My Trip to the Library of Congress

Recently I attended the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest’s awards ceremony at the Library of Congress.  What a surreal experience!

And yes, I even have some photographic evidence of this event!  The picture to the left is of me on the stage at the awards ceremony, talking with John Cole, Director of the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book.  My dad took this picture and a few others, but the last thing this blog needs is awkward pre-event hotel room pictures.  There was also an event photographer and video recorder, although I haven’t yet seen anything posted anywhere.  Last year the event made it to YouTube, so we’ll all just have to wait and see if it’s posted again this year.

The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of American (ABAA) very kindly flew me out to D.C., and put me up at a nearby hotel.  Both my mom and dad were able to go to D.C. with me, and I got to see a handful of D.C. friends.

Friday afternoon the first event was an overview of the Library of Congress’ Rare Book Collection’s highlights, given by Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.  My mom and I had front row seats to view treasures such as books belonging to Thomas Jefferson, or written in by Susan B. Anthony, or with illuminations that were simply stunning.  Everything was tied into the various traditions of collecting and repositories going hand in hand.

One of the odd yet cool moments of this D.C. visit was getting lost in the Library of Congress.   The entire group of winners, sponsors, and supporters walked to the awards ceremony together, and we walked through various tunnels and hallways.  There were a lot of obscure offices and departments.  I had a million, “where are we?  what is this office?  how can I work here?” moments.

The event itself was a lecture about literary forgeries throughout history, followed by the awards ceremony.  Each winner was called to the stage to talk with either Mark Dimunation or John Cole, to answer questions, discuss their collections, and receive their award.  I knew there would be a public speaking component, but there was no way of preparing for it, so I winged it and did the best I could.  This may sound silly, but I think my outfit helped.  It’s tough to get up in front of people, but it’s even tougher if something in the “ensemble” is wrong or ill-fitting.  My mom did a great job helping me come up with an outfit which I really think my big sister would have approved of, smirk-free.

I mostly hung out with my parents and family friend at the reception, but was sure to mingle.  I got to meet some very interesting book dealers, talk a lot more with John Cole as well as Mark Dimunation, and meet the other contest winners.  The three guys who also placed in the contest shared an obvious love of books and enthusiasm for their subject.  We spoke openly about how many books we owned, and just where the “too many” mark would be, or if it exists.  I maintain that once a building is no longer able to structurally support a book collection, that’s probably a hoarding problem.

My visit to D.C. was short but meaningful, and I’m awfully glad it happened.

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5 Responses to My Trip to the Library of Congress

  1. Oliver Patrick says:

    Hello, this sounds a really good event, congratulations! 🙂

    Have you made any new acquisitions to your collection recently?

    I’ve made 2 recently –

    Such men are dangerous by Elinor Glyn 1933 – very nice dust jacket on this one, 3 x beauties from the 30s in slinky evening gowns watched by a Clark Gable type!

    The Salamander by Owen Johnson 1914 – I bought this from Babylon Revisited Rare books a few days ago but looking forward to receiving it, it’s meant to be one of the earliest flapper novels and a favourite of Zelda Fitzgerald’s in her youth so I’m quite looking forward to reading it. The dust jacket is quite attractive as portraying a young impish woman in a long gown and quite short hair for 1914!!

    I really should workout how to put pictures up here because some of these dust jackets should really be shown!

    W. Yorkshire

    • October and November have so far been relatively light for buying books, but that could change.

      A couple of people have asked me how to upload photos into comments, so I’ve been looking into it. From what I can tell, it doesn’t seem possible unless I get into downloading plugins and figuring out how to install them. I think you can share a link to something like a flickr though, but I’m not 100% sure. Sorry!

  2. Michael says:

    Sounds like a great trip. Hand out any résumés? -Mike

  3. Oliver says:

    Well I think I’m going to have to starve off buying any more books for while with Christmas just around the corner!

    Thanks for looking into it! I should really start some kind of blog!

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