La Biblioteca Nacional

I spent this afternoon in Spain’s National Library (which, now that I’m here, is reminiscent of the Library of Congress in many ways).  I decided to come here on a whim to use my computer and get some papers done for next week.  It was hardly a walk in the park to get inside.

After ascending a huge staircase in the blinding sun, I had to get a yellow visitors sticker at the information desk.  Then I had to put my stuff through an x-ray machine and walk through a metal detector to get inside.  After I was inside I found out that you can only take a notebook, pen, and computer into the library (no books, food, drinks, CDs, scissors, coats, hats, umbrellas, magazines, cameras… etc. allowed).  Everything else must be checked in to a storage area (ie coat/bag check).  As I tried to check my bag in I was informed that it was too big and I would have to get a locker for .50 cents on the other side of the hall.  The smallest change I had was a 20 euro bill, so after unsuccessfully asking everyone I had already talked to on the way in (5 employees by then), I was directed back outside to the bookstore in the basement.  Thankfully I didn’t have to go through the metal detector again (the security guard just waved me through) and I went straight to the lockers.  The security guard told me that I’d need to get a library card before I could bring my computer inside.  I got the forms from the information desk and had my card made on the spot (picture and all) at the card desk.  After changing from a yellow to blue sticker, I could then go back to my locker, get my computer, register it with the guard (which involved scanning my card and giving the computer a bar code), and go back inside.  There’s one large reading room in the middle of the library to work in.  Desks are numbered and assigned by the librarian at yet another information desk.  The system to get a book is to look it up on the computer, fill out a request, and turn it in.  When your book is ready to pick up, a light of the desk flashes.    It’s all quite complicated with lots of paperwork, but now that I’m hear it’s comfortable and very quiet.  Perfect for in-depth research (or just writing a couple of blog entries).  I filled out the form to get a book about the Guggenheim in Bilbao for a report and sat down at desk 217.

In all, it took 14 employees to get me inside the building, give me change, store my stuff, get me a library card, register my computer, assign me a desk, and bring me the book.  Thank goodness everyone was helpful.

After I finished up some work I wrote some entries to try to catch up.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write about Lisbon yet, but other than that most of the major events are now posted.

Tonight at 11:00 I’m taking a bus to Barcelona (it arrives at 7:15 tomorrow morning) to tour the city with some others from the program this weekend.  I’ll be back very early Monday morning.  Next week is my last week in Madrid; I leave a week from tomorrow for a few days in London before going home.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get all caught up on my posts before I get home, but if not I’ll keep writing until they’re done.  Thanks for reading!  As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments, or the like!

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