Usona Esperantisto № 2010:4

Library of Congress field trip

Ralph Dumain

On the afternoon of Saturday May 30 a contingent of Esperantists made a pilgrimage to the Library of Congress, one of our greatest national treasures, where we were greeted by Lee Douglas, a veteran Esperantist and librarian stationed in the Local History & Genealogy Dept.

Also awaiting our arrival was a display of books from the library’s rich collection (on site and from the repository in Ft. Meade) and from Mr. Douglas’s personal collection, ranging from old and rare to recently published items. I made a note of a few items of interest: Class Leader’s Course by Correspondence (American School of Esperanto, Washington D.C., 1911); Practical Esperanto: Complete Method for Learning the International Language “Esperanto”: Home Course (William Sol Benson, 1925-1932); Proleta Kurso de Esperanto, vol. 5 (Tokyo, 1932); La Lasta Usonano by J. A. Mitchell (various editions); Vivprotokoloj: Ĉiutagaj Vivoj, Rakontitaj de Esperantistoj compiled by Ulrich Becker & Zdravka Metz (2nd ed., 2009). In turn, we presented items for donation to the library’s collection.

Mr. Douglas treated us to an overview of how to fully use the library’s resources, which included information new even to me as a veteran researcher. There are various tricks to using the online catalog available to everyone, especially in light of the newer practice of “minimal level cataloging.”

In addition to researching the usual published formats, one must do some digging to find Esperanto-related material in various archives. For example, the library has on microfiche the German secret police reports covering the period 1920-1933, in which the Esperanto movement was heavily surveilled by government spies.

Finally, the acquisitions policies of the library were reviewed. The Library of Congress accepts everything, throws nothing away, but will probably never catalog a substantial percentage of material entered into storage. Esperanto material is of the lowest priority for cataloging, and of a very low priority for regular acquisitions. You can of course write to the Library of Congress yourself urging your priorities, but you are unlikely to have much impact unless you or someone you know has pull.

I trust that others moved on to take in other departments of the Library of Congress or other tourist attractions. I remained behind to pursue my research passion for a bit. Thanks, Mr. Douglas and the Library of Congress staff, for your service to our group as well as to the national memory.