By GAIL FINEBERG
Members of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, joined by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, on Oct. 5 formally announced the largest single monetary donation to the Library in its 200-year history -- $60 million from Metromedia President John W. Kluge.
The gift will be used to establish the John W. Kluge Center and Prize at the Library. Accomplished scholars and more junior fellows will gather at the center to make use of the Library's incomparable collections and to interact with members of Congress. The John W. Kluge Prize of $1 million will recognize a lifetime of achievement in the human sciences.
Standing before reporters and photographers in the Ohio Clock Corridor off the Senate floor, in what he described as his last official act as chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), thanked Mr. Kluge, chairman of the James Madison Council, for his generosity and also the Madison Council, a private-sector group dedicated to helping the Library enrich and share its collections.
Joining Sen. Stevens were Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.), committee vice chairman and other committee members: Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.); and Reps. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Jim Davis (D-Fla.).
Sen. Stevens announced that Kluge, the Madison Council and others in the private sector had given the Library a total of $106 million during the Library's Bicentennial for its Gifts to the Nation program. "Speaking for the Joint Committee as chairman, I express our gratitude for the support our library has received from the private sector under the tremendous leadership of Dr. Billington, our Librarian of Congress," the senator said. "Our deepest thanks [go] to John Kluge and all the members of the Madison Council. ... Your generosity is outstanding and will help make the activities of the Library of Congress, particularly the digital activities, possible and will add priceless collections to the Library over the coming years.
"Mr. Kluge, our nation owes you a debt of gratitude for your generous support," he continued.
Rep. Thomas said private-sector gift-giving during the past 10 years, culminating with Mr. Kluge's $60 million, was proof that a public-private partnership could support "a premiere learning center of this country." From 1990 to 2000, the private sector gave the Library a total of $222.2 million.
"All of us are extremely pleased and excited about the willingness of Mr. Kluge, and the philanthropic nature of his willingness, to supply $60 million," he said. What excited him the most about Mr. Kluge's gift, he said, is the way in which the money will be used -- to attract scholars to the Library and to establish a prize for lifetime achievement.
"The Library is a collection of books, manuscripts and other documents, but it only comes alive when it interacts with people. One of the things that frankly has been lacking has been willingness to use the magnet of this Library to attract the best and the brightest, to interact with the upcoming best and brightest, to produce that interface of people and product," he added. "As we're moving more into the digital age, it is even more important to deal with this material in interpretive ways that make it even more meaningful.
"As an old behavioral scientist," said Rep. Thomas (he taught political science in Bakersfield, Calif., from 1965 to 1974), he was pleased that the Kluge Prize would recognize achievement in the human or behavioral sciences just as the Nobel Prize does in economics, literature and science.
"This gift, in its magnitude, but, too, in the way it has been intelligently applied, means that this public-private partnership will live -- in individuals, in the people who utilize the Library and in the Library itself. It is just a real pleasure to have been a part of this very successful private-public partnership," Rep. Thomas said.
He then introduced Dr. Billington, who, Rep. Thomas said, found out after he was hired as Librarian in 1987 that his "nonmentioned job was to go out into the private sector and get people excited about giving money, their own money, to the Library itself. Frankly, no one could have done a better job," he said.
The Librarian thanked both Congress for its sustained support of the Library and Mr. Kluge for his gift.
"Our country was originally put together by people who were thinkers as well as doers," Dr. Billington said. "This magnificent gift by John W. Kluge will enable us to make an added contribution to restoring that wonderful, creative interaction between the world of thought and the world of action, between knowledge and the power of the mind, which is embedded in the very nature of the Library of Congress itself." Such interaction between the worlds of ideas and actions is a Jeffersonian idea, he said.
Dr. Billington explained that the Kluge gift will not be used to establish a permanent faculty at the Library or for administration or buildings. "There will be an attempt to recycle as many great minds of the world and then an even larger component of young minds through this place, so that they have a chance to use and profit from and interact with [the collections and] an extraordinary staff -- a couple of thousand analysts, historians and catalogers, who themselves are an enormous scholarly resource."
The idea, he said in a prepared statement, is that these scholars also will "interact naturally over a period of time with political Washington. ... We are in an age where power and influence depend far more on knowledge than in the past and where America will have to rely more on our wits than our weapons to sustain our global leadership. Our leaders will need to tap the wisdom of mature scholars whose judgment and objectivity would bring fresh perspectives to the city of government."
The Librarian said the Kluge chairs will be established in American law and governance, culture and society of the North, culture and society of the South, technology and society and modern culture. These areas of study "will reach across divisions of the Library and potentially speak to a variety of concerns and committees of Congress," Dr. Billington said. "John Kluge, with a [residence] not far from [Jefferson's] Monticello, has created a truly Jeffersonian gift to our oldest federal cultural institution."
Ms. Fineberg is the editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newsletter.