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Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Library of Congress: Delightful to My Eyes but Difficult for My Ears pt. 2

As mentioned in my previous post, I had a difficult time hearing at the Library of Congress. When Hollace and I went to the visitors desk, we were directed to view a movie and take a tour. The movie was not captioned. We asked for captions, but were told this was a new film and there had been technical problems and the captions were not yet unavailable. We were given a URL for an online video with captions. But what good was that to us right then?

The tour guide was informed about our needs and she did her best to face us and enunciate, but the acoustics in the grand building were terrible. Sound bounced off the hard marble surfaces. Soon, my head was roaring. I left with an awful headache.

When I was back in the HLAA office the next week, advocate Lise Hamlin suggested I write a complaint letter about my experience. I did and here's the email I wrote and the response I received:

Dear Visitors Services Office,

I am a professional librarian who was excited to visit the Library of Congress while in Washington D.C. for a short time this summer. I went last Friday and was amazed at how beautiful your building is. Unfortunately, I could not fully participate in the guided tour because of my hearing loss.

I use English to communicate rather than sign language so having an interpreter would not have made a difference. Two things would have helped: 1) to have closed captions on the visitors' video and 2) to have a transcript of the guided tour. I inquired about them and was told they were unavailable. I hope that you will implement both of these accommodations for people like me who have hearing loss and use English.

I left the Library of Congress with a terrible headache from straining to hear which marred my experience. I hope if I can come again it will be different the next time.

Sarah Wegley

Dear Ms. Wegley,
Thank you for bringing to my attention the problems you encountered during your recent visit to the Library of Congress. We strive to make every person’s time here special, so I am so sorry that your visit did not meet expectations.

The orientation film typically has captions, however we have encountered recently some technical difficulties. We are working to fully resolve the problem. I would be happy to send you a copy of the DVD for your personal use, if you send me your address. In the meantime, you can access the film (with captions) online at

Regarding the problem with the guided tour, because each docent gives their own tour, it is not possible for us to provide a script, however, I hope you picked up a brochure that has the core elements of every tour explained. I attach a pdf of that brochure here. In addition, you can study the areas you saw and other areas that are not part of the tour at 

We would like to make amends, so please let us know when you might return.

Thank you for visiting and for sharing your feedback.

Giulia Adelfio
Chief, Visitor Services Office
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4990

1 comment:

Mrs. VandeVelde said...

It's too bad that they didn't have some sort of an FM system. Or that you have an FM system that you can take with you for guided tours???
Especially for the Library of Congress!!! I'm surprised their equipment wasn't working!!! You did receive a nice response, but that didn't help you while you were there.