Thursday, November 20, 2008

Library of Congress

My paper for the Library of Congress is here now. It is being edited for me by my English Composition II professor Mr. Hamelin. It is 10 pages... I guess I can post what i have. The conclusion isn't amazing. If you hold out I will post the finished copy later, becasue 10 pages is a lot to read.

The Library of Congress
Amanda M. Cunningham
October 22, 2008
U. S. History I
Dr. Wallace

Probably the least discussed building historically in America is the Library of Congress. That fact is surprising because this building has such a colorful past. Today the Library is the largest library in the world, containing over 650 miles of shelving, but this was a revival from the ashes of two one room libraries which only had part time librarians. The library has gone through three major phases to get to where it is now: Preceding the first fire, preceding the second fire, and preceding construction of the Jefferson building.

The Library of Congress had a rough beginning. The first library was established on 24 April 1801 when the national government was moving from Philadelphia to Washington. John Randolph drew up an act which needed approval by Congress. On 17 November 1801, Thomas Jefferson, the only person who could possibly be credited for founding the library, donated his entire personal book collection to the library. Thomas Jefferson, to whom learning and books were of the up most importance, spent much of his life collecting books subjecting foreign languages, law, philosophy, geography and even cook books. Jefferson felt that "there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.” (If you can get this quote from the book… if not get it off of the website in the “extra research”) According to Boorstin, “When Jefferson offered the young nation his personal library, which was to be the foundation of the library of Congress, it contained so many foreign –language books, including numerous “atheistical” works of Voltaire and other French revolutionaries, that some members of Congress opposed its purchase.”(1987).That donation, along with $5000 for "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress", 740 other volumes, and three maps, was all that the first library consisted of.

After the establishment of the library, congress created a committee, headed by John Randolph which would be in charge of running and solving the problems of the library. On 26 January 26 1802 this committee created, and Jefferson approved, a role for a Librarian of Congress, who was to be chosen by the president. This committee also pointed out what the role of the library was to be, what the budget was going to be, and the regulations of the library. On 29 January 1802, Thomas Jefferson asked John James Beckley to be the librarian alongside his Clerk of House of Representatives position.

Though the committee for the library was in charge of the library's proceedings Thomas Jefferson and James Beckley were often both personally involved. Jefferson often ordered books for the library himself alongside his personal orders causing confusion when orders were being processed. Jefferson also appointed the first two librarians. Beckley often gave tours of the library to important figures when they visited the capitol. According to the Library of Congress website, Charles Wilson Peale recorded this in his diary after visiting the library in June of 1804, "We went first to the Library where Mr. Beckley received us with politeness… The Library is a spacious and handsome Room, and although lately organized, already contained a number of valuable books in the best taste of binding. “(LOC1) A colorful piece of Beckley’s history is the issues surrounding Josias Wilson King. In December of 1805, Beckley fired King from his library position. It is said that King had wanted the librarian position himself, but Beckley promised to share his salary with King. After he was fired, King prepared a memorial to Congress to complain. Beckley was exonerated of all charges. That same month, the library’s room was taken away and Beckley had to move to an old committee room. He held the librarian position until his death on 8 April 1807.

In 1812, when the library was under librarian Patrick Magruder, the library cataloged 3,076 volumes and 53 maps and charts. That same year, th­e United States got into a war with England, The War of 1812. This was a war that the United States should not have even been involved in. The United States was severely overpowered and attempting the impossible. The library suffered greatly because of the war. On 25 August 1814 English soldiers marched into Washington unimpeded, the US Army ­and government officials had fled to Virginia, and burned the capitol building. At that time, the Library was contained in a room within that building. At the very least, one third of Jefferson's original donation was torched. No longer was there a building to contain the few remaining books. To top off the fire, the librarian, Patrick Magruder, was being looked into. During a time Magruder was absent due to illness congress approved his brother, George Magruder’s filling in for the position, but after the fire, records revealed that $20,000 had gone “missing”. Magruder resigned from his position as Librarian and Clerk of the House and moved away. Magruder died on 14 December 1819, before any formal trial was put in place. The library was out of business. (LOC 4)

Fortunately, the library was able to continue after the fire. The library was apportioned a small amount of money and a new librarian, George Watterson, was hired. The dual job title of Clerk of the House and Librarian of Congress was also diminished. In order to continue the library, the government bought Thomas Jefferson’s personal library from him on 30 January 1815. His library consisted of 6,487 volumes and was purchased for $23,950. Many of the congressman who were against the original donation opposed purchasing Jefferson’s books, but the new purchase more than doubled what had been destroyed in the fire. The donation also broadened the subjects available to patrons (LOC3). The ironic thing is that many of them were opposed to Jefferson because he was intelligent. It was said that what they needed was “not intellect but character.” (Hofstnader, Richard. 1962.) The library wasn’t brought back to what it had been before the fire. For the next thirty-seven years, many of the books remained in boxes, stacked atop each other. The library truly did not have space or staff to properly manage the library. George Watterson was the sole person working for the library from 1815 until 1828. The library was overcrowded due to large increase in volumes. In December 1818 the library was moved back into the rebuilt capitol building, and spent six years in the attic of the North wing. In August 1824 the library was moved into a new larger room in the center of the capitol building. To add to the stress levels, a small fire erupted on 22 December 1827, destroying the gallery. In 1828, he was authorized to employ an assistant, which is why he was surprised when President Andrew Jackson replaced him as librarian on 28 May 1829.

