Contrary to the depiction of the Library of Congress in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” with large secret compartments and elaborate designs– the library is actually on the decline. There is no question that the library has every book a political science major could ask for, but are they living in the past?
According to Politico Magazine, the current Librarian of Congress, James Billington, has given the library a reputation for being behind the times in terms of technology. It is so far behind, that the library could not even calculate how many computers they have.
Politico reports that Billington is stepping down, and the library is looking for a replacement to bring them to the 21st century. If the library fails to make this shift, collections could potentially become inaccessible, according to Library of Congress employee Daniel Schuman.
According to American Libraries Magazine, as time goes on and the Library of Congress continues to fall behind in the Internet Revolution, will become less relevant and not nearly as useful as it needs to be.
Professor of English, Noel Bellinski said, “The Library of Congress needs to remain relevant in the digital age. It is not only important to preserve documents, but also to make them accessible as technology advances.”
She continued, “Mr. Billington has been the Librarian of Congress since before the advent of the Internet. The Librarian of Congress should at least be comfortable and familiar with technology.”
She also said, “For example, he did not use email to communicate with coworkers and instead relied on fax. That is an indication that new, more current leadership is needed in one of our country’s prized institutions.” The Obama Administration recognizes this as Politico Magazine reports that they appear to be preparing to make a drastic change in the leadership of the Library of Congress.
John Blyberg, Tech advocate and Director of the Public Library system in Darien, Connecticut stated that, “The Librarian of Congress should be like the Pope of Libraries.”
No matter who becomes the new librarian, American Libraries Magazine believes that they need to be able to take control of the 215 year old institution that has become increasingly complicated over the years.
Sophmore psychology student, Liz Roderick, said, “Our society relies on technology, if the Library of Congress is going to remain relevant they have to update their system. The library is so iconic; I would hate to see it become irrelevant.”
According to LibraryofCongress.gov, the library is home to over 160 million works, including the Gutenberg Bible and Civil War photographs.
Susan Bucks, the University specialist librarian, said, “Importantly, the Library is also the research and law library for the United States Congress.” The Library of Congress has been neglecting to digitize several of the United States’ founding documents; if they continue to do so, the documents will one day be inaccessible.
The new Librarian of Congress will not only have to harness the mess and bring it to the digital age, but also be able to operate in the highly political setting of Washington D.C. Politico Magazine spoke with the content industries who fill the Library of Congress, and they too are invested in who will become the 14th librarian.
Terry Hart, the CEO of the Copyright Alliance, told Politico that they “hope the next Librarian recognizes the value that creatives bring to society…and the laws that protect that authorship.”
Bucks said, “I feel that this is an area that requires innovation in order to transform it into a tool for creativity as opposed to an impediment to creativity.”
Although the future of the Library of Congress is currently unknown, changes and innovation are expected.
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