04.20.16

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Nomination Hearing of Dr. Carla Hayden to be Librarian of Congress

For a young student or a lifelong learner, a library can be an exciting place.  I realized this at the age of four, when I received my first library card at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vermont.  Some of my fondest memories as a child were at the library, where everyone fit in and possibilities were limitless. 

Today, the Rules Committee considers the nomination of Dr. Carla Hayden to lead the Library of Congress, one of the largest libraries in the world.  Dr. Hayden brings direct experience from her many years leading the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.  Dr. Hayden has been nationally recognized for her work making the library accessible to members of the community, expanding its offerings to include after school programs and career mentoring.  Her appreciation of the transformative role of libraries is one that I share and deeply value, and I welcome her nomination.

The responsibilities of the Librarian of Congress are multifold.  The Library is our Nation’s treasured repository for millions of books, photos, movies, oral histories, and music.  But it should also lead by example, working to ensure that libraries keep their important place in our society, and help Americans of all ages and backgrounds access information in engaging ways. 

As we consider Dr. Hayden’s nomination, there are several areas that I hope will be priorities for the next Librarian of Congress.  Years ago, the Library was an early trailblazer in launching projects to share legislative information over the Internet.  But now in 2016, some of the Library’s most fascinating records, such as presidential papers and Civil War photographs, are still not yet online.  The Library has been slow to digitize many of its materials, and it has struggled with how best to preserve digital content so that future generations will have records of our online communications today.  I hope that will soon change.

The next Librarian must serve as a mediator between old and new mediums, finding creative ways to bring the Library’s vast materials to more classrooms, more homes, and even more libraries throughout the country.  The Library should engage with university, state and local libraries to improve access to their collections effectively and responsibly, including by encouraging universal data standards and search protocols. 

The Library also needs Congress’s assistance to reauthorize its film and sound recording preservation programs, which preserve important materials that would otherwise disappear or be destroyed through the passage of time.  I am introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize these programs that I hope other members of this Committee will strongly support.  The Library’s work on digitization and preservation can and should be a model for the world.

The Library of Congress should also work to promote access to government-funded research and information.  Specifically, I hope the Librarian will support efforts to make reports of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) available online, an initiative that I and a bipartisan group of Members of Congress are reenergizing this year.  These reports are produced with taxpayer money, but they are available to the public only if they pay third parties a hefty subscription fee.  The legislation we have drafted respects the important advisory role that CRS provides to Congress while allowing final CRS Reports to be shared with schools, libraries, and interested Americans.  It is a commonsense measure that I hope we can all support.

In the last few years, there have been calls from diverse stakeholders to modernize the functioning of the Copyright Office, which is housed in the Library of Congress, to ensure that it, much like the Library, can best serve the public in the digital age.  I and other Members of Congress are considering this issue closely.  I hope the Librarian will serve as a partner in those efforts, and work with us to ensure that the Copyright Office’s historically important role in the copyright system is preserved.

The appointment of our next Librarian of Congress is an opportunity to consider the promise of this great American institution.  I congratulate Dr. Hayden on her historic nomination to fill this important role, and look forward to her testimony. 

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