Hon. James H. Billington
Librarian of Congress Emeritus, Founding Chair
Dr. James Hadley Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987. He is the 13th person to hold the position since the Library was established in 1800.
Dr. Billington has championed the Library’s “American Memory” National Digital Library (NDL) Program www.loc.gov, which makes freely available on-line more than 24 million American historical items from the collections of the Library and other research institutions. These unique American Memory materials and the Library’s other Internet services, which include THOMAS (a congressional database), the on-line “card catalog,” exhibitions, information from the U.S. Copyright Office, and a Web site for children and families called “America’s Library”–received more than 77 million visits and 581 million page views in 2010.
The Library has placed on-line under Dr. Billington’s leadership a major bi-lingual website with the two National Libraries of Russia and has launched smaller such joint projects with the national libraries of Brazil, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Egypt. His proposal in 2005 for the creation of a World Digital Library was endorsed by UNESCO in 2007 and put online in April 2009 containing primary cultural materials from all 192 countries in UNESCO with expert commentary in seven languages.
In October 2004, Dr. Billington headed a Library of Congress delegation to Tehran, Iran that significantly expanded exchanges between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Iran. Dr. Billington was the most senior U.S. government official to openly visit Iran in 25 years.
Dr. Billington has received over 40 honorary doctorates–including from the University of Tbilisi in Georgia (1999), the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow (2001), and the University of Oxford (2002). He also has been awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award from Princeton University (1992), the UCLA Medal (1999), and the Pushkin Medal of the International Association of the Teachers of Russian Language and Culture (2000), the Karamzin Prize (2005) from the Foreign Literature Library in Moscow, and the Likhachev Prize (2006) from the Likhachev Foundation in St. Petersburg. In 2007, Dr. Billington was awarded the inaugural Lafayette Prize by the French-American Cultural Foundation and the EastWest Institute Outstanding Leadership Award. Dr. Billington was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bush in 2008.
Dr. Billington is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has been decorated as Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and as Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the President of France, as Commander of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil. He has been awarded the Order of Merit of Italy, a Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany, the Gwanghwa Medal by the Republic of Korea, and the Chingiz Aitmatov Gold Medal by the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2008, Dr. Billington was awarded the Order of Friendship by the President of the Russian Federation; the highest state order that a foreign citizen may receive.
Dr. Billington was a longtime member of the editorial advisory boards of Foreign Affairs and Theology Today, and a member of the Board of Foreign Scholarships (1971-76; Chairman, 1973-1975), which has executive responsibility for academic exchanges worldwide under the Fulbright-Hays Act. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is on the Board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Billington is married to the former Marjorie Anne Brennan. They have four children: Dr. Susan Billington Harper, Anne Billington Fischer, the Rev. James Hadley Billington Jr., and Thomas Keator Billington, as well as 12 grandchildren.