A Visit to the Library of Congress
In early November, Professor Rebeca Moreno Orama’s “Literature and Law of the Hispanic Caribbean” class took a trip to the Hispanic Division and the Law Library of the Library of Congress. Rachel Brown ’16, who is majoring in hispanic studies and anthropology, reflected on the trip.
Although I had visited the Library of Congress on several prior occasions, both individually and as a member of Washington College groups, this visit was one of the most informative in both a general and specific sense. I gained a much more thorough understanding of how the Library of Congress itself operates, as well as a personal familiarity with the Hispanic Division and one of its librarians, both of which are valuable assets for a student in the process of completing an SCE in hispanic studies.
Professor Moreno arranged the visit to dovetail with our in-class discussion of Puerto Rican citizenship and identity. Librarian Dr. Talia Guzmán-González gave us a personal tour of the Hispanic Division’s collection (rather than retaining custody of the materials in their Reading Room, the Division facilitates visitors’ research by helping collect relevant materials from elsewhere in the Library) as well as a detailed walkthrough of how to access the Division’s online and material resources. This visit was a valuable experience: by seeing it first hand, including some fascinating and relevant materials Librarian Guzmán-González had pulled for us to view, I gained the motivation and capacity to utilize the Division’s resources for work associated with this particular class as well as my personal projects. I also gained a valuable contact through our class’s cordial and personal interaction with the Librarian throughout the day.
The second portion of our day consisted of a visit to the Law Library of Congress. Although the law is not an area of interest to me in the way hispanic studies is, this session was also surprisingly fruitful. A librarian who oversaw the library’s special collections and rare books had pulled a number of incredibly significant works, many of which we’d read in class. These works formed the basis of the law culture in the New World, and we were able to see original copies or first editions, including a compendium that had been printed in the 1490s. This experience was as unexpected as it was interesting: as students, we were able to view some of the physical objects whose ideas had formed the much less physical but vastly more complex law culture of the Hispanic Caribbean, giving us a deeper understanding of our topic of study.
I truly enjoyed this visit. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the Library of Congress, especially the Hispanic Division, which is an area of great interest to me. I plan to do further research using the Division’s resources, with the help of the contacts we made during this trip.
—Rachel Brown ’16