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Library of Congress Professional Guild

AFSCME
Local 2910

Closure of Reading Rooms at the Library of Congress


It's Over!| March 2014 Statement & Resolution | Update on Science & Business | Background | Tom Mann on I-900 | Anne Toohey on LH&G

It's Over! I-900 Project Will Not Be Implemented

Message from Saul Schniderman, Guild President, March 28, 2014:

Yesterday, April 27, Associate Librarian for Library Services Roberta I. Shaffer announced that the I-900 project will not be implemented at the Library of Congress. This means that the Science and Business Reading Room will not be relocated into the Main Reading Room.

In our testimony to the House Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations and through our committee of reference librarians from the affected areas, the Guild has opposed the I-900 consolidation effort. Our opposition was based on our concern that I-900 would have adversely affected reference services, reference collections and specialized subject expertise. The Guild applauds Library management for the decision to discontinue the I-900 initiative. A hearty congratulations goes to those reference librarians who worked so hard for this outcome. The Library of Congress is a great library because of the dedicated staff that work here.

I encourage all staff members—regardless of your views on the I-900 initiative—to continue working with us to resolve professional issues at the Library of Congress. Participating in decision-making and advocating for professionalism are activities that benefit the Library and enhance our careers. Many thanks go to the members of the Guild, who have helped make all this possible.

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March 2014 Statement and Resolution

As part of his Statement for the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives dated March 7, 2014, Guild President Saul Schniderman shared the following with members of Congress. His statment also included the text of the resolution of the Guild Committee on Reference Service Consolidation, below.

"We urge you to support the Librarian’s FY 2015 budget request, with one reservation. The Guild does not support funding for the initiative which seeks to consolidate reading rooms and transform the historic Main Reading Room in the Jefferson Building into a “Center of Knowledge.” We oppose funding for the reading room consolidation initiative (known as “I- 900” for its 900 day timeline) because it will close reading rooms in the Adams and Madison Buildings and because it diminishes the services provided by specialized reading rooms. Regrettably, the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room was closed in 2013. The Science, Technology and Business Reading Room, and the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room are slated for consolidation in 2015. The I-900 plan to consolidate collections and services will result in the homogenization of reference service and diminishment of the subject expertise which has been a hallmark of the Library for decades. Concerns about the impact of closing the Science, Technology and Business Reading Room are presented in a resolution attached at the end of our testimony.

"Today the Library of Congress is in the midst of a great transition, the outcome of which is far from clear. We hail Dr. Billington’s digital initiatives which many of our members are working hard to implement. But in 2014 and beyond, it is the consensus of reference librarians that closing reading rooms will degrade reference service and ultimately undermine the mission of the Library of Congress. Please listen to the Library’s veteran knowledge navigators"

Resolution: Keep Open the Science and Business Reading Room At the Library of Congress

WHEREAS, the Library of Congress plans to implement its “I-900 Plan” that would close the doors of the Science and Business Reading Room early in 2015, move the Science, Technology & Business Division staff and services to the Jefferson Building, and convert the Main Reading Room into the “Center of Knowledge for the 21st Century;” and,

WHEREAS, the Science and Business Reading Room, located in the Adams Building, is one of the largest and most heavily used reading rooms in the Library of Congress, with specialized reference collections and supplemental materials heavily used by researchers; and,

WHEREAS, the Library of Congress—unlike other national libraries such as the British Library—would then lack dedicated facilities for research in the sciences, technology, business, and the humanities and social sciences; and,

WHEREAS, consolidation would serve to diminish the reference collections across all disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences, by requiring all areas to reduce their specialized collections by as much as 50 percent; and,

WHEREAS, closure of the Science and Business Reading Room would result in a significant increase in delivery time for research requests from the two-thirds of the Library’s general collections housed in the Adams Building; and,

WHEREAS, the projected homogenization of staff and merger of services would diminish the research experience by inhibiting access to subject collections for specialists and patrons; and,

WHEREAS, the consolidation would diminish or virtually eliminate dedicated physical space for collaborative research or consultation, and would limit—rather than facilitate—opportunities for cooperative outreach in science literacy and STEM education; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, that we call upon Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, to:

  • stop the planned merger and reduction of specialized reference collections and services;
  • stop the I-900 consolidation project; and
  • stop the closure of the Science and Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress.

Adopted at the March 5, 2014 meeting of the Guild Committee on Reference Service Consolidation


January 16, 2014: Library of Congress to Close
Science & Business Reading Room

On January 16, 2014, Associate Librarian of Congress Roberta I. Shaffer announced the closing of the Library’s Science & Business Reading Room, as part of a consolidation effort known as “I-900.” According to the projected timetable, implementation will be completed no later than the end of March, 2015. The I-900 plan calls for a unified "Center of Knowledge" to be located in the space of the Library's current "Main Reading Room."

Previously, as part of the I-900 initiative, the Library's Local History & Genealogy Reading Room was closed on November 25, 2013. Its functions have merged into those of the Library's Main Reading Room, the present site for research in humanities and social sciences.

With the closure of the Science & Business Reading Room, the Library of Congress will no longer have a dedicated research space for the study of science, technology, or business—neither to current innovation in those fields, nor to their history. At the same time, the Library of Congress continues to support some twenty other autonomous subject- and format-specific research centers including: the Motion Picture & Television Reading Room, the Law Library of Congress, the African & Middle Eastern Reading Room, and the Children’s Literature Center.

Recognizing the importance of Science to the growth of the nation, and the explosion of library materials in science-related fields, the Library of Congress has supported an autonomous Science Reading Room for more than sixty years. Business references services have been co-located with Science in the Library's Adams Building since the creation of the Science, Technology and Business Division in 1998.

