SHelf Esteem

The
Washington Post
Has a fanatasticArticle on the Library
of Congress. Everything you wanted to know, and more.

\" Another truth America\'s Founding Fathers
held to be self-evident was that ignorance is the enemy
of democracy. In December 1800, before our young
government had finished moving to its new capital at
Washington, the good ship American left London
bearing 740 books bound for what was to become our
national library.
The problems and promise that face the Library of
Congress in the year 2000 are not unlike those of 1800,
just infinitely more complex: keeping its resources safe
and yet readily available; keeping track of what\'s where;
preserving and restoring fragile books, documents,
maps and other artifacts; serving the needs of
Congress and the other branches of government;
staying abreast of national and world art, the lively arts,
history, the sciences and medicine, literature,
government and scholarship; collecting the icons and
ephemera that will help future citizens understand the
attitudes and spirit of previous generations; and
anticipating developments in information technology.
The Library has been an international leader in
computerization and document digitalization--and has
paid some penalties for being out in front in adopting
recording and storage techniques and media that have
rapidly become outmoded. Trying to maintain morale
and efficiency among a staff of 4,194 that\'s perpetually
overworked and underpaid remains a management
nightmare, exacerbated by allegations of racial, sexual
and cultural discrimination--all evidenced by several
lawsuits and in-house studies. These themes
resonate throughout \"America\'s Library\" by James
Conaway, who was commissioned to write the
handsome coffee-table commemorative volume from
which this account is largely cribbed.

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