A second conflagration burned the library on 24 December 1851, under John Silva Meehan. The fire, according to the Architect of the capitol, "no human forethought or vigilance could, under the circumstances, have prevented the catastrophe.” The fire was caused because of a faulty flue in the chimney. This fire burned nearly two-thirds, 55,000 volumes, of the libraries collection. Conditions were understandable though, because of the growing conflict between the North and the South it was hard for any government agencies to grow or expand. In 1857, all patenting and copyrighting duties for the country became the duty of the Library of Congress, but the library still didn’t seem to want to get off the ground.

After this second conflagration the library went through a very rough patch. Money was apportioned to the library for damages, $168,700, but this time around Thomas Jefferson was not around to save the library by donating his books. What books remained were, yet again, stacked in boxes. Abraham Lincoln did not help matters when he hired John G. Stephenson to be the librarian in 1861.The library of congress stated the following,
“The election of Abraham Lincoln as president in November 1860 meant the end of Meehan's long career as Librarian. Pearce wrote Lincoln on March 8, 1861, informing him about the Library and recommending that "no change" be made in the librarianship, trusting that the Library staff would be "safe from the influence of political partisanship which has heretofore had no influence in the republic of letters.” There is no record of a response to this letter, and on May 24, 1861, President Lincoln rewarded a political supporter, John G. Stephenson, a physician from Terre Haute, Indiana, with the job of Librarian of Congress.”
Stephenson was uninterested in the library and more interested in getting closer to what was happening in Washington. According to the Library of Congress, Spofford describes Stephenson as, “"a thorough good fellow, liberal, high-minded, & active, but with no special knowledge of books.”(LOC2) The library, again, seemed doomed for failure.

The lone productive duty Stephenson did was to hire Ainsworth Rand Spofford. Spofford truly did care about the library and is responsible for turning it into what it is today. This is thanks to Spofford. When Spofford was awarded position of librarian, 32 December 1864, the staff consisted of seven people and volumes totaled 82,000. In 1870 advances in copyright law meant that all books, pamphlets, maps, prints, photographs, and music may come into the institution free of charge. For the first time, in 1874, more volumes were added to the library via copyright than through purchase by the library staff. All copyright must still come through the library of congress today.

Spofford’s goal was to not only make the library useful for Congress, but he wanted the library to be of use to the public and for the building to be a national monument. He did not though, desire the library to be anything other than a beautiful place to hold the nations books. He did not want the library to be a place of “library activity”. One of the first actions taken was to transfer 40,000 volumes from library of the Smithsonian institution to the Library of Congress. At the time, the nation did not have an official library and Charles Coffin Jewett wanted to see that the Smithsonian library became the library of congress. His vision being, “To the public, the importance. . . of having a central depot, where all products of the American mind may be gathered, year by year, and preserved for reference, is very great. ” (Cole. 1995). He believed in a classification system that was strictly alphabetical and only included information given by the author, which differs from the Library of Congress classification system which classifies by subject. He also had very little chance of turning the Smithsonian into a national library because Smithsonian secretary Joseph Henry wanted the Smithsonian to focus mainly on science and supported the Library of Congress becoming the national library (LOC3). According to many readings subjecting Jewett, he “was relieved from his Smithsonian position due to some scandal.” (NationMaster. 2006.) Subsequently, the Library of Congress became the national library.

The time between 1876 and 1926 is commonly referred to as the American Library Movement. During this time libraries were trying to get their whole being to be enhanced. The American Library Association was founded in 1876, and librarians were attempting to “recruit” more people to the profession. One of the main goals was to receive federal and state funding for free libraries. The argument for free libraries was that the people needed to be informed. (Gunselman. 2004.) Oddly enough, the Library of Congress did not have anything to do with the American Library Movement or the American Library Association. This was mainly due to Spofford being completely consumed with attempting to get a building for the library, and partly due to Spofford not believing that the up and coming ideals for a library were right for the nation’s National library. He believed that the national library was to be something all its own. The ALA did not often support Spofford. Actually, From November 16 to December 7, 1896, when committees were being formed to make decisions about the “condition” of the library, six members of the ALA came to testify against Spofford, indirectly.

