In a delightful convergence of two of my favorite things, Steven Johnson wrote about a research trip to the Library of Congress:
Everything about my visit was an object lesson how a government agency can make a public resource available to its citizens in an efficient, useful, and even aesthetically-pleasing fashion. I am generally not all that sentimental about older forms of technology, but there was something about sitting in that near-silent room—flipping through the scanned pages of someone’s diary looking for clues, with only the quiet whirring of the microfilm in the background—that made me feel immediately at home. It was, for me at least, pretty close to my platonic ideal of how to spend a birthday.
Hear, hear! Later, on being struck by the Library’s location on Capitol Hill:
The entire space at that eastern end of the Mall is dominated by three imposing structures: Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Library. It’s as though the seat of the federal government has been divided into its own tripartite schema: Power, Justice, and Information. There’s something fitting about it, even as the news cycle is now dominated by the activity in the other two buildings, a testimony to how much the Founders, for all of their flaws, believed that the free flow of information was central to a functioning democracy.
And long may it flow.