There have only been thirteen Librarians of Congress since the position was established in 1802. Every one of them was appointed by a President but only one of them was a professional librarian (Herbert Putnam, serving from 1899 to 1939).
In January 2016 President Obama will appoint a new Librarian of Congress to replace the retiring James H. Billington who has held the position since 1987. Billington has served for 28 years yet he retires amid a controversy about, of all things, librarianship. Or rather, some critical aspects of librarianship.
The next 28 years are very likely to be just as technologically intensive for librarians as the last 28 years have been. Our country will need the Library of Congress to take on a leadership role and be directed by someone with clear concepts about the importance of libraries, and information technologies. We will need someone who understands the past, can merge it with the present, and create a vision for the future. They must avoid becoming mired in the present and at the same time be able to communicate their vision of the future. A professional librarian is uniquely qualified to do this. Many are calling for the President to appoint a professional librarian to lead the library of Congress into the future. The American Library Association and as many as 21 other state library organizations have already sent letters encouraging the President to select a professional librarian for the position.
I will not take sides on the criticisms aimed at Dr. Billington’s performance as the Librarian of Congress over the past 28 years. The rapid development of library technologies and their implementations over the last 20 years will leave few library directors immune to some criticism or another. Instead I will urge you all to ask the president to select a professional librarian as our next Director of the Library of Congress. You may write to the White House at this address:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W.Washington, DC 2050
Or you can email the white House at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Call me old fashioned but I want my surgeon general to be a doctor, my secretary of state to be a politician, and my librarian of Congress to be a librarian.