The following years (1877-1886) Spofford continued to attempt to acquire a new building for the Library of Congress. He was completely consumed with one goal. Each year, as the presidents gave their state of the union addresses, the presidents would, make a statement similar to the following,
“. . . the Senate at its last session passed a bill providing for the construction of a building for the library of congress, but it failed to become a law. The provision of suitable protection for this great collection of books and for the copyright department connected with it has become a subject of national importance and should receive prompt attention. ~Chester A. Arthur”

Arthur, Hays, and Cleveland all stated they were going to make provisions for the library, but nothing happened with construction until 1886 when the Thomas Jefferson building was begun. After eleven years of construction the library was finally completed under Librarian John Russell Young. The building const $6,180,000, slightly under the budget originally planned. Because the library had been relying on the classification Jefferson had placed on the books he donated, Young hired catalogers J.C.M. Hanson and Charles Martel to reclassify the libraries collection. The system of classification is known as the Library of Congress Classification and was developed by Herbert Putnam. The library of congress and many other libraries across the nation still use this system of classification today. Putnam would become the next librarian to a library that was steadily becoming great.

After this time, the library would only flourish, but a library is nothing without its librarians. By the time Archibald MacLeish became the ninth librarian, on 2 October 1939, the library had 6 million volumes, and the staff had grown to 1,100. In 1945, Luther Evans became the tenth librarian of Congress. He was very involved with the proceedings of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) group, which is why some Congress members of the time thought he was a controversial librarian. Some believed he didn’t spend enough time at the actual library. His absences would actually create trouble for the next librarian to take his place. In 1950 S. R. Ranganathan, a librarian and mathematician form India held in high esteem, stated “The institution serving as the national library of the United States is perhaps more fortunate than its predecessors in other countries. It has the Congress as its godfather. . . This stroke of good fortune has made it perhaps the most influential of all the national libraries of the world”. In 1954, Lawrence Quincy Mumford became the eleventh librarian of congress. Mumford was the first official librarian to become the librarian of Congress. He received his Masters degree in library Science from Columbia University. Because of the distaste for the library created by Evans, Mumford had to explain every budget increase and job creation diligently to congress until they gained back trust in the library. According to the Library of Congress website,
“Mumford's librarianship was one of the most productive in the Library's history. The growth of the institution under his leadership was unprecedented. In two decades, the size of the Library's annual appropriation increased tenfold, from $9,400,000 to $96,696,000; the number of staff members nearly tripled, from 1, 564 to 4,250; and the number of items in the collections more than doubled from approximately 33 million to 74 million.”

In 1954 Daniel J. Boorstin became the twelfth librarian of Congress. He was the first librarian to swear into the position. Raising the budget for the library was Boorstin’s main goal as librarian. While he held the position the annual budget increased by $134 million. While serving as librarian, Boorstin was also a published author of seven books; including a trilogy. The thirteenth and most current librarian, James Hadley Billington, was sworn in on 14 September 1987. Billington is an extremely intelligent person. He has over 40 honorary doctoral degrees, and he is an accomplished author. He taught History at both Harvard and Princeton Universities. For the library he headed the NDL (National Digital Library) program and oversaw a major bilingual website with aid from other libraries in Russia, Brazil, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Egypt.

Today the library is lead by James Hadley Billington who was sworn in on 14 September 1987. The library is working on creating relationships with other libraries in other countries. The library wants the members of Congress to have books available to them wherever they travel. The library has over 650 miles of shelving and receives 22,000 items for copyright daily. The library has works created in over 470 languages. The library of congress is the largest library in the world and it is still growing.

Works Sited
1. Boorstin, Daniel J. Hidden History. Random House, 1987.
Cheryl Gunselman. Business Network. “Cornelia Marvin and Mary Frances Isom: leaders of Oregon's library movement”. 2004. BNET. Web. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
3. Cole, John Y. Copyright in the Library of Congress. “Of Copyright Men and a National Library”. Library of congress. Washington. 1995. Electronic. 23 October 2008. <
http://www. copyright. gov/history/125thanniversary. pdf>
4. Hofstnader, Richard. Anti-Intellectualism in American life. 1962. Vintage Books. P. 146-147
5. Library of Congress 1. “About the librarian.” LOC. gov. Web. 22 October 2008 <
http://www. loc. gov/about/librarianoffice/beckley.html>
6. Library of Congress 2. “John G. Stephenson (1828-1883)”. LOC. gov. Web. 23 October 2008. <
http://www. loc. gov/about/librarianoffice/stephenson. html>
7. Library of Congress 3. “Jefferson’s Legacy: A brief history of the Library of Congress.” Web. <>
8. Library of Congress 4. “Patrick Magruder (1768-1819) “. Web. 12 November 2008 <>
9. NationMaster. “Charles Coffin Jewett” 2006.

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