Pamela Montez is 16, a student at Banneker High School. Often, she goes to the Library of Congress to do research. Yesterday, she worked on a science paper on dreams. She sat in the soft yellow light of a desk lamp, amid the marble columns and stained glass of the Main Reading Room, upset about federal budget cuts that will end her Sunday library hours.
To meet the requirement of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, the deficit reduction law, the library has announced that it will reduce its 5,200-member work force by 300 and slash expenses for acquisitions and preservation. But the library is also drastically cutting the hours its general reading rooms are open to the public. Yesterday was the last Sunday that the library's 20 reading rooms will be available to visitors such as Montez.
"I'm pretty disturbed about that fact, because the library has been very instrumental in helping me with my research papers," said Montez, of Washington, who has a strong interest in chemistry (her next paper is on the reduction cycle of carbon dioxide and photosynthesis), but who hopes to become an architect. "Our teachers often assign us reports and studies where I can only find the information in the Library of Congress, because the Martin Luther King Library [the District's main library] is not that extensive."
Seated next to Montez was her mother Frances, a 44-year-old elementary school teacher in the District. Frances Montez takes night graduate courses in early childhood education at the University of the District of Columbia, and weekends are the only times she has to study.
She spent all of Saturday in the library, across the street from the U.S. Capitol, and was back yesterday, working on school lesson plans and awaiting a science book on mammals from the reading room's collection of 45,000 reference books. "I'll just have to squeeze the time in on Saturday," she said.
"I am upset," said Andrei Brezianu, 51, a Romanian citizen who works for the Voice of America and who spent his last Sunday among the mosaics and murals, researching the poems of Robert Penn Warren for an upcoming broadcast.
"I'm going to try to come here weekdays after work, and I'm not sure it's going to be very functional because one is tired then. It's not the best time to be fresh for a new round of work."
Cindy Read, a 27-year-old student at Gallaudet College in Northeast Washington, went to the Library of Congress for the first time yesterday. She had read about the budget cuts and wanted to visit the reading room, with its 212 desks, on the final Sunday. Also, she hoped to find a place of great silence to study her book on the Daniel Ling method of teaching speech to hearing-impaired children.
"I wasn't sure whether this was going to be a good study place or not, but it has been great so far," said Read. "Just looking around, I've been thinking a lot about it. There have been a lot of people in and out. There has been a lot of traffic, and I am disappointed it's going to close on Sundays."
Robert Popper was there, too. He is 26, a lobbyist for the National Tax Limitation Committee. Yesterday, Popper sat under the room's 160-foot domed ceiling, examining the outlines of congressional districts for a study on gerrymandering. He found some jagged map lines that looked suspect, including one in Illinois. But he said the new library hours will not bother him much. Popper visits only about once every two months.
"Also, you should know that I'm personally and professionally in favor of Gramm-Rudman," he said.