We are troubled by the implications of the closure of this reading room, for the future of the Library of Congress as well as the ongoing support of science and business research at the national level. If you agree, we urge you to make your views known to those in a position to affect the outcome of this announcement.

Please also watch this space for additional updates and information.

Contacts:

[1] Library of Congress

James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, libofc@loc.gov

Roberta I. Shaffer, Associate Librarian for Library Services, Library of Congress, alls@loc.gov

The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540
(202) 707-5000

[2] Your Congressional Representatives

House: http://house.gov/representatives/find/

Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

[3] Joint Committee on the Library (House and Senate)

Gregg Harper (R-MS), Chair
http://cha.house.gov/jointcommittees/joint-committee-library


Background

In October 2012, Library of Congress Associate Librarian Roberta I. Shaffer first put forward an initiative to consolidate the operations of multiple Library of Congress reading rooms, reference collections and reference units. A resulting single “Center of Knowledge” would be located in the space of the Main Reading Room in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building.

Language describing the merger claims benefits for both researchers and staff. Researchers would experience “a centralized service point,” described as “the hub of services that reflect the transdisciplinary nature of research, better meet researchers’ expectations of conducting their inquiries across all formats of knowledge, and have resources available to them wherever they are.” As for staff, “Today the trend is to centralize and build fluid structures for entire workforces. Information professionals now are taking on the attributes of ‘knowmads’...With expertise shared on both the horizontal and vertical planes, information specialists, like nomads, will not be impeded by boundaries.” (Roberta I. Shaffer, “Minding Matters,” 10/12/2012)

As of early June 2013, Shaffer’s “I-900 Plan” (short for “Initiative: 900 Days”) is still on track to close reading rooms in three Library buildings:

  • Microform & Machine Readable Collections
  • Local History & Genealogy
  • Newspapers, Government Documents & Current Periodicals
  • Science & Business

and to join all of their operations together with those of the Library’s

  • Computer Catalog Center
  • Humanities & Social Science specialists (current “Main Reading Room”)
  • Digital Reference specialists

into a consolidated physical space and knowledge environment—with a correspondingly smaller footprint for each. The first changes are scheduled for implementation by the end of 2013.

More than fifty professional reference librarians at the Library of Congress are directly affected by the proposed consolidation, although the entire Library and all of the researching American public will be fundamentally affected as well. The affected members of the Library of Congress Professional Guild, AFSCME 2910, have voiced strong opposition to the I-900 Plan on the grounds that it will severely undermine reference service with increasingly greater damage over time: navigating the Library’s collections—unparalleled in scope as well as size—requires a specialized level of expertise that is easily eroded through retirements and the culling of reference collections in a “consolidated” environment. Yet implementation is being rushed forward without full notice to the public, and with little regard to the fundamental question of whether the consolidation of reading rooms is even the best way to achieve the stated goals.

Thomas Mann of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division has prepared a set of papers in response to the I-900 Plan, with input from the Guild Committee on Reference Service Consolidation. Anne Toohey, Steward Director, of Local History & Genealogy has prepared a paper about the special nature of the Local History & Genealogy collections and services, and the potential impact of consolidation. The papers are offered here on our Web site for the consideration of those who take an interest in the ongoing excellence of the Library of Congress: scholars, researchers, teachers and students, members of Congress, and the international library community.

Mann’s recommendation is that those components of the I-900 Plan calling for the closure of reading rooms and the consolidation of reference collections and reference staff should be dropped. A major point is that the proposed changes run roughshod over the prudent solutions to real problems of reference service that have been worked out over many decades by those who are directly called upon to provide such service. The changes ignore both the Library’s own history and an accurate assessment of what actually constitutes “best practices” for reference service at the largest library in the world—a library with both unique collections and unique responsibilities. Major implications of I-900 include severely undermined service to both LC’s onsite and offsite researchers, and an inevitable loss of crucial subject expertise.

Anne Toohey's paper suggests that for genealogy researchers, one of the major implications of the consolidation will be severely diminished service to the Library's on site and off site researchers. The high ranking of the Library of Congress's Local History & Genealogy collection results from the strength of the Library's special format collections, the expertise of local history and genealogy specialists, and the contiguous configuration of a local history and genealogy collection in a special reading room. Careful thought should be given to the negative impact of breaking apart the nation's premier Local History & Genealogy collection.

Since the Library of Congress is so often looked to by other research libraries for leadership, radical changes here will inevitably have larger ramifications. We believe the I-900 Plan should not be implemented. As Mann states:

“The professional reference librarians represented by AFSCME 2910 are not resistant to change. We are resistant to very bad planning that will impede our work and substantially diminish the quality of reference service that the Library is now capable of providing.”

We urge all members of the national and international library community to consider these papers and their implications carefully, and to make their views known both to the Librarian of Congress, and to the Associate Librarian for Library Services:

James H. Billington
Librarian of Congress
libofc@loc.gov

Roberta I. Shaffer
Associate Librarian for Library Services
alls@loc.gov

You are invited to also share copies of your comments with the Guild as well, at guild@loc.gov.


Why the I-900 Plan to Consolidate Multiple Reading Rooms Should Not be Implemented In Light of Best Practices for Reference Service at the Library of Congress

A Series of Papers

 

Prepared for AFSCME 2910
The Library of Congress Professional Guild
Representing 1,350 professional employees

Thomas Mann
April 16, 2013

No copyright is claimed for these papers. They are open source, and may be freely reproduced, reprinted, and republished.


Reasons for Maintaining Local History and Genealogy as a
Special Collection in a Separate Reading Room

September 26, 2013

Anne Toohey
Steward Director
AFSCME 2910
In collaboration with the Guild Committee on Reference Service Consolidation

 


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This page was last updated on March 11, 2014.