THE MORNING is mizzly and cool as I walk up Capitol Hill from Union Station. Although I don't have an appointment, I hope to see the Senate librarian. The elevator is very slow, but I remember that the Senate is the deliberative body of Congress.
I am compiling an index to an ill-defined class of congressional publications known as committee prints (these are published monographs, not lithographs of the Capitol) for a company called CIS. After a year-long search that turned up more than 10,000 prints in the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the offices and storage rooms of congressional commitees, I have only one more week to try to find some obscure publications. Deadlines loom large.
The extensive series of naval affairs publications that I am trying to find it not in the Senate library's collection, so I thank the librarian and take the stairs down to the first floor. Thinking I may have overlooked the Navy prints when I searched the Library of Congress, I decide to try the shelves in the Thomas Jefferson Building once again. No luck.
It's pouring as I waslk from the Thomas Jefferson Building to the bus stop in front of the Madison Building. No bus comes. My computer printout begins to melt in the downpour, so I hail a taxi to the Washington Navy Yark. Building 220 -- an oversize garage on the outside -- houses the Navy Department library, and there, with the help of librarians who welcome me as though I were a castaway, I solve the problem of the missing publications. They had been bound by mistake with an unrelated series of reports.
The rain has let up so I walk to the bus stop outside the yard. It's late in the afternoon and I am still wet and cold. My print-out isn't in such good shape either. Monday
The Beltway drive to Bethesda is not unpleasant for once. At the office we decide to concentrate our efforts (even editiors are not immune to cliches) on the remaining departmental libraries during the next two days so we can estimate the total number of publications to be included in the index. Today's estimate is 15,000.
As meetings follow upon meetings, dozens of yellow legal pads are scribbled to death. I am convinced that numbers, together with their diallects of estimates and projections, which like all dialects are constantly changing, constitute a hieratic language in corporations.
At home, a quarrel over matchbox cars erupts as soon as I walk in the door. Supper passes without civil war, and we read aloud a few chapters of "Basil of Baker Street" before the boys' bedtime. Perhaps that Sherlockian mouse Basil could have helped me a lot in the attic of the Russell Office Building where I was searching for documents last month. In fact I saw a few of his American cousins there. Tuesday
Back downtown and another walk up Capitol Hill. The clerk of the House is meeting with his staff and I have to wait until 10 o'clock to see anyone. Rather than linger in the clerk's office I walk over to the Senate side to chat with Dr. Baker, the Senate historian, but he too is in a meeting. Poor fellow.
To occupy the interval, I look at the exhibit of miniature copies of Luigi Persico's Capitol sculpture in the room below the Rotunda Hall, and Horace's line: "persicos odi, puer, apparatus," comes to me. Such is the excess baggage of a classical education.
Finally, I have my meeting in the clerk's office about access to certain. House publications stored in the National Archives. Onward to the Justice Department library. A guard telephones the librarian for authorization to admit me.
I briefly explain my indexing project and the final bibliographic search I am conducting. The librarian is both cooperative and pleasant -- quite in contrast to the dismal furnishing and decoration of the library itself. It takes only an hour and a half to look through the card catalogue and satisfy myself that the Justice Department possesses no works we had not already found.
A quick lunch at the Portrait Gallery, and I am off to the main library of the Commerce Department. The librarian, whom I was directed to see, is, predictably, in a meeting. His assistant shows me the nine drawers of congressional committee catalogue entries. It promises to be a long afternoon and is.
Four hours later I have found only three references. On going to the stacks, however, I discovered that two of the items are not on the shelf and the third was incorrectly identified in the catalog. When I get home at 6:15, I find the boys playing Moby Dick: pillows on the floor are dead whales. Wednesday
As I wait for the bus, I wish I had my gloves, but they're probably in the boys' toybox. On the way down I force myself to contrate on an obscure article on the idea of progress in historical writing that I will abstract in the evening for a scholarly journal.
I don't expect to spend more than an hour at the Commerce Department's law library. I am wrong. It takes almost four hours to work through over a hundred shelved of uncatalogued publications. I find 72 additional publications to be indexed.
After a 12-minute lunch in the Commerce Department cafeteria (only masochists stay longer), I set off for the Treasury Department. To my surprise, the librarian is not in a meeting and in fact, looks as if he had had the good sense to avoid them for some time.
He is extremely helpful, but I find nothing we have not covered before. Two hours after pinning the plastic visitor's badge to my sweater, I return it to the guard and leave empty-handed. Thursday
For the second time in a week I am back in our Bethesda office. The search for documents has come to an end. I must conjure up some more numbers and prepare my notes for another meeting.
Dr Johnson was probably right: "The making of indexes is a task that . . . may be successsfully performed without any higher quality than that of bearing burdens with dull patience, and beating the track of the alphabet with sluggis resolution." Beating the track of libraries and archives for committee prints to index, however, has been fun.