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National Press Club Luncheon Speakers

James H. Billington, January 12, 1989

Image: James H. Billington
James H. Billington, ca. 1989. National Press Club Archives

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (b. 1929) delivered a luncheon talk entitled “Preserving and Sharing Our National Memory” at the National Press Club on January 12, 1989. He had been nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be the nation’s 13th Librarian of Congress on April 17, 1987, then sworn in by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on September 14, 1987, after the Senate had voted in favor of his confirmation. As Librarian of Congress during a period of rapid developments in digital technology, Billington created and oversaw projects that employed that technology to expand the Library’s core functions to include, in his words, “for the first time an educational as well as a government and scholarly service component.” In January 1988, Billington initiated a year-long review to determine, as he stated in the Press Club talk, “how is this national library to serve the nation?” The resultant vision Billington conveyed to the press of the library’s mission “at the dawn of the information age” emphasized both a foray into new areas of service made possible by digitization and an adherence to longstanding core beliefs about the place in American life for “a universal library on Capitol Hill.” ... More [PDF; 228 KB]

Timings (hh:mm:ss)

Introductions: 00:00-06:33
Speech: 06:34-30:01
Q & A: 30:02-57:46

Topics of the Talk

  • Status of the Library of Congress and Benefits to the Nation: 07:35-09:26
  • The Library of Congress Serving the Nation: 15:45-21:25
  • Digitizing Library of Congress Holdings/American Memory: 18:00-22:40
  • Preservation of Items at the Library of Congress: 20:39-20:57; 47:05-52:22
  • Washington as a Major Intellectual Center in the Information Age: 22:41-25:08
  • The Library of Congress Year Long Review Process: 25:08-26:53
  • Gorbachev’s Government and Economic Intentions in Soviet Union: 30:11-32:32
  • Gorbachev’s Ability to Stay in Power: 32:33-36:57
  • Role of Librarians in the Technological Age: 55:30-57:10
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  March 11, 2022
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