Below the Streets of DC: LC Book Conveyor

Map of 100 year old Capital Hill Steam Tunnels – Dashed lines show the original tunnels, solid lines mark the 1950 expansion. steam-tunnel-map

Who  knows what lurks beneath the streets of Washington, DC?  Rats, explosions waiting to take out unsuspecting manhole covers, Metro, policy wonks, cables, aging water pipes?  Around the buildings of Congress, there are also pedestrian passages that let Congressmen, Senators, staffers, and other associated hangers-on to scurry beneath the often grid-locked streets above.


There used to also be the Library of Congress Book Conveyor Tunnel. Designed by then Library of Congress Superintendent, Bernard Green, it was intended to transport books from the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, back to the House of Representatives chamber at 600 feet per minute, when the Jefferson Building was constructed in 1898 to replace the previous library in the Senate wing of the Capital.

At tJeffersn Building Main Reading Roomhe time it was an engineering marvel with pneumatic tubes to send the book request to the Library. “Handwritten requests for documents would come in via pneumatic tube, and the text would make its way to the central desk on an intra-library system. From there it was walked down into the basement and whisked through the tunnel conveyor at 600 feet per minute. This whole literary orchestra took just five minutes, likely less time than it would take your average contemporary congressman to pull up an arcane PDF through

capital building

The book tunnel was demolished in 2000 to make way for the underground Capital Visitor Center.  However, it is still possible to walk some of the underground pedestrian terminals around the Library of Congress.

For more information and photographs, check out this Gizmodo article.


Library of Mistakes

Great recession road signsFor many of us, the Great Depression (1929)  is a history lesson, rather than a memory.  However, the more recent Great Recession (2008) may still be a lingering reality or a painful memory.  On October 11, Atlas Obscura published an article on a Scottish Library dedicated to lessons learned from the Great Depression and the Great Recession.


It’s a case of “smart people doing stupid things.”


Birmingham Northern Rock Bank Run in 2007

In both 1929 and 2008, economic experts everywhere claimed to know exactly what theyCircuit City Going Out of Business were doing, yet not a single person could fix the series of mistakes that crashed the world’s economy. To avoid future financial catastrophes, a library in Edinburgh, Scotland has compiled a collection of sensible economic literature that aims to educate the next generation of economists.

Visits by appointment only. Register at

Professional Day at New York Comic Con

New_York_Comic_Con_2016_-_Flash_(30149376146)Emily Drew writes: “New York Comic Con and New York Public Library teamed up for the first time on October 5 to enhance the convention’s offerings to educators and librarians. Following in the footsteps of the collaboration between San Diego Comic-Con and San Diego Public Library, Professional Day’s 24 sessions were held throughout the day in NYPL’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.”…


NYCC 2016

To read more about the San Diego Comic-Con/SDPL event, click here.

Happy Teen Read Week

Teen Read Week runs from October 8-14 and is  sponsored by ALA’s Young Adult Library Service Association,   “There are lots of great ideas to help you plan a successful week for your teens in the Teen Read Week Manual and discussions happening on the forum.”

Teen Read Week Logo

If you are at a loss on what YA books to recommend the group also has  list of the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Teen_Area.jpgThe titles listed below are from part of the Top Ten List.

*Berry, Julie. The Passion of Dolssa. Viking Books for Young Readers. 2016. 496p. ISBN: 9780451469922. In thirteenth-century Provence, Dolssa, branded a heretic after claiming to speak with God, flees her hometown. She’s rescued by Botille, a matchmaker who runs a tavern with her sisters. Their lives become inexorably linked when Dolssa’s gifts as a healer and miracle worker bring the church’s wrath to the village.

Female of the Species*McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. Katherine Tegen Books. 2016. 352p. ISBN: 9780062320896. The social hierarchy of a small-town high school is revealed through the voices of Alex, Jack, and Peekay, who are still haunted by the brutal rape and murder of Alex’s sister years ago. Alex, however, is on a quest for vengeance.

*Medina, Meg. Burn Baby Burn. Candlewick. 2016. 320p. ISBN: 9780763674670. Nora López graduates from her Queens, New York, high school in the summer of 1977–a summer marked by a heat wave, arson, and the Son of Sam murders. But there are things to fear at home, too, as her family disintegrates amid the overwhelming power of her brother’s violent streak.

*Reynolds, Jason. Ghost. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. 2016. 192p. ISBN: 9781481450157. His dad shot a gun at him, and “Ghost” Crenshaw has been running ever since. When Ghost challenges a runner to a race, he ends up on the team himself. But it’s one step forward and two steps back as Ghost channels his anger to become part of the team.

Salt to the Sea*Sepetys, Ruta. Salt to the Sea. Philomel Books. 2016. 400p. ISBN: 9780399160301. It’s near the end of WWII and four refugees travel on foot during January to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship bound for safety. This is the story of the lesser known tragedy of the doomed ship.

