Jump to content

Librarian of Congress

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Librarian of Congress
Seal of the Library of Congress
Flag of the Library of Congress
Carla Hayden
since September 14, 2016
Library of Congress
AppointerThe president
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthTen years
Inaugural holderJohn J. Beckley
DeputyDeputy Librarian of Congress
Level II of the Executive Schedule[1]

The librarian of Congress is the head of the Library of Congress, appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate,[2] for a term of ten years.[3] The librarian of Congress also appoints and oversees the Register of Copyrights of the U.S. Copyright Office and has broad responsibilities around copyright, extending to electronic resources and fair use provisions outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The librarian determines whether particular works are subject to DMCA prohibitions regarding technological access protection.[4][5] In addition, the librarian appoints the U.S. poet laureate and awards the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

On July 13, 2016, the US Senate confirmed President Barack Obama's nomination of Carla Hayden as the librarian,[6] and she was sworn in on September 14, 2016.

Origin and History[edit]

On April 24, 1800, the 6th United States Congress passed an appropriations bill signed by President John Adams which created the Library of Congress.[7] This law was to serve a "further provision for the removal and accommodation of the Government of the United States". The fifth section of the act specifically created the Library of Congress and designated some of its early capabilities. The act provided for "the acquisition of books for congressional use, a suitable place in the Capitol in which to house them, a joint committee to make rules for their selection, acquisition, and circulation", as well as an appropriation of $5,000 for the new library.[8]

In 1802, two years after the creation of the library, President Thomas Jefferson approved a congressional act that created the Office of the Librarian and granted the president power of appointment over the new office.[9] Shortly thereafter, Jefferson appointed his former campaign manager John J. Beckley to serve as the first librarian of Congress.[10] He was paid $2 a day and was also required to serve as clerk to the House of Representatives.[11] It was not until 1897 that Congress was given the power to confirm the president's nominee.[12] This same law gave the librarian the sole power for making the institution's rules and appointing the library's staff.[12]

Up until the nomination of Herbert Putnam in 1899 under President McKinley, all previous librarians lacked any prior experience in the profession of librarianship; these librarians had held roles in journalism, law, writing, publishing, and politics.[13] Even to this day, only three librarians – four including acting librarian David S. Mao in 2015 – have worked in the librarian field, despite several instances of opposition from the American Library Association.[13]

Appointment, term length, and salary[edit]

From its creation until 2015, the post of the librarian was not subject to term limits and allowed incumbents to maintain a lifetime appointment once confirmed.[14] Most librarians of Congress have served until death or retirement.[12] There were only 13 librarians of Congress in the more than two centuries from 1802 to 2015, and the library "enjoyed a continuity of atmosphere and of policy that is rare in national institutions".[15] In 2015, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the "Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015",[16] which put a 10-year term limit on the position with an option for reappointment.[17][18] The legislation was seen as a critique of Librarian James H. Billington's unwillingness to hire a permanent chief information officer to effectively manage and update the library's information technology.[14][19]

According to Section 136-1 of Title 2 of the U.S.C., the Librarian of Congress shall be appointed to office by a nomination from the president and the advice and consent of the Senate. The librarian may then serve for a term of 10 years and be reappointed to the post with the same procedure. The Librarian of Congress shall be compensated for his/her services with the equivalent of the rate of pay set by Level II of the Executive Schedule.

Authority and duties[edit]

There are no laws or regulations delineating qualifications for the office holder.[12] The position of librarian of Congress has been held by candidates of different backgrounds, interests, and talents, throughout its history. Politicians, businessmen, authors, poets, lawyers, and professional librarians have served as the Librarian of Congress.[12] However, at various times there have been proposals for requirements for the position. In 1945, Carl Vitz, then president of the American Library Association, wrote a letter to the president of the United States regarding the position of librarian of Congress, which had recently become vacant. Vitz felt it necessary to recommend potential librarians. Vitz stated the position "requires a top-flight administrator, a statesman-like leader in the world of knowledge, and an expert in bringing together the materials of scholarship and organizing them for use—in short, a distinguished librarian".[20] In 1989, Congressman Major Owens (D–NY) introduced a bill to set stricter requirements for who may be appointed. He argued appointed librarians need to have specialized training; the bill did not become law.[21]

