Monday, April 24, 2006

April 24: Library of Congress Day

On this date in 1800, President John Adams approved an appropriation of $5,000 to purchase books, establishing the Library of Congress. The books were ordered from London and a total of 740 volumes were housed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Invading British troops destroyed the library when they set fire to the Capitol Building in 1814. In 1815, Congress accepted an offer by retired President Thomas Jefferson to replace the library with his own eclectic collection of 6,487 books.

The library moved to its current location, the Thomas Jefferson Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, in 1897. Two additional buildings were added in 1939 and 1980: The John Adams Building and the James Madison Memorial Building.

Today the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, and according the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington, the library contains the following materials:

-530 miles of bookshelves

-More than 290 million books and other printed materials

-2.7 million recordings

-12 million photographs

-4.8 million maps

-58 million manuscripts (1)

Today’s Challenge: Reading By the Numbers

Attempt to answer the following questions on reading statistics from Vital Statistics: An Amazing Compendium of Factoids, Minutiae, and Random Bits of Wisdom by Paul Grobman (2).

1. On average how many books does an individual American read each year?

2. On average how many books and periodicals do blind Americans read annually?

3. In what year did reading to oneself first come into vogue?

4. What are the odds that an adult in 1950 was illiterate?

5. What are the odds today that an adult is illiterate?

6. What is the most literate country on earth?

7. What is the average reading speed of the average person?

8. What is the reading speed of the world’s fastest reader?

9. What is the most popular magazine in America?

10. What is the world’s most widely read magazine?

Quote of the Day: Outside of a dog, books are man's best friend; inside of a dog it's too dark to read anyways. --Groucho Marx

1 - Library of Congress

2 - Grobman, Paul. Vital Statistics: An Amazing Compendium of Factoids, Minutiae, and Random Bits of Wisdom. New York: Plume Books, 2005.

1. 16 2. 20 3. 383 A.D. 4. 1 in 2 5. 1 in 5 6. Iceland 99.9 7. 250 words per minute 8. 2,284 9. AARP Magazine 10. Reader's Digest

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