Many Choices for Obama in Replacing Billington at Library of Congress

Historians in the News
tags: Library of Congress, Obama



Only 10 presidents have had the opportunity to nominate a librarian of Congress to oversee America’s largest trove of intellectual treasures and to serve as the chief of the sprawling research institution for the nation’s lawmakers.

And after President Obama replaces James H. Billington, who has held the job for 28 years, it may be a generation before it happens again.

That makes the choice facing Mr. Obama a difficult one, made more challenging by the wide range of possible replacements and the mounting criticism of the library and its management under Dr. Billington during the past decade. Dr. Billington, 86, announced his retirement this week amid complaints about its technology resources, personnel issues and a perception that the library had lost its relevance in the digital age.

Names of potential replacements are already being mentioned by other librarians, researchers and scholars: Michael S. Roth, the president of Wesleyan, or Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard; Amy E. Ryan, the president of the Boston Public Library, or Paul N. Courant, the former provost and librarian at the University of Michigan; Douglas Brinkley, the American historian.

Several people suggested that Mr. Obama nominate Carla D. Hayden, the chief executive of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Asked about the possibility, Roswell Encina, a spokesman for the library, said Dr. Hayden commended Dr. Billington on his retirement and was “flattered that her name is even out there.” ...




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