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Celebrating National Library Week: A Tribute to Knowledge and Community

Ever since I was a child, I have loved books. Throughout my school career, trips to the library were my favorite part of the day or week. As an adult and a seeker of knowledge and information, 2 or 3 hours in a bookstore is as good as being on a tropical island, however, in a room filled with books, you can let your imagination travel almost anywhere! For genealogists, libraries hold rare pieces of family history that are most likely, not available in online databases.


In a world fueled by technology and fast-paced living, the significance of libraries often gets overshadowed. However, on National Library Week, we take a moment to recognize and celebrate these invaluable institutions that serve as pillars of knowledge, learning, and community engagement. Established to honor the essential role libraries play in our society, National Library Week is a testament to the enduring importance of these spaces.

National Library Week, is being observed this year, April 7 - 13. It was established to raise awareness about the importance of libraries and to celebrate their contributions to education, culture, and democracy. The date coincides with the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, a founding father who famously said, "I cannot live without books." This day serves as a reminder of the transformative power of literature and the enduring legacy of libraries in fostering a literate and informed society.


As we celebrate National Library Week, it's fitting to shine a spotlight on two of my favorite and most iconic libraries in the United States: the Library of Congress and the Family Search Library in Salt Lake City.

 

The Library of Congress


The Library of Congress, located in Washington, D.C., is the largest in the world by shelf space and number of volumes. Established in 1800, it serves as the research library of the United States Congress and is open to the public. Boasting a collection of over 170 million items, including books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and recordings, the Library of Congress is a treasure trove of human knowledge and creativity.


During my six years working at the Library of Congress, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand its commitment to preserving and disseminating information. From rare manuscripts penned by historical figures to cutting-edge research publications, the library's collections span diverse subjects and cater to a wide range of interests.


The Library of Congress, located in Washington, DC, is the largest in the world.


The Library of Congress is not only a repository of knowledge but also a hub for cultural enrichment and academic exploration. Its iconic Thomas Jefferson Building, with its grand architecture and ornate interiors, serves as a testament to the importance of intellectual pursuits in shaping our society.


As a genealogist, I rely on two amazing online resources at the LoC, Chronicling America and Genealogy Reading Room.


Chronicling America is a digital repository of historically significant American newspapers, maintained by the Library of Congress. Launched in 2007, it provides free access to over 17 million pages of newspapers published between 1789 and 1963, representing a diverse range of regions and perspectives across the United States. This vast collection allows users to explore American history through the lens of local news, gaining insights into various events, trends, and cultural shifts throughout the nation's history. Chronicling America also offers advanced search capabilities, making it a valuable resource for researchers, historians, educators, and the general public interested in delving into the rich tapestry of American journalism.


The Main Reading at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. It is located in the Thomas Jefferson Building.


The Local History and Genealogy Reading Room at the Library of Congress provides a wealth of online resources for individuals interested in exploring their family history and genealogy. These resources include access to digitized historical documents such as census records, military service records, immigration records, and vital records like birth, marriage, and death certificates. Additionally, the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room offers access to online databases, genealogical guides, reference materials, and tutorials to assist researchers in their quest to trace their ancestry. The online resources cater to a wide range of skill levels, from beginners to experienced genealogists, and serve as a valuable tool for anyone seeking to uncover their family's past.

 

The FamilySearch Library


On the other side of the country, nestled in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah, the FamilySearch Library stands as a beacon for genealogists and history enthusiasts alike. This haven for those tracing their family roots is a testament to the power of preserving heritage and connecting generations. With its extensive resources and deep ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), it serves as a hub for genealogical research worldwide.


Each year, thousands of visitors pilgrimage to the FamilySearch Library, drawn by its wealth of records, knowledgeable staff, and state-of-the-art facilities. Boasting over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, 727,000 microfiche, and hundreds of thousands of books and other resources, it offers an unparalleled treasure trove for anyone delving into their family history. Whether you're a novice researcher or a seasoned genealogist, the library provides invaluable assistance and support, making the journey of discovery both enriching and fulfilling.


The FamilySearch Library's connection to the LDS Church is deeply ingrained in its history and mission. Founded in 1894 as the Genealogical Society of Utah by dedicated Latter-day Saint leaders, its primary purpose was to help individuals discover their family histories and perform sacred temple ordinances for their ancestors. Over the years, it has evolved into a global initiative, transcending religious boundaries to assist people of all faiths in uncovering their heritage.



The FamilySearch Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the world's premier genealogical research facilities. It is operated by FamilySearch, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).


One of the most notable aspects of the library's association with the LDS Church is its expansive collection of records, meticulously gathered from around the world. Through initiatives like the Family History Library Affiliate Program, which partners with local organizations to make genealogical resources more accessible, the library extends its reach far beyond its physical location.


Furthermore, the library's commitment to innovation is evident in its embrace of technology. With digitization efforts underway for millions of records, researchers can now access vast repositories of information from the comfort of their homes, fostering collaboration and exploration on a global scale.


Having worked at the Library of Congress and serving as a volunteer genealogy at a local LDS Church Family History Library, I gained a profound appreciation for the diverse ways in which libraries enrich our lives. Whether through preserving rare manuscripts or facilitating genealogical research, these institutions serve as guardians of our collective memory and champions of intellectual freedom.


As we celebrate National Library Week, let us not only acknowledge the importance of libraries but also reaffirm our commitment to supporting and nurturing these invaluable institutions. Whether you are a voracious reader, a curious researcher, or a community member seeking connection, libraries offer something for everyone.


National Library Week is a time to honor the enduring legacy of libraries and the vital role they play in our society. From the grand halls of the Library of Congress to the intimate spaces of the FamilySearch Library, these institutions embody the spirit of knowledge, discovery, and community. So, let's raise our voices in appreciation of libraries and librarians everywhere and ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come.

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