Soon after I got out of college, I went to work for a magazine in New York, which was my home. I worked a 9-to-5 day as a fact-checker and editorial assistant, and I soon learned that I wanted to write articles. Well, the only time I had to use the library -- the New York Public Library -- was 6 to 10 at night and Saturdays and Sundays. If there had been no library available weekday nights and weekends, I'm not sure I could have become a writer.
If the Library of Congress closes nights as of March 9, someone getting out of college now might never have the chance that I had.
The Library of Congress is a basic place, and it does what it does on a modest budget -- about $200 million. It's not lavishly furnished. You sit on a wooden chair and file a slip for a book, and you get the book in 50 minutes. That's incredible service.
I've been going there since 1968. There's no waste that I've seen. You don't see people hanging around chatting on the phones; there seems to be the right number of people in the stacks, the right number of reference librarians. There's very little to trim.
If you care about preserving knowledge, you can't stop acquiring books, you can't give up your preservation service, you can't want to trim the hours back. It's a national treasure, and we're going to restrict its use?
I now work for The New Yorker magazine, but I don't have an office in Washington. The Library of Congress has become my office. I use the resources that only the Library of Congress has -- the rare book room, the manuscripts collection, the newspaper reading room, the map section. I just finished a book I could only have written at the Library of Congress, about an incident in New Guinea during World War II. The library had everything I needed.
I've become friendly with scholars there, and there's a far greater diversity than I would have guessed. I've been privileged to have a desk there, just a plain desk, but it's mine. I can keep a typewriter there, I can keep books there. The library is my community -- the scholars, the reference librarians and the police officers who inspect the bags every night.
The Library of Congress is incomparable. It should stay the way it is.