A Feather in the Librarian's Cap


President Bush bestows the Presidential Citizens Medal to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington

President Bush bestows the Presidential Citizens Medal to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington

Last week was one of the busiest (if not the busiest) week I’ve seen since coming to the Library. There was the Library’s presentation of the $1 million Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity. There were a lot of great, new interactive features that came online in the Library of Congress Experience (online and in the Jefferson Building.) There was a meeting of the Library’s private-sector advisory group, the James Madison Council. All of this came in the wake of the opening of the Capitol Visitor Center, which has led to several visitors now entering the Library via the passageway beneath First Street S.E. — a sight that warms my heart every time I see it!

And if that all weren’t enough, our boss, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, got some wonderful recognition in the middle of all of it. Dr. Billington was one of 23 people (and one award made posthumously) to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, which is the second-highest civilian distinction bestowed by the President behind the Medal of Freedom. (Only about 100 people have received the award since it was established in 1969.)

In comments to staff last week, Dr. Billington was especially gracious in pointing out that the people of the Library of Congress are the ones who help him achieve what he has, in order to make such recognition possible in the first place.

Congrats, Dr. B.!

Library Releases Report on Flickr Pilot

In January, the Library embarked on something that took the online community by storm. In conjunction with Flickr, we loaded a few thousand images from the Library of Congress’ vast collections and asked the user community to get involved: Give us your tags, your comments, your huddled masses …

We were essentially conducting an experiment to see how crowdsourcing might enhance the quality of the information we are able to provide about our collections, while also finding innovative ways to get those collections out to people who might have an avid interest in them.

As we’ve said again and again, we’ve been bowled over by the response. Now, the Library has released its report on the Flickr pilot. (The full report is here; a summary is here. Both links are PDFs.)

After the jump is an account of some of our findings, as adapted from a piece intended for the Library of Congress Gazette, our in-house newsletter.

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Cartography Buffs, Take Note

Our very own John Hessler was featured in today’s Washington Post talking about some of the mysteries behind one of the grand-daddies of all maps, the 1507 Martin Waldseemüller World Map, the document that named “America” and one of the Library’s toppest of the top treasures. (OK, we don’t categorize the treasures quite that way, […]

Maybe I Will Go As 'Crazy Newspaper Face'

Happy Halloween to all! There’s no better time to point you to the LOC’s “Wise Guide” for October, which explores how trick-or-treating got started: The origins of present day “trick-or-treat” date back to the Celtic tradition of offering gifts of fruits and nuts to appease wandering spirits. If not placated, the villagers feared that the […]

Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit: Getting Ready for Prime Time

Exhibits, especially major ones, take a lot of planning, often years’ worth. There is fund-raising, exhibit design, curatorial work, object selection, conservation, writing the label texts, brochure design, fabrication, mounting, installation … and several other steps that I’m undoubtedly forgetting. On Feb. 12, we’re opening the major exhibition “With Malice Toward None,” celebrating the 200th […]

The Library in Verse

It isn’t unusual for docents like Malcolm O’Hagan to find that they have inspired visitors after a tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building. (I have written about such inspiration before.) It is, after all, one of the great buildings at the heart of one of the great institutions of the world. But what wasn’t expected […]

A 'Rare' Opportunity

I know it is late notice, but if you have some time on your hands this afternoon (and you’re in DC), you might want to stop by an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Division (the Lessing J. Rosenwald Room, across from room 239 in the Thomas Jefferson Building).

The Division will be featuring several new acquisitions, a few of which I’ll describe after the jump.  Light refreshments will be served.

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