and maps arrived from London and were placed in the Capitol.
A fire hazard? Oh yeah. The Library has burned twice. It was completely destroyed when the British burned the Capitol in 1814. And on Christmas Eve, 1851, a second fire destroyed more than half the collection, including much of Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection, purchased after the first fire.
Today, the Library of Congress contains more than 500 miles of shelf space and houses more than 30,000,000 books. In addition, it possesses another 130,000,000 items, such as recordings, photos, maps, and antiquities. And thousands of items are added every day. It is maintained by a staff of several thousand employees and has an annual budget of more than half a billion (yes, billion) dollars. Most of the photography displayed on Today’s History Lesson comes from the Library of Congress’ huge digital archive. So while the British Library might have more stuff in it, it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t have to go overseas because you can’t find what you want.
Recommended Reading: John Adams – David McCullough is a terrific author, and his biography of our 2nd President is wonderful.