Hi, my name is Madeline. I am eleven years old. I'm going to
tell you a true story about why I visited the Library of Congress in Washington
D. C. in February of 2000. It began when I was in nursery school.
My mother told me that when I learned how to sign my name I could get a
library card. It was the year 1992. I was four years old when
I finally could take out ANY picture book I wanted. O.K., reading was another
story. My public library had books beyond belief. They had books on apples
to zucchinis, acrobats to zoo janitors, and from Albania to Zanzibar.
I walked to the library every week with my mom and took 10 picture books
out at a time.
When I got to kindergarten, I found out that there was NO library at school.
My school needed more room for classrooms. Every week a parent would
roll a cart full of books into our classroom. There wasn't much time to
choose one. Sometimes my teacher would take us on a class trip to the public
library. We were not allowed to take out books. My mom still took me to
the public library on the weekend and the children's librarian would help
me find books for my endangered animal project, or whatever.
When I was in first grade my parents got a Windows 3.1 computer. I played
games on it and typed a few stories. The reference librarian at the public
library still helped me find books, but my life was starting to get complicated
with ballet and friends. I used our computer to type my school reports.
Then in fifth grade my parents connected my computer to the Internet.
I became interested in researching my projects online. After a couple of
months on the Internet, I went to the library less and less. It seemed
like I could find out about ANYTHING on the internet and print pictures
on any topic. The public library seemed so small compared to the
My fifth grade teacher, Ms. Alperstein, encouraged us to explore and use
the Internet for our projects and I joined a Think Quest Junior team in
1999 with Svetlana and Val, my classmates, to create a website about orthodontic
braces called "Yo, It's Time For Braces" (http://tqjunior.advanced.org/5029).
We couldn't find books for kids about braces in the library or in the book
stores. Fortunately, many orthodontists, organizations, companies and webmasters
gave us permission to include their information, advice and pictures on
our site. We knew that we couldn't write our own medical advice. We wanted
our pictures to be very accurate so that they would really help kids who
were experiencing the same thing I was: braces. I realized how important
and difficult it is to get permission for the pictures and information
that is used on the Internet. Everybody has to know where all of this information
on the internet is coming from.
Amazingly, our website about braces won the ThinkQuest Junior Platinum
award in the category of Health and Sports. The website started to be linked
to many other websites and magazines' sites for kids. The companies that
were incredibly nice to write about our website, looked at how much work
we put into getting permission for what was on our web site. They said
that if we hadn't done that, they would never have been able to use it
on their websites or magazines. Kids from all across the United States
and around the world would not have seen our site or contributed to our
growing guest book. I realized how important getting permission was in
the world today.
This is how the web site
you are reading now came to be.
So our Think Quest Junior Team decided to write about art rights. Our team
wondered where kids would look for pictures and information for their own
websites. When we were looking for information on how to get permission
from the government websites, I found the incredible
web site of United States Library of Congress. This web site
includes many sections. There is THOMAS which has a huge amount of
information on the work being done in Congress right now. The U.S.
Office of Copyright is part of the Library of Congress. It has a lot of
information about how artists and writers protect the rights to their work.
The National Digital Library has pages for searching the digitized collections
of the Library, including the American Memory Collection and the American
Treasures Exhibit. It has original documents on almost every subject
and a learning page for kids and teachers!!!
In December of 1999, the Library Of Congress' Website won the 4th Annual
Global Information Infrastructure (GII) award in the category of Education.
Ms. Susan Veccia accepted the award at a ceremony in San Francisco on their
behalf and for the National Digital Library.
Our Braces Thinkquest Junior website team were named as finalists in the
GII's Health category. Thinkquest and the Optiva Corporation (makers of
the Sonicare (tm) electric toothbrush) made it possible for our team and
Ms. Alperstein to go to the ceremony in San Francisco, California.
It was a dream come true. Besides being given the honor of presenting
the awards in the Children's category, we were in the front row when Ms.
Veccia accepted the award for the National Digital Library.
My new team, Kim, Katie and I decided to contact Ms. Veccia by e-mail to
find out more about this incredible place for students to see information
and images gathered by the Library of Congress for the last 200 years (1800-2000).
We were amazed when Ms. Veccia and her staff agreed to be interviewed by
a 6th grader (me). During Winter Break (February of 2000) my family
and I went to Washington D.C. to visit the Library of Congress. Kim
and Katie had already made plans to go to NASA's Space Camp in Florida
We took some pictures of Washington D.C. and the Library of Congress so
that you can see them without going to the library yourself. The Library
of Congress consists of three giant buildings. The Jefferson building is
VERY beautiful, with many wonderful paintings, Greek statues and mosaic
tiles everywhere. The reading rooms are in the Jefferson Building and the
rest of the collections and the offices are in the Madison and Adams
Buildings. To enter the reading rooms you have to be at least 18 years
old. The books and other items are not on open shelves. They have to be
requested and you need a special library card to use the Library of Congress.
The National Digital Library is putting a small part of the Library of
Congress' collections on the Internet. This small part is gigantic.
This is the first time that kids, teenagers and adults who can't
go to Washington D.C. can use the Library of Congress. Your home computer,
your classroom computer and the computer at the public library is now a
doorway to the Library of Congress. We can ALL go to Washington D. C. this
Mrs. Alperstein, our Thinkquest Junior coach lent us a digital camera so
that we could make a picture tour of the trip to THE
library. You'll see some pictures of the Library of Congress.
Unfortunately, the indoor pictures did not come out, so we have used some
pictures of the reading rooms from their web site.
We tried to see as much as we could of Washington D.C. as our feet could
take because it is such an amazing place. In the evenings we saw
the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Memorial,
the Vietnam War Memorial, and the U.S. Marine Memorial. They were
lit up like a beautiful theater. They were also very sad. We
toured the Capitol Building which is across from the Library of Congress
and we saw a lot of Smithsonian Museums. We took the subway called
the "Metro" with big wide tunnels and we took the subway car that connects
the Congressional offices to the Capitol. It was February but the weather
was warm and sunny.
Our meeting with Ms. Veccia, Ms. Howie and Ms. Donlan was at 2p.m. on Friday.
I was a little scared because this was a meeting with real professionals.
The topic of how can students use the National Digital Library for their
own web sites is a difficult one. The web site is really for grown-up
researchers. It's not easy for kids to use. The Learning page on
the American Memory collection is for helping kids get around the site,
but I didn't know enough history to understand it that well. My Mom,
Dad, little brother Dennis and cousin Arielle were all at the meeting.
Ms Veccia explained how economic and copyright decisions go into deciding
what to put on their web site. Ms. Howie explained how she checks
each item to make sure the Library of Congress can put an item on the internet
and what kind of credit has to be put on it. Ms. Donlan explained
the work she does training teachers and helping teachers use the National
Digital Library. They very generously gave us a long interview.
They really want kids to find out about the website of the Library of Congress.
We hope you will check out the site http://www.loc.gov
I told Ms. Vecca, Ms. Howie and Ms. Donlan about how our school was too
crowded to have a school library. Thinkquest, just having the internet
at home and our trip to the Library of Congress made me appreciate how
great a computer can be used as a library for our school. Also seeing
those beautiful reading rooms of the Jefferson building with all of the
research librarians helping people find things that have not been seen
in so many years, made me appreciate our little local public library.
I found out that The New York Public Library has their own digital collection
and it is connected to the Library of Congress! There is so much more to
the little library then I ever realized. This weekend, I'm going
back to the library. I still like the picture books. Some kids stay
there after school because there is no one at home. But, luckily,
they have a reading room just like the United States Congress!!!