Friday, March 11, 2016
New Librarian Of Congress Must Promote Our Cultural Heritage
President Barack Obama may have a hard time appointing a nominee to the United States Supreme Court to replace the recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, but he just nominated someone to replace another Reagan appointee -- for Librarian of Congress.
James Billington retired in January after serving nearly 30 years as the Librarian of Congress. President Obama just nominated Dr. Carla Hayden, an African American woman to replace interim director David Mao. She could become the 14th Librarian of Congress – and the first professional librarian to serve on a full-time basis since Lawrence Q. Mumford retired over 60 years ago.
The American Library Association hailed the selection. Hayden served as their president from 2003 to 2004. She can make double history if approved – first woman, first African American to hold the post of Librarian of Congress.
Two decades ago she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award.
Though the recently retired Librarian of Congress was criticized for sitting on the sidelines while the digital revolution swept through the book world and society at large, Hayden vows to bring modernization to libraries.
One immediate issue she’ll need to deal with is a proposed bill made by two lawmakers last year to remove the Copyright Office from under the purview of the Library of Congress.
She will also be forced to get things done in a faster time period. She will be the first to hold her position under a term limit. Her 10-year stint won’t compare to the prior 13 librarians that have ruled since 1802 -- each serving an average of 17 years.
Though the library was established by Congress in 1800, it wasn’t until 1802 that President Thomas Jefferson appointed the first Librarian of Congress. It wasn’t until 1897 that Congress was given the power to review and approve of the nomination.
The interim head earns $184,000 annually. There are no official rules as to who qualifies to be the head librarian. The position has been held by politicians, authors, lawyers, businessmen, poets, historians, and librarians.
The duties of the Librarian of Congress are numerous and significant. He or she doesn’t just oversee the collection of books, but also the collection, cataloguing and preserving of films, recorded sounds, images, and other pop-culture items. It has a huge repository of newspapers and magazines as well.
The Librarian is charged with running the world’s largest library, managing a staff of thousands. He or she oversees the Copyright Office, appoints the U.S. Poet Laureate, and determines three-year exemptions form the Digital Copyright Millennium Act.
In short, our cultural heritage is being entrusted to the next Librarian of Congress. He or she could determine how and which information gets saved, promoted, and made available to the public. Our books and information, culture and media are not to just be left in the control of Google, Amazon, The New York Times, Netflix or Harvard University. The Librarian of Congress is a very important position that I hope the American public will become more familiar with.