Happy 215th Anniversary Library of Congress!

A Message from the Librarian

Today, on the Library of Congress’s 215th anniversary, I want especially to congratulate the Library’s extraordinary staff for their work in building this amazing, one-of-a-kind institution.

I am, and always will be, deeply grateful for all they do.

The heart and soul of this great library always has been its multitalented and dedicated staff that has served Congress and the American people in ways unequaled by any other institution.

The Library possesses the largest and most wide-ranging collection of recorded knowledge ever assembled – a statement of fact that, somehow, still fails to convey the breadth of the service this institution provides.

The Congressional Research Service produces the authoritative, nonpartisan analysis and research Congress needs to perform its constitutional duties, and we also support Congress through the work of the nation’s largest law library.

The U.S. Copyright Office protects and preserves the sole depository of the intellectual and cultural creativity of the American people. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides the only free public library reading service for blind and visually impaired Americans, wherever they live.

The Veterans History Project collects and preserves firsthand accounts of our veterans’ wartime service and makes them available to the public so that all may know their stories and sacrifices. The World Digital Library gathers great examples of cultural achievements from around the world and presents them, in seven languages, to a global audience.

As the de facto national library of the United States, the Library acquires, preserves and makes accessible – free of charge – the largest and most-diverse accumulation of curated knowledge and creativity in history.

This magnificent accomplishment has been made possible by the continuous support of the U.S. Congress, the greatest patron of a library in history, and by the exceptional work of the dedicated and long-serving Library staff.

Whether working at the heart of the Capitol Hill complex, the NLS offices on Taylor Street, the film- and recorded-sound-preservation facilities in Culpeper, the storage facilities in Landover or offices scattered around the globe, individuals collectively make the Library the great institution it is.

At our Cairo offices, director William Kopycki and his staff acquire important, hard-to-get primary materials from developing nations for the Library’s own collections and those of other U.S. and global research institutions. The Cairo office – like those in Islamabad, Jakarta, Nairobi, New Delhi and Rio – carries out its mission in the face of great challenges: war, terrorism, political unrest, censorship, poverty, huge geographic distances.

At NLS, John Hanson, head of the Music Section, helps make music possible again for thousands of visually impaired musicians. The Music Section provides the public with access to the world’s largest source of braille music material – a lifeline for visually impaired musicians who otherwise might not be able to pursue their dreams.

In the Preservation Directorate, book-binder and collections conservation expert Nathan Smith carries out a combination of art and science – repairing bindings, filling paper tears, re-creating beautiful bindings and making special preservation boxes – that helps preserve historical materials for future generations.

In the Veterans History Project, director Robert Patrick and his staff for 15 years now have collected and preserved the individual stories of America’s wartime veterans, from the last living veterans of World War I to the dwindling generations of World War II and the returning veterans of recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, more than 96,000 such oral histories have been archived at the Library.

Lee Ann Potter and the Educational Outreach team show teachers and librarians across the country – both in-person and online – how to incorporate the Library’s incredible trove of digitized primary-source material into K-12 curricula. In the last fiscal year, for lifelong learning both onsite and online, the Educational Outreach team and its Teaching with Primary Sources partners delivered primary-source professional development to 23,196 teachers in 374 congressional districts.

And through their “Mostly Lost” programs, Rob Stone and Rachel Parker of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division have helped identify scores of silent films whose titles had been lost to history – and, in doing so, help preserve the nation’s motion-picture heritage.

These are but a few examples of the countless, important service activities performed here each day – cataloging, reference services, copyright registration, security, visitor services and many others. Collectively, our curators, docents and volunteers are greatly increasing the number of visitors to the Library and its exhibitions. The Library is an irreplaceable asset to the United States and the world’s pre-eminent reservoir of knowledge.

As we celebrate this 215th anniversary, the Library’s staff members can be proud of this institution’s historical record of service to Congress and the American people and their own contributions to it.

With appreciation and happy birthday wishes,

James H. Billington

Librarian of Congress

(The story was also featured in the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.)

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