In June, the Library of Congress issued two major announcements that made headlines nationwide: the appointment of a new Poet Laureate and the retirement of the current Librarian of Congress.
After nearly three decades of service, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced his retirement effective January 2016.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were among many members of Congress who expressed appreciation for Billington and his work.
“No one is held is higher esteem on Capitol Hill than James H. Billington,” said Boehner. “As kind as he is brilliant, Dr. Billington has revolutionized the Library of Congress and the American people’s relationship with it.”
“Dr. James Hadley Billington’s unwavering commitment to scholarship helped steer the Library of Congress into the 21st century,” added Pelosi. “For Dr. Billington, the pursuit of knowledge has been a life-long endeavor that is both integral to enriching our nation’s democracy and engaging with people across the nation and around the world.”
“Billington was a scholar and an intellectual, and he positioned the library not just as a repository of information but also as a locus of debate and cultural exchange,” wrote Philip Kennicott for The Washington Post.
“Since Billington joined the library in 1987, the collection has nearly doubled in size to 160 million items,” said Brett Zongker in his story for the Associated Press. “Billington is credited with leading the library into the digital age, making research materials and legislative databases available online.”
While news of Billington’s successor will have to wait until next January, news of the appointment of Juan Felipe Herrera as the nation’s next poet laureate was received with much acclaim.
“Mr. Herrera is a poet you’d like to hear declaim from the National Mall,” wrote Dwight Garner for the New York Times. “When he is on he is really on, in touch with his audience and in touch with democratic gifts. His senses are open toward the world and his bearing on the page is noble and entrancingly weird.”
“I’m here to encourage others to speak,” Herrera told The Washington Post. “To speak out and speak up and write with their voices and their family stories and their sense of humor and their deep concerns and their way of speaking their own languages. I want to encourage people to do that with this amazing medium called poetry.”
Herrera told the Associated Press that he hopes to encourage more young Latino students to write and read and benefit from the Library of Congress’ resources.
In other news, the Library began welcoming educators participating in its Teaching With Primary Sources Summer Teacher Institutes. Regional outlets from New York, Michigan, Arizona and Mississippi, among others, announced local teachers who would be attending.