Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Road Tripping.

The Library of Congress, by Allan Fowler. We were hoping to visit the Library of Congress last weekend-- we were staying in the DC area for a few days, as we had a wedding to attend outside of Richmond. We were, unfortunately, unable to make it to the LoC: we had a transportation emergency that prevented us from arriving on Friday, the wedding took up the whole day on Saturday, they are not open on Sunday, and we had to get out of town before dawn on Monday to get back to our home state in time for work on Tuesday. Sad, but we can always visit again. We did get to spend about an hour in the National Archives (see below). And to the book... Our library has only two books about the LoC, and this was one of them, from the kid's section. It's older, but but history doesn't change This book has 2 things I take issue with: 1, the layout and the vocabulary make this book a little advanced for it's target audience. The prose rarely ended on a page, but flowed from page to page like a chapter book. Although the print is large and there is a good amount of white space, there are pages that have no pictures at all, and, as I said, some of the vocabulary is pretty advanced, so this book isn't really appropriate for children under about 4th grade to read to themselves, or maybe as young as 2nd grade if they were reading with an adult. And 2, my really big complaint, is that the book starts out with a factual error: in describing how the LoC came to be, the author says, "Among those who had the greatest need for a library were the members of Congress, who lived in Washington, D.C." (pg. 6). This is wrong! The LoC received initial funding in the move to D.C. from Philedelphia, the original capital: "

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress - and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…" //Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol" (the LoC would know, after all). I didn't notice any other factual errors,

but this seems like such a biggie to me that I'm going to point it out to the Children's Librarian.

The Declaration of Independence (left). The ink is so faded you could read less than half of it. Even John Hancock was barely there. While it was interesting to see these documents, I found the other parts of the Archives more interesting. We spent some time in the Public Vaults, where there is some interesting information about genealogy. I especially loved the letters to past presidents that were reproduced or on display. There was a letter from a grade-schooler about otters and an oil spill that I really loved. The Constitution (left). No, you can't change it. This document was in surprisingly good condition, especially considering that it isn't really that much younger than the Declaration. There were quite a number of other documents and displays in the gallery with these few items, but we didn't get a chance to see them. We waited in line for about 45 minutes, but they were letting in too many people, so the Rotunda was rather mobbed. I'm not exactly the elbowing type, so I missed everything that was in the other cases. Ah well. The Bill of Rights (page 1) (left). I guess this is a good time to call attention to your First Amendment rights (and all your other amendment rights, and all your constitutionally protected rights). It's easy not to think about them. I had also wanted to visit the DC public library, since I've heard both horrendous and wonderful things about it. They weren't marked on our touristy maps, though, and I didn't have computer access like I'd assumed I would, so we are saving it for another time as well. There are in fact about 5 that aren't too terribly out of the way from downtown activities. I also read through most of the histories of the past Librarians of Congress on the drive. I worked backwards, and had read from the current Librarian back most of the way, and was reading through John Silva Meehan, the fourth Librarian of Congress, when we were in our vehicle catastrophe and all the pages got rained on. The histories are really very interesting, and not even a dry read. There were quite a number of minor errors in the short bios, mostly missing commas and absent end quotes. I'm going to make the corrections and let the LoC know. It seems like the nice (librarian) thing to do. And if the LoC can't set a good example with commas, what hope is there for the rest of us? I even found a fragment (*gasp*).
Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay. This is another first-of-a-series-that-I've-just-ordered-us-the-xth-installment-so-I'd-better-read-it-so-I-know-what's-going-on. I wasn't quite happy with the character at the end, but I'm interested and intrigued, so I may read at least the 2nd book. I did totally adore the writing, the author (who in my head is a girl; sorry, Jeff), does amazing things with alliteration, an art most authors ignore. I also really liked how Dexter looks in at humanity from the outside. I always like books and stories that look at us from the outside (think Mr. Spaceman and Third Rock from the Sun). It's the social examination that I really love about Sci-Fi. I always take a book of every genre with me on car trips, because I never know what I'm going to feel like as we speed through Ohio.

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