List of librarians of Congress[edit]

No. Librarian Years in Office Appointed by
1 John J. Beckley 1802–1807 Thomas Jefferson
2 Patrick Magruder Patrick Magruder 1807–1815
3 George Watterston George Watterston 1815–1829 James Madison
4 John Silva Meehan John Silva Meehan 1829–1861 Andrew Jackson
5 John Gould Stephenson John Gould Stephenson 1861–1864 Abraham Lincoln
6 Ainsworth Rand Spofford Ainsworth Rand Spofford 1864–1897
7 John Russell Young John Russell Young 1897–1899 William McKinley
8 Herbert Putnam Herbert Putnam 1899–1939
9 Archibald MacLeish Archibald MacLeish 1939–1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt
10 Luther H. Evans Luther H. Evans 1945–1953 Harry S. Truman
11 Lawrence Quincy Mumford Lawrence Quincy Mumford 1954–1974 Dwight D. Eisenhower
12 Daniel J. Boorstin Daniel J. Boorstin 1975–1987 Gerald Ford
13 James H. Billington James H. Billington 1987–2015 Ronald Reagan
14 Carla Hayden Carla Hayden 2016–present Barack Obama

Timeline of librarians of Congress[edit]

Beckley (1802–07)
Magruder (1807–15)
Watterston (1815–29)
Meehan (1829–61)
Stephenson (1861–64)
Spofford (1864–97)
Young (1897–99)
Putnam (1899–1939)
MacLeish (1939–44)
Evans (1945–53)
Mumford (1954–74)
Boorstin (1975–87)
Billington (1987–2015)
Mao* (2015–16)
Hayden (2016–)
Librarians of Congress (1802–present)
Acting librarian*

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "US Code, Title 2, Chapter 5, Section 136a–2: Librarian of Congress and Deputy Librarian of Congress; compensation". Cornell University: Legal Information Institute. 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  2. ^ "US Code, Title 2, Chapter 5, Section 136-1 – Appointment and term of service of Librarian of Congress". Cornell University: Legal Information Institute. November 5, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  3. ^ Roy, Blunt (November 5, 2015). "S.2162 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015". congress.gov. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  4. ^ "US Code, Title 17, Chapter 12, Section 1201 - Circumvention of copyright protection systems". Cornell University: Legal Information Institute. 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  5. ^ "Section 1201: Exemptions to Prohibition Against Circumvention of Technological Measures Protecting Copyrighted Works". U.S. Copyright Office. 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  6. ^ Peggy McGlone (July 13, 2016). "Carla Hayden confirmed as 14th librarian of Congress". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "History of the Library of Congress". loc.gov. Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  8. ^ Librarians of Congress, 1802-1974. Washington: Library of Congress. 1977. pp. vii. ISBN 0844402389.
  9. ^ "The Library of Congress a Documentary History" (PDF). academic.lexisnexis.com. Lexis Nexis. 1987. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  10. ^ "Librarians of Congress". American Libraries Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  11. ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York: Skyhorse Pub. Chicago :ALA Editions, 2009.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)[page needed]
  12. ^ a b c d e "Librarians of Congress". Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. March 30, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress -- LIBRARIANS OF CONGRESS". Library of Congress.
  14. ^ a b Recio, Maria (October 31, 2015). "Librarian of Congress Gets a Due Date". McClatchy DC. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  15. ^ Librarians of Congress: 1802-1974. Washington: Library of Congress. 1977.
  16. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 114–86 (text) (PDF)
  17. ^ Congressional Bill; 114 Bill Profile S.2162- An Act To establish a 10-year term for the service of the Librarian of Congress. Sponsor: Roy Blunt and Charles Schumer. November 5, 2015. Public law 114-86.
  18. ^ "Public Law 114-86" (PDF). Congress.gov. November 5, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  19. ^ McGlone, Peggy (March 31, 2015). "America's 'national library' is lacking in leadership, yet another report finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  20. ^ Vitz, Carl (1945). "Re: Librarian of Congress". ALA Bulletin. Vol. 39, no. 2. p. 62.
  21. ^ Congressional Bill; 101 Bill Profile H.R. 1255- Appointment of the Librarian of Congress. Sponsor: Major Owens (D- NY). March 2, 1989, Congress Session 101-1.

Further reading[edit]