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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 appoints the U.S. Poet Laureate and awards the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Librarian of Congress
Seal of the Library of Congress
Flag of the United States Library of Congress.png
Flag of the Library of Congress
Carla Hayden (cropped).jpg
Carla Hayden

since September 14, 2016
Library of Congress
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length Ten years
Inaugural holder John J. Beckley
Formation 1800
Deputy Robert R. Newlen
Salary US$183,300
Level II of the Executive Schedule[1]

The Librarian of Congress 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] On July 13, 2016, the US Senate confirmed Carla Hayden as the librarian by a vote of 74–18[6] and she was sworn in on September 14, 2016.




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 it to get started.[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] It was not until 1897 that Congress was given the power to confirm the President’s nominee. This same law gave the Librarian the sole power for making the institution’s rules and appointing the Library’s staff.[11]

The officeEdit

For the majority of its history, the position was not subject to term limits, essentially making an appointment a life-term.[12] Most Librarians of Congress have served until death or retirement.[13] As a result, from 1802 to 2015, the United States only had 13 appointed Librarians and the Library "enjoyed a continuity of atmosphere and of policy that is rare in national institutions."[14] However, in 2015, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the "Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015" which put a 10-year term limit on the position with an option for reappointment.[15][16] 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.[12][17]

There are no laws or regulations delineating qualifications for the office holder.[13] 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 one professional librarian have served as the Librarian of Congress.[13] 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."[18] 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.[19]

Librarians of CongressEdit

  1. John J. Beckley (1802–1807)
  2. Patrick Magruder (1807–1815)
  3. George Watterston (1815–1829)
  4. John Silva Meehan (1829–1861)
  5. John Gould Stephenson (1861–1864)
  6. Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1864–1897)
  7. John Russell Young (1897–1899)
  8. Herbert Putnam (1899–1939)
  9. Archibald MacLeish (1939–1944)
  10. Luther H. Evans (1945–1953)
  11. Lawrence Quincy Mumford (1954–1974)
  12. Daniel J. Boorstin (1975–1987)
  13. James H. Billington (1987–2015)
  14. Carla Hayden (2016–)

See alsoEdit


  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 14 February 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 17 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Roy, Blunt, (2015-11-05). "S.2162 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  4. ^ "US Code, Title 17, Chapter 12, Section 1201 - Circumvention of copyright protection systems". Cornell University: Legal Information Institute. 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Section 1201: Exemptions to Prohibition Against Circumvention of Technological Measures Protecting Copyrighted Works". U.S. Copyright Office. 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "History of the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  8. ^ Library of Congress (1977). Librarians of Congress, 1802-1974. Washington: Library of Congress. pp. vii. ISBN 0844402389. 
  9. ^ "The Library of Congress a Documentary History" (PDF). Lexis Nexis. 1987. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Librarians of Congress". American Libraries Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Library of Congress". Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Recio, Maria (October 31, 2015). "Librarian of Congress Gets a Due Date". McClatchy DC. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c "Librarians of Congress". Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  14. ^ Librarians of Congress: 1802-1974. Washington: Library of Congress. 1977. 
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Public Law 114-86" (PDF). GPO. November 5, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  17. ^ McGlone, Peggy (March 31, 2015). "America's 'national library' is lacking in leadership, yet another report finds". Washington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  18. ^ Vitz, Carl (1945). "Re: Librarian of Congress". ALA Bulletin. 39 (2): 62. 
  19. ^ Congressional Bill; 101 Bill Profile H.R. 1255- Appointment of the Librarian of Congress. Sponsor: Major Owens (D- NY). March 02, 1989, Congress Session 101-1.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit