November 21, 2018 Statement from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on the Passing of 13th Librarian of Congress James H. Billington

Press Contact: Gayle Osterberg (202) 707-0020
Website: James H. Billington

James H. Billington.

“Our hearts are heavy as we learn of the passing of Dr. James Billington, the 13th Librarian of Congress,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “Dr. Billington has left an indelible legacy on the institution he led passionately for 28 years. With his vigor for philanthropy and tireless efforts to expand the reach and impact of the Library, he achieved so much to advance the Library of Congress as an enduring place for scholars and learners. He will be remembered as a visionary leader, distinguished academic and, most of all, a great American. On behalf of the Library of Congress staff and its many users, we salute this great public servant. My prayers and thoughts are with his wife Marjorie and his family. We offer our heartfelt condolences and support especially on this Thanksgiving holiday.”

During his 28-year tenure at the Library of Congress, Billington doubled the size of the Library’s traditional analog collections, from 85.5 million items in 1987 to more than 160 million items. Simultaneously, he created a massive new Library of Congress online, and launched a series of innovative programs to “get the champagne out of the bottle” for millions of Americans and the world.

Billington acquired the only copy of the 1507 Waldseemüller world map (“America’s birth certificate”) in 2003 for permanent display in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. He reconstructed Thomas Jefferson’s original library and also placed it on permanent display in the Jefferson Building in 2008 using privately raised funds. He obtained a complete copy of Lafayette’s previously inaccessible papers from the Lafayette family’s castle at LaGrange, France, as well as hundreds of other collections of great Americans ranging from Thurgood Marshall to Irving Berlin and Jackie Robinson.

Billington also successfully advocated for an underground connection between the Library and the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in 2008, which has greatly increased usage and tours of the Library of Congress.

He raised half a billion dollars in private support including the largest ever private gift to the Library to open the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper,Virginia.


Complete Biography and Overview of Achievements

Retirement Announcement, Sept. 25, 2015

Images and historic documents

The Library of Congress Office of Communications has prepared a compilation of previous press releases and statements that reflect the selection and swearing in of Dr. James H. Billington as the 13th Librarian of Congress. It can be accessed here.


PR 18-142
ISSN 0731-3527