Library in the News: June 2015 Edition


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.

Inquiring Minds: How a New Walt Whitman Poem was Found at the Library of Congress

(The following is a post written by Peter Armenti from the Poetry and Literature Center’s blog, From the Catbird Seat. Armenti spoke with a researcher who discovered a new Walt Whitman poem in the Library’s collections.) Walt Whitman enthusiasts were treated to a surprise last December when news broke that Wendy Katz, an associate professor […]

Library in the News: April 2015 Edition

April headlines covered a wide range of stories about the Library of Congress. The Library recently acquired a collection of rare Civil War stereographs from Robin Stanford, and 87-year-old Texas grandmother and avid collector. “The images are rich and incredibly detailed,” wrote reporter Michael Scotto for New York 1. Michael E. Ruane of The Washington Post […]

The Power of a Poem

(The following is an article from the March/April 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Editor Audrey Fischer wrote the story. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Billie Holiday’s iconic song about racial inequality was penned by a poet whose works are preserved at the Library of Congress. Recorded in […]

The Golden Fleecer

Who the devil was Soapy Smith? Some would say the devil was Soapy Smith. He was a swindler, a con artist, a bunco steerer. In the 1880s and ’90s he fleeced rubes from Denver to Skagway, Alaska and at many points in-between. He was dubbed “Soapy” because an early con involved selling overpriced soap by […]

National Poets

(The following is a story written by Peter Armenti, literature specialist for the Digital Reference Section, found in the March/April 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The nation’s most acclaimed poets have helped the Library of Congress promote poetry for nearly 80 years. The […]

The Library in History: Love in the Stacks

(The following is a story written by Audrey Fischer for the March/April 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) A romance that began at the Library of Congress in the 1930s led to the creation of a national poetry prize. Several years before former president […]

Curator’s Picks: American Women Poets

The following is an article from the March/April 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, in celebration of both Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). The issue can be downloaded in its entirety here. American history specialist Rosemary Fry Plakas highlights several women poets whose works are represented in the […]

Wipe That Scowl Off Your Face

Photography was well-established by the dawn of the 20th Century–it had graduated from the tintype and daguerreotype to innovations allowing for smaller cameras and more portable exposure media. But as the 1800s became the 1900s, portrait photography carried forward a tradition of depicting people sitting stiffly, staring sternly into the camera. A handsome young immigrant […]

The Warrior Poet (a.k.a. Fellow Traveler No. 1)

Many larger-than-life figures have served as the Librarian of Congress.  As the Library once again plays host to that seminal document affirming the rule of law, Magna Carta, today we shine a spotlight on the man who was Librarian of Congress when the great charter first visited the Library – Archibald MacLeish. MacLeish, before his […]