Fascinating time capsule of the workings of the Library of Congress circa 1945
This short was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary, Short Subject, losing to Hitler Lives?. There will be spoilers ahead:
This is a magnificent documentary on the Library of Congress, its purpose and functions and its history and significance. It's fascinating that, for all that some of the technical aspects of the operations of the library have changed to some degree, the basic purposes of the LoC are still the same some 70 years later-it's still the repository of the copyrighted material produced in the US and a working research library, available to Congress and the public.
The short begins in rural Virginia, with a bookmobile and a young boy asking the librarian what the word "copyright" means. In reply, she tells him (or rather, the narrator tells the audience) about the Library of Congress. For the bulk of the short, the history, purpose and workings of the library are shown. The LoC handles, among other things, the recording of copyrights and the storage of copyrighted material. At the time of filming, the library held some six million books, as well as other types of media, such as film and recordings.
Newsreel footage of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson is shown, as is footage of recordings being made in the field of musicians playing "roots" music. The documentary also discusses the inner workings of the LoC, showing the huge card catalog where a patron went to find the listing for a particular book or other media.
The process by which a particular item in the collection is retrieved and mad e available to a patron is shown as well and that too is fascinating. I suspect the process is a bit more streamlined now than it was 70 years ago (for one thing, the rows of files for the card catalog have undoubtedly been replaced by this point) the end result is the same.
This short is a most intriguing look into the past and is well worth seeking out and watching. Recommended.
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