*Shusterman, Neal. Scythe. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2016. 448p. ISBN: 9781442472426. In a distant future in which humanity has practically conquered death, the population is controlled by Scythes, the only beings capable of causing death–and teens Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch have just been chosen as Scythe apprentices.

sun is also a star*Yoon, Nicola. The Sun is Also a Star. Delacorte Press. 2016. 384p. ISBN: 9780553496680. Daniel decides to let fate dictate his life and NaTasha doesn’t believe in fate. But today, NaTasha will believe in anything if it allows her to avoid deportation. Either by fate or coincidence, Daniel and NaTasha meet and fall in love in a single day–but will it all end if Natasha has to go back to Jamaica?

*Zentner, Jeff. The Serpent King. Crown Books for Young Readers. 2016. 384p. ISBN: 978-0553524024. One is the son of a snake-handling preacher serving time in prison. One is a fashionista with New York dreams. One escapes an abusive life in fantasy novels. These high-school seniors in a small Tennessee town consider the options for their future.

Is your library celebrating Teen Read Week? Join in the conversation and share your favorite Young Adult novel.

New Online Portal at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress LogoFrom    Research Buzz, Oct 4, 2017 – Library of Congress: New Online: A Redesigned Portal for Librarians and Archivists. “The Library of Congress provides many resources to support information professionals worldwide. To streamline access to that content, we’ve redesigned our portal for librarians and archivists. The new portal highlights the standard library functions of acquisitions, bibliographic access, preservation and public service, providing an overview of these activities at the Library and links to a wealth of content and documentation in each area. A new banner on the opening page features each of the four library functions and offers access to our most popular online catalogs and quick links to content for library professionals: the Library of Congress Classification Outline, BIBFRAME and MARC21.”

I tried doing a sample search on Lighthouse Libraries–lots of results but no much on lighthouse libraries.

Light House LIbray search in new LC portal

Searches can be limited by format, date, location, collection, contributor, subject, language and access condition (print or online). Results can be viewed in list, gallery, grid, and slideshow.   They can be sorted by relevance, title, title (descending), date, date (oldest first), shelf order, and shelf order (reverse).

The keyword search produces some very odd results. For example, a query for Armed Services Editions also retrieved books on Courts Martial, Law of Armed  Conflict Deskbook, 2015, and Rise and Progress of the English Constitution, 10th edition.



Archivists Rock!

village voice logoThe Village Voice features an article about the “archives division of the New York Public Library”  Archives house collections that nobody else has.  This is Ground Zero for research.  A few collection been digitized, like  many of the papers of Dr. Theodore Suess Geisel at the Geisel Library of the University of California, San Diego.  However, most are only available at whichever archive keeps them.

The New York Public Library has a very rich trove of treasures in its archives.  What treasures does your public or academic library hold?  Join in the conversation and share the treasures/collections of your favorite archives.  Two of my current favorites are Archives II in College Park, MD where I am copying deck logs of the USS Midway (CV-41) for the Midway Museum’s Library and the Special Collections at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.  NDU has the collections of many of the  Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was instrumental in getting a replica of the courtroom where the Lincoln Conspirators were tried built in the same building space where the trial took place.  (NDU is on the site what was the Federal Penitentiary during and after the Civil War.)

Banned in Boston (or at least in Cambridge)

It seems a fitting end to Banned Book Week that a librarian, Liz Phipps Soerio at the Cambridgeport Elementary School, has refused Melania Trump’s gift of several Dr. Seuss Books that were offered on National Read a Book Day, September 6.  The Washington Post carried the story yesterday.

According to the Post,  “Seuss’s illustrations are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro wrote in a letter to Trump on Tuesday.”

“The 10 books on the list are: “Seuss-isms!”; “Because a Little Bug Went KaChoo”; “What Pet Should I Get?”; “The Cat in the Hat”; “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”; “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”; “The Foot Book”; “Wacky Wednesday”; “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Taking Books to the People, Part 8: ASE Editions

Armed Forces emblemsAtlas Obscura shows ” How Books Designed for Soldiers’ Pockets Changed Book Publishing Forever.”  The American Services Editions (ASE)  or “ASEs—paperbacks specifically designed to fit in a soldier’s pockets and travel with them wherever they went. Between 1943 and 1947, the United States military sent 123 million copies of over 1,000 titles to troops serving overseas. These books improved soldiers’ lives, offering them entertainment and comfort during long deployments. By the time the war ended, they’d also transformed the publishing industry, turning the cheap, lowly paperback into an all-American symbol of democracy and practicality.”

ASE- George Gershwin bio

These books went ashore in Normandy and other battles throughout World War II.  These books were also the forerunners of the paperback book kits the the MWR Libraries of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines still provide to our military today.

When Books Went to WarWhen Books Went to War tells the story of the ASE Editions.  Do you read paperback books?  Did you know that each of the  military branches offers library services to its members?  Join in the conversation and share your paperback experience. Did you know about ASE?

Happy Banned Books Week 2017

Banned Books Week is celebrated the last week in September.

