In hindsight, what is also disappointing is that library leaders in the United States failed to publicly push the Library of Congress into the digital realm. Billington’s leadership was openly labeled a farce in the aisles at ALA meetings, and he was privately lampooned as a fragile leader wandering the halls of the library. But no one in the greater library community loudly campaigned for more accountability or better leadership. It is as if the Library of Congress were a defect that the library community chose to route around. Why? In the midst of the greatest shift of information access the world had ever seen, why were the nation’s public library directors willing to essentially write off the Library of Congress?
Ultimately, I think it is because the U.S. library profession has failed to foster an effective national leadership culture. Even today, I would be hard pressed to identify a national public library leader who could speak and rally librarians on behalf of the broader community—with the possible exception of Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, who is not, in fact, a professional librarian.
Peter Brantley on “Why James Billington’s Retirement is a Wake-Up Call for Librarians”
Filed by December 21, 2015on