Librarian of Congress James H. Billington testified on April 10 before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the Library of Congress' vast online educational materials and about the Library's experience teaching teachers how to use these resources in their classrooms.
Billington was part of a panel and spoke about ways to reach students and teachers with the primary sources available from the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov. He was asked to speak by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in reference to the American History and Civics Education Act (S.504), a bill that is sponsored by Alexander and other members of the Senate. Alexander chaired the hearing.
The bill would establish "academies for teachers and students of American history and civics and a national alliance of teachers of American history and civics."
Billington told Alexander that the Library has been reaching teachers and students directly since 1990, when it began its American Memory program as a pilot. Since then, its award-winning American Memory Web site (http://memory.loc.gov) has provided, at no charge, access to millions of rich primary source items relating to the history and culture of the United States, including presidential papers, photos, films, music, maps, baseball cards and manuscripts.
In addition to American Memory, the Librarian discussed:
- The Learning Page, the Library's Web site designed especially for K-12 teachers and their students;
- America's Library, a site for children and families;
- Global Gateway, an online archives of materials from libraries worldwide; and
- Wise Guide, an online monthly magazine for newcomers to the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov.
Another education initiative of the Library that Billington described is the American Memory Fellows Institute. Through this program, 300 teachers from across the country participated in the institute to help them incorporate electronic primary sources in their classroom activities. The highlight of the program was a one-week visit to the Library, in which teachers worked with the Library's educational specialists to develop lesson plans and activities for their students using the American Memory collections. The American Memory Fellows Institute ran from 1997 until 2001. These teachers are now passing onto other teachers in their local areas what they learned during their year of study with the Library.
"Our American Memory Fellows Institute could serve in many ways as a pilot for your program to establish a national alliance of teachers," Billington said. "We need to reach teachers in all of the nation's 15,000 school districts."