Librarian of Congress

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Librarian of Congress
Seal of the United States Library of Congress.svg
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
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length Ten years
Inaugural holder John J. Beckley
DeputyDeputy Librarian of Congress
Salary US$183,300
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 appoints the U.S. poet laureate and awards the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.


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 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] It was not until 1897 that Congress was given the power to confirm the president's nominee. [11] This same law gave the librarian the sole power for making the institution's rules and appointing the library's staff. [12]

Authority and duties

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. [13] Most librarians of Congress have served until death or retirement. [14] 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" Pub.L.   114–86 which put a 10-year term limit on the position with an option for reappointment. [16] [17] 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. [13] [18]

There are no laws or regulations delineating qualifications for the office holder. [14] 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. [14] 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." [19] 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. [20]

List of librarians of Congress

No.PhotoLibrarianYears in OfficeAppointed by
1 John J. Beckley 18021807 Thomas Jefferson
2 Patrick Magruder.tif Patrick Magruder 18071815Thomas Jefferson
3 George watterson.jpg George Watterston 18151829 James Madison
4 Silva meehan.jpg John Silva Meehan 18291861 Andrew Jackson
5 John g stephenson.jpg John Gould Stephenson 18611864 Abraham Lincoln
6 Ainsworth Rand Spofford.jpg Ainsworth Rand Spofford 18641897Abraham Lincoln
7 John Russell Young.jpg John Russell Young 18971899 William McKinley
8 Herbert putnam.jpg Herbert Putnam 18991939William McKinley
9 Archibald MacLeish.jpg Archibald MacLeish 19391944 Franklin D. Roosevelt
10 Luther Evans.jpg Luther H. Evans 19451953 Harry S. Truman
11 Lawrence Quincy Mumford.jpg Lawrence Quincy Mumford 19541974 Dwight D. Eisenhower
12 Daniel Boorstin.jpg Daniel J. Boorstin 19751987 Gerald Ford
13 James Billington 2000.jpg James H. Billington 19872015 Ronald Reagan
- David S. Mao.jpg David S. Mao (Acting)20152016 Barack Obama
14 Carla Hayden (cropped).jpg Carla Hayden 2016Barack Obama

See also

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  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.
  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. Retrieved March 15, 2020
  12. "Library of Congress" . Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  13. 1 2 Recio, Maria (October 31, 2015). "Librarian of Congress Gets a Due Date". McClatchy DC. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  14. 1 2 3 "Librarians of Congress". Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  15. Librarians of Congress: 1802-1974. Washington: Library of Congress. 1977.
  16. 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.
  17. "Public Law 114-86" (PDF). GPO. November 5, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  18. McGlone, Peggy (March 31, 2015). "America's 'national library' is lacking in leadership, yet another report finds". Washington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  19. Vitz, Carl (1945). "Re: Librarian of Congress". ALA Bulletin. 39 (2): 62.
  20. 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 reading