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Library of Congress celebrates bicentennial

The world's largest library celebrates 200 years  

April 26, 2000
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST (2140 GMT)

(CNN) -- It's a think tank for Congress, the copyright office of the United States, home to the nation's poet laureate, and the world's largest library. It's the Library of Congress and it's celebrating its 200th birthday.

The party, which kicked off at the beginning of April with the publication of "Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty," includes a variety of events designed to recognize the important role the Library of Congress -- and all libraries -- play in our communities.

Poet laureate Robert Pinsky has recorded Americans reading their favorite poems, and in May, the Library will showcase its Local Legacies Project. Teams all across the country have spent the last year photographing, taping and writing about American cultural traditions and creative arts. Their work will become part of the Library's American Folklife Center collection.

In honor of the bicentennial, the Library will be the subject of a new stamp and a new gold and platinum commemorative coin -- the first bi-metallic coin struck by the U.S. Mint. In addition, four poets laureate plan do one-hour radio interviews to mark the milestone.

A group of children sing "Happy Birthday" to the Library of Congress  

Also part of the celebration: a new Web site geared toward families and children. And for the first time, the library will use television to advertise its services.

The Library of Congress celebrated its official birthday on April 24 with a party on the lawn of the Capitol. The entertainment featured magic shows and music ranging from the Latin stylings of Tito Puente to the country tunes of Kathy Mattea to the rhythms of West Africa.

The nation's library started with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's private library and has grown into the world's largest repository of knowledge and artistic endeavour.

"We have 119 million items in 460 different languages," said Librarian of Congress James Billington. "We are the only place in the world that collects it all, virtually all languages spoken in the planet.

The bicentennial birthday celebration is slated to run into 2001.

CNN Correspondent Jonathan Aiken contributed to this report.

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