Banned Book Week BookcartFrom ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, here are the top Banned Books of 20116.

Banned Book Week LIbrary Display

Top Ten for 2016

Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George written by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language

Other Banned Books have included the Bible, Beloved, the Great Gatsby, Cather in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Lord of the Rings, 1984, and Call of the Wild.

Banned Books Rebel Reader Twitter TournamentHave you ever read a banned book?  Did you read it because it was banned or because you liked it or were assigned it to read in school?   Would you take part in a public reading of banned books?  Has your library ever held such a program?  Join in the conversation and share your views on Banned Book Week.  ALA has a Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament.

Banned Book Celebrations can take place in Real Life or in the virtual world of Second Life.

Banned Book Week in Second Life


Book Review: The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

Card Catalog BookLibrary of Congress.  The Card Catalog:  Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures.  Foreword by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress.  San Francisco, CA:  Chronicle Books, 2017, ISBN: 9781452145402.

Amazon – Hardback, $22.48, Kindle, $9.20

Barnes and Noble    Hardback, $23.62, Nook $11.99


This book is for the true Old School bibliophile.  (It even has a Library of Congress pocket LC cardand book card pasted inside the front cover.  I guess they kept a few  boxes of cards and pockets deep in some vault at the Library of Congress or the Ft. Mead overflow area for just such an occasion.  The card is attached to the pocket with a plastic disc about the size of a quarter.)

The book lovingly traces the history and the significance of the card catalog beginning cuneformwith the original cuneiform clay tablet. “One tablet found near the Sumerian city of Nippur and dated around 2000 B.C. was clearly identified as a library catalog by renowned Sumerian history and language expert N. Kramer.  At just 2-1/2 by 1-1/2 in (6.5 by the tablet foreshadowed the use of small index cards in cataloging…”

It also talks about the Pinakes, catalog of the famous Library of Alexandria.  According to the book,  this library’s method of organizing information became the cornerstone that cataloging has used ever since.  The Alexandria’s first librarian, Zenodotus, developed this system to identify the huge scrolls of papyrus stacked haphazardly in piles.  “The scrolls were inventoried and then organized alphabetically with a tag affixed to the end indicating the author, title, and subject.”

The book then covers the Far and Middle East catalogs,  before continuing with medieval libraries and movable type.  During this period, books moved from scroll to codex. (between the 4th and 6th centuries).Codex_Petropolitanus_fols._164v-165r.jpg

The next chapter is devoted to the Enlightened Catalog  This occurred during the American  Revolution and the founding of the Library of Congress.  It does not acknowledge the Enlightenment’s French and English antecedents and their influence on the Americans but the beautiful illustrations and sample catalog cards do include several European titles.

The next chapter is “Constructing a Catalog:  The 3 x 5  Solution.”   “Harvard’s assistant librarian, Ezra Abbott, is credited  with creating the first modern card catalog designed for readers.  When Abbott introduced his catalog in the early 1860s, the ‘paper slip’ or card catalog was being used in Europe and a few American libraries, but the bound catalog was still prevalent.”  It was also during this period that  Cutter created a scheme that became the basis for the Library of Congress Classification system.  A bit later, Melville Dewey created his classification scheme, based “upon a controlled vocabulary of subject headings represented by numerical values.”  ALA was also founded during this period.  With the invention of the typewriter, many cards switched from handwritten to typed.  Again the chapter is very U.S-centric.

The chapter on the “Nation’s Library and Catalog:  A Marble House of Cards” follows.  The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress were competing to become the national library.  Following the Centennial celebrations in 1876, the number of books arriving at the Library of Congress exploded and the need for a second building was soon evident. “On a rainy November morning in 1897, the new Library of Congress opened its door to the public, ahead of schedule and under budget.”  Could any government building make that claim today?   With  Herbert Putnam as its new librarian, The Library of Congress developed the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in 1899, began re-cataloging its older books on standard sized 7 x 13 cm cards, called for outside help from university and public libraries to catalog all the varying books, and began printing 7.5 by 12 cm library cards. These cards came with a hole punched in the bottom for the guard rods.

The last chapter deals with the Rise and the Fall of the Card Catalog.   Putnam had established the Cataloging Distribution Services  and the interlibrary loan system which moved its influence from just Congress’s Library.  ALA supported the use of LC (Library of Congress) as the central source of cataloging information.  LC began to drown in library cards. The rise of computer systems added a new nemesis for the traditional catalog production system. MARC, Machine-Readable Cataloging was launched in 1966. By the 1980s, major public and university libraries began removing their stacks of library catalogs.  This prompted the next big question:  what do you do with the beautiful catalogs and their millions of cards?

Since this book is created by the Library of Congress, its LC focus is easy to understand.  The illustrations are gorgeous and really add to the beauty and usefulness of this coffee table book. Many illustration sequences include the title page or a picture from the book and the accompanying print/and or handwritten catalog card. I would like to see someone do a companion piece to this topic that gives a bit more credit to what Europe and the world have added to the history of the catalog.