Library Trivia: Washington’s Presidential Library

The presidential library for George Washington has opened last Friday, September 27th. As a piece of Library Trivia for you: Ironically, though the first president of the United States, Washington was the only one with no library.

A reception was held to give guests an advanced view of the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. The 45,000 foot library has wood made of American sycamore, a tree that grows at Mount Vernon and which Washington was familiar. The library is surrounded by fifteen acres of beautiful woodland.

A view of the reading room--from outside

A view of the reading room–from outside

The reading room has floor to ceiling windows, between which the busts of Franklin, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Washington are placed. The carpet was hand-made in Nepal. There are meeting rooms wired for the latest technologies, a reception hall, and a leadership hall. The library plans on hosting conferences and symposia. Visiting scholars are welcome. There are offices for scholars and a nine-room guesthouse 150 feet away from the library.

After his death in 1799, Washington’s books and papers were scattered; many ended up in the Library of Congress but many more in private hands. Since 1968, the Ladies of Mount Vernon and the University of Virginia have worked closely to publish –and now digitize–Washington’s papers.  The Library of Congress has provided copies of the Washington papers in its collection. This archive is slowly being transferred to the new library from UV.

Washington always wanted to build a library for his papers and books, but never did. This library fulfills Washington’s dream—214 years after his death.

(2013-09-10 031)

The new presidential library

About the Author

MIchael Handis is an Associate Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and the Information Management Librarian in the Mina Rees Library.