April 06, 2008

TSOTC Comparative Review: Library of Congress vs. Georgetown University Library

Letâs just make sure that I never get a job at Georgetown or with the federal government, shall we?


Borrowing privileges: Virtually unlimited with visiting scholar temporary library card.

Ease of access: Medium. Circulator bus to Georgetown area,then walk uphill on slippery bricks to campus. Or, lie and cheat your way onto the shuttle from Dupont Circle, then get lost on campus.

Hours: Claims to be open until 2 AM. Seriously!

Surrounding area: Ranges from swanky to student.

Building: Hideous. Almost as hideous as partially demolished McHenry Library at UCSC.

Georgetown Library.jpg

View from building: Impressive. These nearby buildings are very nice. But theyâre not the library.

Georgetown Healy.jpg

Religiosity: Jesuit. Pbbbbtht!

Holdings: Small, strangely conservative. Distinct gaps in Lukacs and Marxist criticism.

Staff: Patronizing, intrusive. Likely to lecture you about proper copier use. Likely to interrupt you repeatedly to ask why youâre enlarging things.

Things youâre not allowed to bring in: Snotty visiting scholar attitude; desire to Xerox without consultation.

Substantive work accomplished there so far: Iâve got the reader for my summer course 99% assembled. Most of the work took one marathon day.

Need to leave the building at some point: High. Virtually deserted; easy to spend twelve hours there; will drive you insane.


Borrowing privileges: Not as such. The books youâre allowed to touch are delivered via conveyor belt to my study shelf, where I can keep them as long as I need them. I can take digital pictures of prints, photographs, and maps. I can pay for someone else to photocopy the things Iâm not allowed to touch.

Ease of access: Farragut West to Capitol South. Piece of cake.

Hours: Limited, extremely punctual. Surprisingly variable between buildings, reading rooms, and days of the week.

Surrounding area: Government center. Opulent, impressive, purposeful. Also, perpetually under construction/renovation.

Building: Gorgeous. There are three buildings, of which the Jefferson Building is the main and the most beautiful.

Library of Congress 2.jpg

View from building: To your right, the Supreme Court. Straight ahead, thatâs the Capitol.

Supreme Court.jpg


Religiosity: Separation of church and state, baby!

Holdings: More than 500 miles of books and other print materials. 10,000 new materials acquired per working day. Holy shit.

Staff: Patient, capable, helpful, friendly, welcoming. Deliver armloads of materials to you without you having to lift a finger. The one guy in the map room gets kind of annoyed when you don't know what you are looking for and are evidently fucking around, though.

Things youâre not allowed to bring in: Weapons, musical instruments, camping equipment.

Substantive work accomplished there so far: Unclear. Iâve looked at political cartoons and spent several hours locating funny place-names on 1890s survey maps. Oh, and I discovered that the San Fernando Valley, in which I grew up, used to have a slightly more desolate and Old-Westy name.


Need to leave the building at some point:
None whatsoever. Large chunks of Capitol Hill are connected by a series of underground tunnels. The cafeteria on the 6th floor of the Madison building has better food than a lot of restaurants in Santa Cruz. It has its own credit union. The Library is basically a citadel. Oh, except they will kick you out at 5.


Posted by katie at April 6, 2008 01:29 PM

last semester i read about the LoC audio visual collection which is in a mountain in virginia. a mountain! (i think it's actually a hill, but they like to bill it as a mountain). LoC is the bomb, i wish i could work there.

Posted by: michele at April 6, 2008 09:41 PM

Oh, wow. An underground media silo. I love it.

Posted by: katie at April 7, 2008 03:31 PM