U.S. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden toured the Yakima Central Library on Wednesday, exploring historical documents being preserved and digitized there.

Books from the congressional library were donated to the Yakima library for the first time during the visit, and documentation of the war stories of 22 Central Washington veterans were passed to Hayden for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Hayden was joined by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse.

“We are bringing the first delivery of surplus books from the Library of Congress to present to the Yakima … library system,” said Newhouse, a Republican from Sunnyside, adding that the Library of Congress receives 15,000 to 20,000 new books each day.

Hayden said it was the first delivery to a library in Washington.

The visit also marked the first contribution of local recordings to the congressional library’s Veterans History Project, which began in 2000 in an effort to expand documentation of the country’s war heroes. Three veterans shared their stories, thanking Hayden for documenting veterans’ experiences.

“These will be available online. People can listen,” Hayden said.

She added that the Library of Congress was also digitizing documents dating back to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, for example, so people can learn more about that era in history.

“We digitize things like Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence with footnotes by Benjamin Franklin, B.F., and J.A., John Adams,” she said.

Hayden said that the Yakima library was doing similarly important work, which she had learned about earlier in the morning during a tour.

“Your library staff and this system is exemplary,” she said to a room full of library representatives and community members.

During an earlier tour of the local library’s Relander Collection — archives of historical documents from the Pacific Northwest stored in the library basement — library archive technician Bonnie Hood showed Hayden and Newhouse an original hand-written document dating to the 1800s that was sent to Yakima by horseback from the U.S. Department of Interior. It was among a roomful of rare documents being preserved and digitally archived by the library.

“I’m geeking out,” Hayden said. “I’m a kid in a candy store.”

While preserving handwritten documents such as those found in the Relander Collection was expensive, Hayden said it was an important investment in the future.

State archive librarian Terry Walker said the library was working to move the archives into a more accessible but protected area on the main floor of the building, to be made available by appointment.

Newhouse was also shown a library service that sends books and library materials to Yakima County citizens who can’t get to a library, such as those in nursing homes — a service Newhouse said he was previously unaware of.

“Libraries in general are jewels of our country,” said Newhouse. “The reason they are … is they preserve so much of our heritage, of our culture, and of our history.”

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka