By MARLENE KAUFMANN and GAIL FINEBERG
The Library served as host to the largest number of congressional events in its history on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 4 and 5, as members of the 110th Congress took their oaths of office and welcomed the first woman, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Some 150 members and 2,445 guests visited the Library, which managed 12 congressional events during the two-day period. The Library also provided historic items, including Thomas Jefferson’s Quran, from its universal collections in response to members’ requests for their private swearing-in ceremonies.
In addition to the Library’s congressional support services, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) anticipated and researched policy issues confronting the new Congress and conducted its traditional Williamsburg, Va., program that provides policy-orientation sessions for new members.
“I am pleased that so many members chose to celebrate their swearing-in for the 110th Congress at the Library,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “I am particularly pleased that, as we celebrated their achievement in having been elected to serve in Congress, the Library’s rich and historic collections were also featured so prominently in a number of ceremonies across Capitol Hill.”
The Library hosted receptions and meetings in the Members Room, Coolidge Auditorium, Great Hall and Room LJ 119 in the Thomas Jefferson Building and in the Montpelier Room, Madison Hall, Mumford Room, West Dining Room and Dining Room A of the Madison Building. At one point on Jan. 4, seven events and receptions were taking place simultaneously.
Holding Library receptions on Jan. 4 were new and returning members of Congress representing every region of the country, including Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.); Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.); Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas); Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.); and Representatives-elect Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-Ga.).
Billington welcomed Speaker Pelosi and her constituents to the Members Room in the Jefferson Building, where guests had assembled to celebrate the swearing-in ceremony.
Earlier that day, the Congressional Black Caucus gathered in the Coolidge Auditorium for the ceremonial swearing-in of its membership. The program featured the Librarian’s welcoming remarks and comments by Pelosi; Daniel H. Mudd, president and CEO of Fannie Mae; and Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Fla.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) was installed as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Later in the morning, the Librarian joined a reception in honor of Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) in the Madison Hall. In his remarks, Billington pointed out that President James Madison was a graduate of Princeton University, where he and Holt had both taught for many years.
On Thursday evening, the National Puerto Rican Coalition held its annual Three Kings event in the Montpelier Room, attended by Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.); Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.); Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.); former Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.); resident commissioner Luis Fortuño; and Federico de Jesus, chief of staff representing Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
On Friday, Jan. 5, the Jefferson Building was the venue for independent full-day meetings of the Senate Democratic and Republican conferences, hosted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, respectively, which were preceded by a special tour for the senators and their families. According to veteran congressional relations specialist Stephen J. Kelley, this was the first time in history that nearly the entire Senate was at the Library at the same time.
The Congressional Relations Office (CRO) worked closely with Public Programs Services, the Visitor Services and Public Affairs offices, and the Office of Special Events and Public Programs, which was responsible for coordinating these events.
CRS Anticipates 110th Congress
Immediately following the November elections, CRS began its servicewide research planning for the first session of the 110th Congress, taking steps to identify the known and anticipated policy problems facing the Congress. By Jan. 4, CRS was well positioned to provide Congress with research and analyses to support its initial deliberations and legislative decisions.
According to CRS Director Dan Mulhollan, “As a shared resource, serving Congress exclusively, CRS experts are well prepared to provide integrated and interdisciplinary analyses and insights in all areas of legislative activity.”
From Jan. 5 to 8, CRS conducted its traditional new-member program in Williamsburg, Va., which 46 members of Congress attended. The program, which orients new members to policy issues they will be facing in the new Congress as well as to legislative and budget procedures, is part of the official orientation for new House members, sponsored by the Committee on House Administration, U.S. House of Representatives and CRS.
Planning Congressional Events
Shortly after the November elections, the Library’s CRO began receiving requests from returning members of Congress seeking space at the Library for receptions and meetings associated with the Jan. 4 swearing-in of the new Congress. Members-elect made additional requests for space in mid-November, when they came to Washington for orientation activities.
“This was an extraordinary opportunity, not only to assist new and returning members with their needs but also to introduce them to the collections and services of the Library,” said CRO Director Geraldine Otremba. Her team of four congressional relations specialists worked closely with congressional offices planning events and meetings, orchestrated event appearances of the Librarian and other senior managers, arranged for special tours by Visitor Services and worked with the Public Affairs Office to accommodate media activities.
Director of Special Programs Larry D. Stafford, who manages the Special Events and Public Programs Office, and his staff of six special events coordinators met with representatives of CRO and staff of the Public Programs Services Office, directed by Donald Jones, to ensure that the Library could accommodate as many members as possible by reserving all available Library space.
Together with Public Programs Services, the Special Events Office communicated with congressional planners to coordinate the logistics of setting up rooms for simultaneous and back-to-back events and arranging for tables and chairs, caterers, sound systems, installation of high-resolution screens for the viewing of activities in the Capitol, security, parking and other special needs—such as a last-minute request by C-SPAN to record Great Hall events Thursday morning, Jan. 4.
Library Police provided advance security and kept buildings open and secure for long hours.
“It was an exhausting, rewarding two days,” Stafford commented Friday afternoon after the parties were over.
Once again, the Library demonstrated that it truly is the Library of Congress.
Marlene Kaufmann is a senior congressional relations specialist in the Congressional Relations Office. Gail Fineberg is editor of The Gazette, the Library’s staff newsletter.