Search SBL

SBL Forum Archive
<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Library of Congress to close its African and Middle Eastern Reading Room

Effective late December 2006, the Library of Congress will close its African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. This reading room is the public service point within the Library of Congress for Africa, the Near East (including Central Asia and the Caucasus), and for Hebraica (including Jewish studies and Biblical studies, ancient and modern Israel, the ancient Near East and pre-Islamic Egypt). The Library of Congress web site indicates that, in most cases, materials written in the vernacular languages of these areas must be accessed through the African & Middle Eastern Division reading room.

The AMED Reading Room is being closed to accommodate a permanent exhibition gallery showing the recently-acquired Jay I. Kislak Collection of early Americana.

The Library of Congress plans to move its Africa-related reference service to a reading room shared with its European Division (ED), according to Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb, director of LC's African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED). The current AMED and ED Reading Rooms each hold 20,000 volume reference collections — dictionaries, handbooks, statistical publications, atlases, and bibliographic tools. To share the same reading room, both core collections will need to be reduced by half.

Dr. Deeb believes public floorspace in the Library of Congress is available for a stand-alone AMED Reading Room. She has begun negotiations within the Library of Congress for this new, separate reading room.

Closing the AMED Reading Room diminishes the Library of Congress's mission to make its resources available and useful to the American people. Alongside other recent decisions, this appears to be more evidence that the Library of Congress's leadership sees the world's largest library as merely a museum for books rather than a living research facility encouraging knowledge and creativity.

Deleting or concealing "Africa" from among the Library of Congress's public service could be construed as an insult to or denigration of Africa, and visiting dignitaries from African states might read this move as policy directed toward them. Reducing or constraining public reference support for African research at a time when public interest in the continent is at a peak is a surprising move. It goes without saying that cuts in reference collections on Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and Palestine make absolutely no sense during this time of national awareness, involvement, and sacrifice.

SBL members can help to preserve the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room by speaking out — by letter, phone or email — to affirm the importance of research support for African studies at the Library of Congress.

These are the Library of Congress directors who create and implement policy for the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room: (1) Jeremy Adamson, Director, Collections & Services Directorate. Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540-4800. Phone: 202-707-9176. Fax: 202-707-6269. E-mail: Dr. Adamson oversees the Reading Rooms.

(2) Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services. Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540-4000. Phone: 202-707-5325. Fax: 202-707-6269. Dr Marcum oversees all collections services and public services, and is Dr Adamson's supervisor.

(3) James Billington, Librarian of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540-1000. Phone: 202-707-5205. Fax: 202-707-1714. E-mail:

Or please consider contacting your congressional representative. Ask your senators and representative to contact THEIR librarian, Dr Billington, about preserving the AMED Reading Room. You might also request that they ask Dr. Billington for his short-term and long-range plans to sustain and advance research support for African studies within the Library of Congress.

If you don't know how to contact your congressional representatives,here is some help:
"Write Your Representative:
"U.S. Senate: Senators of the 109th Congress:"

The House of Representatives's Committee on House Administration oversees the management of the Library of Congress. Committee members are listed at:

They are: Vernon Ehlers (R, MI), chair. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D, CA), ranking minority-party member. Bob Ney (R, OH). John Mica (R, FL). John T Doolittle (R, CA). Thomas Reynolds (R, NY). Candice Miller (R, MI). Robert A Brady (D, PA). Zoe Lofgren (D, CA).

This matter has been placed on the agenda for the Africana Librarians Council at its sponsored-organization business meeting during the African Studies Association annual meeting, Friday morning 9-11:30 AM, 17 November 2006. All ASA members with an interest in library issues are considered to be ALC members and are welcome to participate in the discussion.

Comments on this article? email:
Let us know if you would like your comments sent to the author or considered for publication as a letter to the editor. Please include your full name and, if you would like, your affiliation.

Citation: , " Library of Congress to close its African and Middle Eastern Reading Room," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Aug 2006]. Online:


© 2021, Society of Biblical Literature. All Rights Reserved.