ON-Lion Letter

"To the great early work of the Library of Congress from 1800 until 1987," when James H. Billington "was made the thirteenth Librarian of Congress, Billington has brought an entirely new dimension," according to a blog post by Ave Maria University theologian and philosopher Michael Novak on Patheos.  At the library, Billington "began a huge, visionary project -- to digitalize as many of the works of the LOC as possible, and to make the U.S. Library of Congress [LOC] the international hub of a vast new digital network of human knowledge.

"As a book person, I didn’t in Billington’s early days grasp what this would mean," Novak continues.  "Then, just watching the first photographic archives of American history the LOC put online (to be made available in classrooms all around the nation), I was stunned to be able to look up contemporaneous photos of some great events of American history of personal interest to me.  I was carried away by photos, for example, of the wreckage from the Johnstown Flood of 1889, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and of the humble, almost rural, appearance of the city of Atlanta in 1864 just before Sherman marched in. ...

"A modest man, James Billington never sought recognition for opening up these previously unimagined possibilities," Novak writes.  "In fact, no leader of any department of government has managed its IT capacities with the same far-seeing and large-visioned advancement as our own national Librarian.  No one has matched the LOC’s unprecedented links to all the other libraries of the world.  Thanks to James Billington, the LOC is a now more than ever the greatest library of the world.

"There is another achievement of James Billington that deserves the esteem of the whole American people:  Over the past forty years, no one in America has shown more perspicacity in grasping what was happening on the ground in Russia, not only in the former Soviet government, but also in the Russian Orthodox church and its vast institutions and local parishes and, most astonishing, within the Soviet Politburo itself and the growing number of spiritual and religious conversions occurring among its own sons and daughters even in the 1980s," Novak adds.  "Ever since his great book on the origins of socialism, Fire in the Minds of Men, only James Billington has had such deep insight into the mind and soul of the Soviet Union as it approached its collapse, and in today’s Russia such a profound network of information."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee has supported LOC's work on digitization, an exhibition LOC featured from the Vatican Library, and an LOC lecture series under Billington.  Bradley has benefitted from Billington's advice on international affairs, particularly regarding Russia, as well.  And the first Bradley Prizes ceremony was hosted by LOC.

Bradley has also supported Novak's work.

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