Wednesday, March 23, 2016

DC Sojourns - No War! No War!

Hi Bill

In my last letter, I told you about the work-related Computers In Libraries conferences that I attended regularly in Washington DC. I also mentioned what it was like to do some research inside the Library of Congress, and how much Pat and I loved to visit DC. Today I want to visit those old Washington DC memories again focusing on a non-work-related experience.

In March 2003, Pat accompanied me on another trip to the Computers In Libraries Conference in Washington DC. Of course, we stayed at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue again and I spent a few days enjoying a very interesting and enlightening conference. Pat was on her own while I was at the conference, but she was fairly comfortable in that area on Connecticut Avenue. She spent her time in local bookstores and other retail shops, coffee shops and restaurants. I believe I met her for lunch somewhere each day.

On Saturday, March 15th Pat and I decided to visit the National Mall intending to check out some of the museums, galleries and monuments. In addition, we always visited the Vietnam War Memorial to honor the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in that war. It was probably my guilt about drawing a high draft-lottery number and avoiding the draft that made me pay homage at that memorial.

Peace Kite Flying Near the Top of the Washington Monument

We had heard that there might be some anti-war demonstrations taking place on that day, but didn’t really pay much attention to that possibility. However, when we descended into the Metro station at Dupont Circle we were surprised by a larger than expected number of people waiting for the train. When we actually boarded a Metro train we were astonished because it was jammed with people of all sizes, shapes, and ages. Many of them were carrying signs/placards showing anti-war sentiments and wearing t-shirts with anti-war messages. There was even one guy with a “Remember Korea” sign. Everyone seemed to be very jovial, talkative, and friendly. We realized that our visit to the National Mall was going to be a lot more interesting than we had expected.

Some protesters near the Washington Monument

When our train reached the National Mall stop we climbed the stairs and were amazed by a sea of peaceful but very vocal protestors that had already taken control of a large area of the Mall. Although we were not prepared with any protest signs or t-shirts we felt very comfortable swimming in that sea. We allowed ourselves to float through that huge crowd of demonstrators with lots of anti-war placards/signs, songs, balloons and kites (maybe the balloons and kites were contributed by the aging flower children who were trying to relive their youth).


At the time, Pat and I were not supportive of the invasion of Iraq. Therefore, it was easy for us to identify with the demonstrators and we ended up staying on the National Mall with them for most of the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and it was a peaceful demonstration by thousands of outspoken people of all ages, most of whom were passionately opposed to a war in Iraq.


Throughout that strange day of protests, we were reminded of the demonstrations that some of us had participated in while I was attending college at Pitt. Some of those demonstrations were to express concerns about university policies, but some were also addressing the nation-wide passionate wish for bringing our troops home from Vietnam and for addressing racial inequalities and poverty.

The protesters on the National Mall were against another unnecessary war that would put our troops in mortal danger and would likely accomplish very little. At least that is what we thought during those times. They also provided an unusual (and enjoyable) afternoon on the National Mall with balloons, kites, clever signs, songs, dancing and interesting people. It was a fun day for us two tourists from South Dakota. 

BTW: You might remember that President George W. Bush had been threatening an invasion of Iraq (with some of our allied countries) for some time and most people seemed to believe it was coming soon. Sure enough, the invasion began on March 19th and 20th.

Pat with protesters near the Washington Monument

Bill - I wish you could have joined us during some of our visits to DC. I am pretty sure you have been to DC, but it would have been nice to visit it together sometime. Anyway, I plan to write at least one more letter about our visits to our nation’s capital.

Take care,

Sincerely Clark

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

DC Sojourns

Hi Bill

Today I am thinking about my work trips to Washington DC in the late 1980s through the early 2000s.

During that time, I regularly attended the Computers In Libraries conferences in Washington DC.  In the mid-1980s, librarians were figuring out how to deploy and facilitate the use of computers by library clients. That was an innovative and complicated procedure so librarians had to take advantage of learning experiences as much as possible. Therefore we tried to attend relevant conferences as often as we could get funding for them. The annual Computers In Libraries conferences were the cream of the crop, attracting librarians from all over the US and beyond. Luckily, my Deans realized how important these educational opportunities were and financed my attendance, not every year but many years.

The Computers In Libraries conferences are still being held annually at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue, just four blocks north of the Dupont Circle Metro Station. In fact that conference is happening right now as I write this blog post on March 8, 2016. The conference focuses on “ideas, leading-edge practices, tips, and techniques for creating innovative libraries, and engaging communities, as well as designing and delivering strategic services that are of primary importance to our communities. The emphasis is on doing research, translating it into innovative services and practices…”

Anyway I enjoyed those conferences very much and learned a lot from them. I also met lots of new and old colleagues at them. I often met up with former colleagues, including Iqbal J. and Nancy C (both former colleagues from Briggs Library at South Dakota State University) and other former colleagues from University of Cincinnati and University of Nebraska at Omaha. It was a nice way to keep in touch.

The conferences were great and very educational, but I was also very pleased to visit Washington DC, and I came to love that city and its attractions. I always allocated some time to visit the National Mall, including the Natural History Museum, National Art Gallery, Air & Space Museum, and other attractions, including of course The Library of Congress. In addition, I became fond of several restaurants, coffee shops, book stores (Kramer’s), etc. I quickly learned that I could use the Metro (subway) to get to (or close to) most areas in DC that I wanted. I usually ordered a week-long Metro pass via mail before flying to Reagan National Airport. Then I could take the Metro anywhere I wanted to go.

A Metro Pass from one of my DC trips.

As an academic librarian, certainly one of my favorite attractions was The Library of Congress and I visited the tourist area of LoC during many trips. However, standing in a hallway looking down through a window into the opulent LoC reading room was not enough. Therefore, one year, I applied for a library card that would enable me to actually do some research in the LoC reading room. Getting that ID card was a more complicated process than expected, especially via a mail process. However, after verifying who I was and why I needed to use the Library of Congress, I received detailed instructions for how to get into LoC, and get my LoC photo ID card. At that time I was researching and compiling an annotated bibliography of publications by and about my beloved (and extinct) Pennsylvania Railroad and I spent a couple of afternoons in the LoC reading room. Before my trip to DC, I had searched the LoC catalog from the South Dakota State University Library where I worked and recorded the appropriate LoC call numbers for the books I wanted see. When I got into the LoC reading room, after veriyfing who I was and getting my photo ID, I requested retrieval of those books, which took a while. Therefore, I requested them one afternoon and returned to use them the next afternoon. Overall, it was an amazing experience to actually sit in that beautiful and historic reading room and do some research. I will never forget feeling like I was worshiping at the library Mecca. It was awesome! What can I say, I am a librarian! – Well, at least I was a librarian.

My Library of Congress ID card

The Main Reading Room in the Library of Congress

I guess most of us have certain cities that we love to visit and sometimes wish we could live there. Washington DC would be one those cities for Pat and I. However, we realized that dream was not going to be a reality.  Luckily I worked for Deans who realized the value of continuing educational opportunities for their employees. Leon R and Steve M were both such Deans and I am still grateful to them for those opportunities to visit Washington DC and for their support and tutelage as well.

At some point during my library career, I became enlightened enough to realize that I didn’t need to make those trips alone. I could take Pat with me! Therefore, more excitement in Washington DC will be continued …