June 14, 2019 Librarian of Congress Appoints Michelle Light Director of Special Collections

Press Contact: Bill Ryan (202) 707-1940

Michelle Light, director of the Special Collections Directorate at the Library of Congress. Photo by Shawn Miller

Michelle Light, formerly director of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has been named director of the Library of Congress’ Special Collections Directorate. She began work in her new position on May 28.

Light’s professional career in libraries spans 26 years and includes positions of progressive responsibility: head of Special Collections Technical Services at the University of Washington; head of Special Collections, Archives and Digital Scholarship at the University of California, Irvine; and director of Special Collections and Archives at UNLV. Her service in these positions reflects extensive hands-on and management experience in such areas as special collections technical services, collection development, digital programs, public service and outreach programs, and fundraising. At UNLV since 2013, Light was responsible for three units, with up to 55 staff, ranging from faculty members to student employees. She led the division through a reorganization and two strategic-planning cycles.

Light has been very active in both the archival and rare book arenas. For example, she is a frequent presenter at conferences and other events sponsored by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and was a participant in the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellows Program (2018-19). Her publications include articles such as “From Responsible Custody to Responsible Stewardship” (2019), “Controlling Goods or Promoting the Public Good: Choices for Special Collections in the Marketplace” (2015) and “Colophons and Annotations: New Directions for the Finding Aid” (2002). She is also the co-author of the forthcoming book “Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts,” which will be part of SAA’s Series III, “Archival Fundamentals.”

Light’s educational background includes a B.A. in history from the University of Oregon’s R. H. Clark Honors College. She earned an M.S. in information (archives and records management) and an M.A. in history from the University of Michigan.

“I’m delighted to welcome Michelle to the Library of Congress,” said Robin Dale, associate librarian for Library Services. “Her strong track record with guiding research and outreach programs will benefit our diverse users from the general public and cultural heritage creators to academic scholars and family historians. We can all benefit from her collaborative leadership abilities as well as her extensive experience with building collections, reducing processing backlogs, initiating major digitization projects and inspiring the expansion of online access to our collections and staff expertise.”

Commenting on her appointment, Light said, “The richness of the Library’s special collections is awe-inspiring. I am honored to lead the Special Collections Directorate’s incredibly talented and knowledgeable staff in collecting, preserving and providing meaningful access to remarkable items that reflect the world’s knowledge and creativity. I look forward to helping the Library reach and inspire new generations of users, whether they visit us in person or discover our resources online.”

The Special Collections Directorate comprises six Library of Congress curatorial divisions that have extensive unique or rare holdings: the American Folklife Center (including the Veterans History Project), the Geography and Map Division, the Manuscript Division, the Music Division, the Prints and Photographs Division and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The Special Collections Directorate is part of Library Services.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 19-065
ISSN 0731-3527