Historians Protest Relocation of European Reading Room at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress announced to its staff in mid-March that it would close the current European Reading Room (ERR) space in April and convert it into an exhibition area. This development caused an outcry in the historical community amid concerns the ERR would be permanently closed or after a lengthy relocation delay that the facility would be moved into smaller inadequate space with a loss of research staff. On April 3, 2008, the Library of Congress announced that “contrary to recent concerns” that the European Reading room would not be closed, but relocated.

The press release said that this summer, the reading room would be relocated to the Southeast Pavilion, in the Jefferson Building. The press release said, “We will sustain in the new configuration all scholarly usage that has been made available in the current configuration of the European Reading Room. There will be no loss or interruption of service, and ample room to accommodate the maximum number of readers that has ever used the current reading space.”

In talking to one of the historians leading the opposition to the relocation, we were told that removal of reference material will commence on or before April 21 and the European Reading Room will close no later than May 1. The current space will then be transformed into an exhibit honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. However, according to this historian, the Southern Pavilion is still completely bare and despite assurances from the Library of Congress, there are fears that researchers will face a major disruption in services.

A group of scholars, known as the Coalition to Save the European Reading Room has been formed to protest the relocation of the ERR and to lobby congress and the Library’s management to ensure that there is no interruptions of service or diminution in the quality of the facilities and staffing in the new location.