Monday, November 3, 2008

Hero of The Week: Sybille Jagusch

I'm finally back home with the boys in St. Paul. It was nice to get away for a few days. Not just for the uninterrupted sleep, but more for the joy I got from seeing Q giddily running to me with open arms at the airport. Even a sick little Ozzi gave me a big hug and smile when I picked him up. Time apart is always a great reminder of how great time together is.

This brief trip had a few other life lessons for me to learn. The greatest of these were taught by none other than the United States Library of Congress. We wandered into the LOC late in the afternoon. After spending several minutes straining our necks looking at the magnificent ceiling, we discovered a thick wall of glass preventing us from entering the main reading room. It seems so obvious now, I'm not quite sure why we thought this functioning research library would be open for all us visitors to just noisily wander in and out of. A little disappointed, we started to leave. At the last minute we ask the two gentlemen at an information desk just how one could get into the reading room.

"You need one of these cards.", they both say.
"Ok. What do you have to do to get one of those cards?"
Taking out a little LOC map, "You go to Reader Registration in the Madison Building and fill out a form."
We thank them and walk out into the sun blindingly reflecting off all the white marble.

- Lesson 1 : It never hurts to ask.

"We have time. Do you want to try and get the cards?"
"Yeah. Even if we don't use them to get into the reading room they would make a cool souvenir."
We head for the Madison Building. When we get there we are greeted by the friendliest administrators of bureaucracy on the planet. We fill out a couple of forms and within just a few minutes we have official Library of Congress Reader Identification Cards.

- Lesson 2 : Don't let a little bureaucracy stand in your way.

The final step in reader registration was letting an eagerly helpful government employee (that's not a joke. I'm totally serious.) help direct you to exactly where in the LOC you needed to go for your chosen topic of research. K8 picked out Children's Literature and once again this blog made itself useful, turning a blurted out fib of K8's into a totally legitimate reason for us to gain access to our nation's temple of knowledge. As soon as this lady heard K8 mention Children's Literature she went from a pleasant helpfulness to an exhilarated helpfulness. She explained to us that the woman running the Children's Literature Center, Sybille Jagusch, was the nicest woman we would ever meet. It was nearing the time that Sybille often left for the day so she called Sybille to confirm that she was still there, gave us directions to the department, and told us to hurry.

We hustled back over to the LOC. Entering through the back we followed the directions through small unmarked doors and up narrow spiraling staircases. Sybille was there waiting for us. "The nicest woman we would ever meet" falls seriously short of describing Sybille. She is the most perfect person for what she does. Wisdom of a sage and the excitement of a child.

She began with what I imagine is her normal spiel, explaining what she, the solitary proprietess of the Children's Literature Center, does. That, however, lasted less than a minute before she interrupted herself with,"Wait, wait, I've got to show you something! I'll be right back!" Springing up from her seat, running into another room and returning with a copy of a 19th century German paper play-globe. I have never in my life met anyone so excited and passionate about what they do for a living. We spent almost an hour with her that afternoon, though it certainly felt like less. She showed us some amazing acquisitions like the smallest children's book in the world. She told us some fantastic stories from her life with children's books. We talked about Minnesota, Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon, and our two boys back home. We told her about our favorite kid's books and she told us hers, Suho's White Horse: A Mongolian Legend. She was fascinating and appeared to be genuinely interested in us as well. Talking to Sybille was not only the highlight of our trip but a major insperation for the both of us.

Lesson 3 : Sometimes even the most flippant of ideas can lead you to a significant, meaningful experience.


Jen said...

What a great experience and story, Darrin!

KristenMary said...

That's awesome!

PumpkinGirl said...

I love that you guys followed through with getting the cards and going in. What an awesome memory you have now.