Senators Praise Billington's Tenure

A pair of senators have gone ?on the Record??the Congressional Record, that is?to praise the 20-year tenure of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, which was marked on Sept. 14, 2007.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts each made statements in the past several days in honor of the milestone.? The full remarks follow after the jump ?

Congressional Record, Sept. 10, 2007

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, an important anniversary will be marked on September 14, at the Library of Congress. Twenty years ago, in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, then-President Reagan presided over the swearing-in of Dr. James H. Billington as the 13th Librarian of Congress.

When he was appointed, Dr. Billington brought great expertise to the Library, both as the world?s premier scholar of Russian culture and history and as director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His vision, and the hard work of so many dedicated Library staff members, has led to continued growth of the Library of Congress. He has fulfilled the promise made on September 14, 1987?to make the riches of the Library more broadly available to ever widening circles of our society.

At the time, Senator Wendell Ford remarked that the Library of Congress ?represents our nation?s commitment to a knowledgeable citizenry.? Dr. Billington has upheld that commitment by enhancing the Library and making its riches and inspiration available to all Americans. Under his leadership, the Copyright Office, the Law Library, the Congressional Research Service, and the National Library have seamlessly worked together to build the collections and preserve them for future generations.

The Library?s accomplishments of the last two decades are extraordinary. The collections have expanded by 50 million items, and state-of-the art facilities have been built to ensure their long-term preservation. The establishment of the Kluge Center for Scholars and the Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences have enriched not only the scholarly life of Washington but also have enabled Members of Congress to meet thought leaders and benefit from their perspectives. Also, the Library was a pioneer in online collections and services, launching American Memory, THOMAS, the World Digital Library and resources for teachers, students and families across the Nation and world.

The Library?s pioneering work in education has had a great impact in my home State of Illinois. The Library?s educational mission, shaped by Dr. Billington?s vision, is that young people benefit from learning with primary sources such as Lincoln?s magnificent Gettysburg Address, seeing the Founding Father?s notes and revisions to the Bill of Rights, and exploring maps and sound recordings to understand history and culture firsthand. As the Library developed and focused its massive resources in ways that teachers could explore and use for their classrooms, Dr. Billington recognized the profound impact of incorporating primary sources into teacher education. Many of us in Congress recognized the potential around this idea and helped create and fund the Adventures of the American Mind, which is now poised to become a national program?Teaching with Primary Sources. The 10 universities in Illinois that have benefited from working with the Library have transformed their teacher education programs. I have seen first hand the programs and curricula that have been created using the amazing resources from Congress?s Library to improve teaching in our Nation?s schools.

Dr. Billington?s energy is unflagging. He has led efforts to launch the World Digital Library, the reinstallation of Thomas Jefferson?s Library in the Jefferson Building, and the Library?s celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial in 2009 and beyond. In short, I have valued and look forward to continuing leadership from Dr. Billington. He and his colleagues at the Library of Congress are a tremendous resource to our work as a legislature.

The Library of Congress has benefited immeasurably from the first 20 years of Jim Billington?s leadership. We are grateful to him and congratulate him, his wife Marjorie, and his family on this milestone of service to our Nation.

Congressional Record, Sept. 17, 2007

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I congratulate Jim Billington on two decades of service as Librarian of Congress. For 20 years, he has presided over this prestigious institution that serves Congress so well but is truly America?s national library. It houses documents and artifacts that date to the earliest days of our democracy and, at the same time, manages the U.S. Copyright Office that maintains an ongoing record of America?s creative heritage.

Jim Billington had a brilliant career in the academic world before beginning his responsibilities at the Library of Congress. He was highly respected at Harvard, at Princeton and, immediately before becoming Librarian of Congress, as director of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Throughout his career, Jim Billington has brought a dynamic integrity to the scholarly world. Under his leadership, the Library of Congress was not a dormant collection of books and artifacts. He undertook a new initiative to digitize its collections and make them more accessible and more permanent. He also established the Madison Council to bring outside support and wise counsel to the Library, and created a center for advanced scholars in the humanities.

His tenure as Librarian is noteworthy for his many achievements and innovations, his dedication to the historic role of the Library and its unique relationship to Congress, and, most importantly, his extraordinary vision of what the Library could become. Through his work, Jim has made unparalleled contributions to enhance the role that American culture plays in our national life.

On this special anniversary, I commend him for all that he has accomplished. I am especially grateful for the support and wise counsel he has given to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As Librarian of Congress, he has served as a member of the board of trustees for the center for two decades, and has been a source of consistent leadership and guidance throughout that time.

All of us in Congress owe Jim Billington an immense debt of gratitude for his outstanding public service, and we look forward to many more years of his leadership. On this 20th anniversary of his becoming Librarian of Congress, I join my colleagues in extending my warmest congratulations and deepest appreciation for his achievements.


  1. Jennifer
    September 19, 2007 at 9:45 am

    It makes me very happy to hear that members of Congress actually appreciate Dr. Billington, and the LC overall!

  2. Video
    September 19, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    …interesting how more lawmakers haven’t jumped on this political bandwagon of opportunity.

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