As the world's largest library and America's oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress boasts over 164 million items stored on over 1300 kilometres of bookshelves. Its stated mission is to "document the history and further the creativity of the American people" and to ensure that its collections "record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world." And this month the library has been particularly busy.
Welcome Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate
Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith has been named as the Library of Congress's 22nd poet laureate. She is the author of three books of poetry--The Body's Question, Duende, and Life on Mars--as well as a memoir, Ordinary Light. Her new post does not include any specific duties, but former poets laureate have attempted to popularize poetry beyond current audiences; in keeping with this tradition, Ms. Smith reports that she intends to hold poetry events in smaller towns, "where literary festivals don't always go".
Welcome to the web
It owns a Gutenberg bible and is now also home to lolcats. This week the Library of Congress launched two digital collections: The Web Cultures Archive and the Web Comics Archive. The former includes memes, GIFs, emojis and more in an effort to "help scholars 25 and 100 years from now have a fuller picture of the culture and life of people today," according to Elizabeth Peterson, director of the American Folklife Center. The Web Comics Archive is a natural extension of the library's comic book collection, which, with 135,000 issues, is the world's largest. It includes longstanding web comic classics such as XKCD alongside works by artists who are part of underrepresented groups, such as women, artists of colour and LGBTQ+ artists.