I will never forget the impact that Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate in 1985, had on me when she visited my high school and spoke to a small group of us in our school library.  She read a few poems, including ones from We Real Cool, and then answered questions.   One of the questions was about the Library of Congress.

She explained that the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, in terms of shelf space and number of books. It was built by Congress in 1800 and housed in the United States Capital until much of the collection was destroyed in the War of 1812.

Today the Library of Congress is housed in 3 different buildings and contains over 147 million items.  Although it is open to the public, only members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and high-ranking government officials, including the Poet Laureate, may check out books.

I remember Ms. Brooks sweeping her arms in an arc across my high school library and saying that we must fill the libraries of the world with books by all sorts of people, not just the ones we relate to easily.

Thank you, Ms. Brooks.

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

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