Friday, March 28, 2008

Majority of None, Part II

This just in from a staff member on the proposed message about the staff being "quite happy" with the re-location to the SE Pavilion.

"We were disappointed and even angered to have these words put into our mouths. We are by no means "quite happy" with the situation. Yesterday, when shown an earlier draft of Marcum's statement, we strongly objected to the "quite happy" phrasing and urged it be changed. You can see the final result. If in fact the current RR is to be converted into exhibition
space -- a decision that is apparently final, we are told, we are resigned to that political reality;
given the two alternatives presented to us (moving to the SE Pavilion and retaining our identity as the European RR; moving into the Main Reading Room and losing our identity as a RR), most staff currently prefer the first option. Our first priority is and will remain providing the highest quality service possible to our readers, whether they are on-site in our reading room or virtual users."

"Thank you all for your support - we are very grateful."


Anonymous said...

It seems extremely important to me as a user that the ERR should continue funtionning in a separate room. A European section in the Main RR will definitely NOT provide all the information needed for high-quality research, especially on smaller countries like Belgium, Sweden or Estonia! It goes without saying that an efficient noise-protection from the exhibit area would have to be thought about BEFORE relocating the room! So far, this "relocation" seems to be a beautiful example of failed before-hand planning!

Anonymous said...

Apparently a designer will be coming to the rotunda space next week, and the first serious plans for what that space may look like with a reading room in it will be discussed. By contrast, the Lincoln exhibit has been in the works for a long, long time, perhaps as much as a year. You can see where the priorities were, but also how the library's decision-makers may be reacting to the outcry. Keep those protests coming! There may be hope of stopping this tragically misguided downsizing of serious scholarship.

Anonymous said...

A few quick clarifications. The noise issue is in fact being recognized as a serious and real one and is apparently being worked on.

The Lincoln bicentennial exhibit has been in the planning stages for a number of years, probably at least five. The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is housed at the Library (in the Adams Building, 5th floor). The exhibit will open in February, 2009.

Anonymous said...

It is untrue that the noise issue in the office area has been recognized as a problem. The staff was told to get used to it or else.

There is another noise problem here that no one has addresses yet, and it has to do with the noise of the heating system in the site of the future reading room - the pavilion that is located behind the office space. Unless the entire heating system in the pavilion is revamped, it will be impossible to conduct any serious research there (not to mention the problem with the acoustics, etc.)

Since the Library of Congress management is unwilling to commit to a time line for the new reading room (closet -size reading room, of course) no need to fear the noise from an outdated heating system. The new reading room will never materialize.

Someone should ask for the latest report of the Office of the Inspector General which reminds the LC management of their 2-year overdue promise to close ALL of the area reading rooms(see, December 11, 2007).

The closure (and not relocation) is the first step in what is to be a permanent closure of all of the area reading rooms of the Library of Congress in order to gain additional exhibit space (i.e. good source of revenue).

Anonymous said...

A colleague of mine sent the following email to various congressional offices:

Dear Hill Staffer,

Senator Feinstein's chairmanship of the Joint Committee on the Library probably doesn't generate too much related e-mail, but this note is an exception. I'm writing in regard to the Library of Congress' recent decision to to replace the European Reading Room with a tourist exhibit. Please register my opposition to this change, which I feel is a step in the wrong direction. Administrators of the library should remain focused on increasing its utility as a resource for scholars; attracting tourists should be a secondary concern at best.

Thomas Jefferson, who effectively reconstituted the Library of Congress after its burning in 1814, demonstrated the proper balancing of these goals in his home at Monticello. Tourists to the estate were greeted in the entryway, where they could see a wide range of artifacts and curiosities collected by Jefferson, but the tour stopped there. He maintained separate rooms for his study and correspondence. In other words, Jefferson recognized the importance of sharing a part of history with those who travelled to see such things, but he valued scholarship far more highly.

Today, Monticello makes a wonderful museum, but it no longer serves as a workshop of ideas. As my colleagues can attest, the Library of Congress must not be relegated to the same fate, at least not yet! I appreciate anything that your office can do to preserve the European Reading Room.

Thank you

Claire said...

This news is truly disappointing -- not only for more advanced scholars, but also for the budding researchers who take advantage of the resources offered by the European reading room. Especially as an undergraduate, the LOC seems daunting for research, and navigating the materials without the reading room staff would make using the EUR materials effectively much more difficult. Thus, future scholars as well as experienced scholars will suffer needlessly from this proposed "move."

Anonymous said...

If wondering what else is going wrong with the Library of Congress management, see the following link to the LC guild website:

Anonymous said...

If the link does not display properly, go to
and click on Thomas Mann's review of the Report of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, "'On the Record' but Off the Track."

Worth reading!