The first full week of May is Public Service Recognition Week, which is designated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to honor the folks who work in the business of federal, state, county and local governments.
This includes your friendly neighborhood library employees as well as those at your favorite national Library. More than 3,200 people work at the Library of Congress, the largest library in world history, which contains more than 171.6 million items and counting. Library facilities include the main Library buildings, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service on the Capitol Hill campus; the Packard National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia; six satellite offices around the world; and several state-of-the-art storage facilities.
Our staff includes world-class experts and scholars in a vast number of fields — U.S. and world history, literature, book-binding, films, folklore, maps, manuscripts, printing, photography, maps — and the art and science of keeping all of those available to the public while also preserving them for centuries to come. Sure, we have great librarians, but also chemists, film preservationists, and, in the case of the papers of Alexander Hamilton, scientists who used hyperspectral imaging to uncover long-hidden lines of text.
As Carla Hayden, the Librarian, points out in the video above, the Library is one of the primary keepers of the American narrative, a storehouse, conservatory, library and museum of American and world history. Though our doors have been closed to the public and most employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library staff never missed a day, as the staff shifted to telework almost overnight.
That’s important, because our work never stops. More than 802,000 people asked reference librarians questions in fiscal 2020, from members of Congress to researchers to students. (Just use our Ask a Librarian service!) Technicians took in, stored and processed thousands of items that come into the Library daily. The Copyright Office kept up with copyright registrations (more than 400,00 per year), a cornerstone of intellectual property rights. Conservationists and preservations, working in everything from manuscripts to maps, from films to recordings, found new ways to work safely.
The staff from multiple departments that put together the National Book Festival, one of our favorite events, transitioned to hosting the festival online last fall. We’re also actively documenting and curating COVID-19’s impact on the nation. Our crowdsourcing project for transcribing historical papers, By the People, never missed a step.
We’ll be featuring just a few of the people in the month to come. We love seeing you all online, but are also looking forward to seeing many of you in person again, once it’s safe to do so. The Library just isn’t the same without you.
The Library’s Main Reading Room. Photo: Shawn Miller
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