In January of 1987 Professor James Dickey taught one of the most brilliant poetry courses in the nation. Dickey offered the course as both professor and poet to graduate students in the Ph.D program in English at the University of South Carolina. In addition to being an excellent teacher, Dickey inspired his graduate students to be excellent researchers. He praised the Library of Congress as being one of the greatest library collections in the world.
On Friday October 18, 2013, the Library of Congress provided the customer service that would have made Professor Dickey proud. On a beautiful day in Washington as visitors again returned to its hallowed halls, the Library of Congress provided the type of service that only a world class library can provide. The present writer's important Library of Congress identification and access card was renewed in five minutes until 2015.
Here is the story. With encouragement from Professor Dickey, the present writer began his research at the Library of Congress in 1987. The first visit to the Madison Building was memorable because the library had a copy of the 1972 literary work by a young writer from South Carolina who was inspired by the work of Daniel Alexander Payne (1811-1891).
Professor Dickey called the Library of Congress, “Thomas Jefferson’s dream,” because the library began with books donated by President Thomas Jefferson. It is truly amazing that a small donation of books by Jefferson would eventually grow into one of the largest library collections in the world.
As a literature professor at Howard University the present writer often took his Howard students to events at the Library of Congress. When Poet Rita Dove became the first African-American poet laureate at the Library of Congress it was a cause of celebration and students were given an introduction to the vast collections in the Jefferson Reading Room.
The Library of Congress has three principle buildings on Capitol Hill: The Adams Building, the Madison Building, and the Jefferson Building. Each building houses unique collections. For example, as a journalist the Madison building is a research treasure trove as the newspaper and periodical section is located there. Newspapers from around the world are stored there. The Jefferson Building hold the main reading room and has card catalogs that create a sense of history by allowing a scholar to research actual paper cards that may have been touched by the most brilliant minds in the world.
In addition to the National Book Festival, the Library of Congress offers cultural programs year round to give Americans the opportunity to experience many aspects of American history and culture. Many great American scholars and poets have given lectures at the Library of Congress. The government shutdown, the days when the doors of the Library of Congress were locked, closed, and shut down, made the importance of that incredible resource that much more precious.
After 40 years of using the resources available through the Library of Congress the service was never truly appreciated until it was no longer available. Thank goodness the Library of Congress is open for business.