Library in the News: May 2014 Edition

As May came to an end, so did the second and final term of Natasha Trethewey as U.S. Poet Laureate. She gave her final lecture at the Library of Congress on May 14.

“At the Library of Congress on Wednesday night, Trethewey began, as she often does, with her personal history and then moved into a rich exploration of America’s racial heritage,” wrote Washington Post reporter Ron Charles.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Rosalind Bentley also wrote about Trethewey’s final lecture and term. “As she brings her two terms as the nation’s top poet to a close this Wednesday, Natasha Trethewey chose the words of a homeless Seattle teen she met last year, to, in a fashion, sum up what has been her mission as the nation’s poet laureate.

“She said that being able to write about the ugly things that she’d experienced in life, through poetry, she was able to turn them around and make them beautiful.”

While one term was ending, another was beginning. In May it was announced that David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, will serve as chairman of the private-sector advisory group to the Library, the James Madison Council, beginning October 2014.

Making the announcement were outlets including the Associated Press, The Washington Post and CBS local news.

The Library plays host to many esteemed individuals, who also study and give lectures at the institution. John Bew, Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations, has been at the Library since last October researching the notion of realpolitik, where policies are formulated based more on practical geostrategic and national interests rather than lofty ideals.

Bew spoke with Washington Diplomat reporter Larry Luxnor.

“While at the Kluge Center, Bew is tapping the extensive collection of presidential papers and other research material at the Library of Congress to write his history of realpolitik,” Luxnor wrote. “He [Bew] describes the library’s manuscripts as among ‘the best resources in the world’ and says he’s used the Kluge Center just about every day since his arrival in the United States.”

On a more reflective note, the spring issue of the Wilson Quarterly featured stories from U.S. veterans on life and war in Afghanistan pulled from the collections of the Veterans History Project. Highlighted are poignant stories from husbands, fathers, journalists and more.

The Library continues to make news as a must-see spot while visiting Washington, D.C. New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer spent 36 hours on Capitol Hill, where she visited the Library.

“One of the city’s greatest troves of stories, artwork, history and architecture, the Library of Congress, which began as Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, is often skipped over, although there is much to see here,” she wrote.

Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, NPR reported on the Library’s ongoing efforts to track down and acquire books that once belonged to Jefferson. The goal is to finish filling in the gaps to Jefferson’s library, which he donated to the institution after the British burned the Capitol in 1814. In 1851, another fire destroyed a large part of the collection.

“16 years ago, the Library of Congress sought to restore Jefferson’s original collection and find exact copies of all the books that burned in the 1851 fire,” said reporter Laura Sullivan. “Staffers kept the project a secret so as not to drive up prices. They were looking for about 4,000 books. And they started where anyone else would go to look to for really old, rare books – their own bookshelves. The Library of Congress’s catalog turned up 2,000 of them. [Mark] Dimunation picked up almost 2,000 more at auction houses, public libraries and book dealers, but the last 250 he can’t find anywhere. Either no one’s got a copy, or it’s a book nobody alive now has ever heard of.

“The collection is now displayed with markers. A green ribbon means the book belonged to Jefferson – it was his book. A yellow ribbon means it’s an exact copy – same edition, same printing press. A black box with a title means that the book is still missing. Jefferson believed books were not to be collected – they were to be used, read, absorbed by as many people as possible. It’s a philosophy this library has adhered to for 200 years.”

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