September 25, 2015 Billington to Retire September 30

Contact: Gayle Osterberg (202) 707-0020

Dr. James H. Billington announced today that he will retire as the 13th Librarian of Congress on Sept. 30.

“It has been the great honor and joy of my life to lead the Library of Congress for 28 of my 42 years of public service in Washington,” Billington stated. “I am grateful to God for the privilege of having served with so many selfless and dedicated colleagues in the ongoing search for knowledge and understanding made possible by this amazing American institution.”

Billington doubled the size of the Library’s traditional analog collections while simultaneously creating a massive new digital Library of Congress providing official legislative information, primary documents of American history, international cultural treasures and a host of web-based innovations such as electronic copyright registration, mobile access to reading materials for the blind and physically handicapped and modernized cataloging standards for libraries nationwide.

He established the National Book Festival, the John W. Kluge Center and its Nobel-level John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, the world’s largest and most state-of-the-art audio-visual conservation center, the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and other programs to “get the champagne out of the bottle” for the American public.

Billington also raised half a billion dollars in private support to supplement Congressional appropriations during a period of exponential growth, and despite a 30 percent reduction in personnel.

For a summary of Billington’s contributions during his 28-year tenure at the Library, see

Billington noted that “The enduring mission of the Library of Congress is to make its resources available and useful for Congress and the American people, while sustaining and preserving a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.

“The Library’s magnificent staff and the continuing bipartisan support of Congress have made it possible to sustain and expand the world’s largest collection of recorded human knowledge in multiple languages and formats.

“As custodian of the greatest collection of copyrighted American intellectual and cultural creativity, the Library of Congress is a proactive servant - and in many ways the embodiment - of our knowledge-based democracy.

“The new top leadership team of the Library of Congress is deeply experienced and well-equipped to provide a smooth transition to the next chapter in the history of this one-of-a-kind asset for America in our increasingly knowledge-dependent world. I am therefore glad to embark on my retirement in order to begin spending time on long-postponed writing projects and with my beloved family.”

Noted author David McCullough thanked Billington for his service to the country and stated: “Jim Billington is one of the finest Americans I know. He has been a superb, innovative Librarian of Congress and always a source of refreshing ideas."

David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Library of Congress Madison Council, praised Billington for launching the National Book Festival and other programs that opened the Library to more people, saying, “Jim Billington is the Librarian of Congress, but in my view he is the Librarian of the United States, not just the Librarian of Congress. He has done a great service for our country.”

Deputy Librarian of Congress David Mao will serve as Acting Librarian of Congress until a presidential appointment is made and is confirmed by the Senate.


PR 15-174
ISSN 0731-3527