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 …

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