New Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden




Carla Hayden has recently been sworn in as only the 14th Librarian of Congress in history. Most reports emphasize that she is the first woman and the first African-American to hold that position. Those are important milestones to be sure, but attention to them obscures some others. Carla Hayden is The first Librarian of Congress with a limited term of appointment Only the third professional librarian appointed to the position. Fully backed by the American Library Association (ALA), which opposed some of her predecessors. … Continue reading






The Library of Congress Turns a Page




The Librarian of Congress is not an official who makes the news often, but the current Librarian of Congress, James Billington, announced his retirement last June. President Obama will appoint the next Librarian of Congress, becoming only the 10th President in history to have that opportunity. Billington was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987. You know that the Library of Congress is the library, well, of Congress. Congress created a library for its own use very early in the nation’s history. But it has become more than that. It’s America’s unofficial national library. It affects the workings of every other … Continue reading






Academic libraries and how they differ from public libraries




In a sense, a library is a library. Public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries, and special libraries exist to connect people with the information they need. Once upon a time, that information was all printed, except for libraries that owned manuscript collections. The explosion of new formats—sound recordings, film and video recordings, and all manner of electronic media—has affected every kind of library. Still, there are important differences between public and academic libraries. The following two lists by no means adequately describe either public or academic libraries, but they serve to show the contrast. … Continue reading






War and a library: The Library of Congress burns




Two hundred years ago, the War of 1812 entered its final stages. This now obscure war turned out to have a decisive influence on the development of the Library of Congress. The upstart United States of America had declared war on the most powerful nation in the world at the time. Its victories were few, but it captured present day Toronto (then called York) in April 1813. American troops burned the Government House and Parliament Buildings. The British retaliated the following year. They invaded Washington in August 1814 with the intent of burning it. The British had a easier time … Continue reading






The card catalog: birth and death of a technology




If you’re older than about 40, chances are that you grew up using the card catalog to find library materials. You may have had some trouble getting used to the new computer catalogs. If you’re younger than about 30, chances are you never used a card catalog. Maybe you have never even seen one. And yet the concept of the card catalog is still with us. Just for fun I looked up “online card catalog” on Google.  The search found more than 72 million results. I see that on average Google still gets 90 searches a month on that term. … Continue reading