If Cicero was right when he said, “a room without books is like a body without a soul,” the room located at 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, D.C., has plenty of soul. The centerpiece of the Library of Congress, the Reading Room, is considered to be among the most beautiful rooms in the world and the heart of a library that catalogues 160 million items, fills 823 miles of bookshelves, and boasts 3.5 million recordings. The room is under the constant watch of 16 statues of history’s most notable men. Eight marble columns representing eight elements of civilized life define the room: Philosophy, Art, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law, and Poetry. A large tablet bearing an inscription caps each column. Above Religion: “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Above Science: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Above History, the words of Tennyson: “One God, one law, one element, and one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves.”
A room with a soul indeed.