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As Billington retires, Paul Courant a contender for Library of Congress chief

June 17, 2015

As Library of Congress Chief James H. Billington announces his retirement, New York Times White House correspondent Michael D. Shear notes that “only 10 presidents have had the opportunity to nominate a librarian of Congress to oversee America’s largest trove of intellectual treasures.” Among those named as a possible replacement for Billington: the Ford School’s own Paul N. Courant, former University of Michigan librarian, dean of libraries, and provost. (See “Many choices for Obama in replacing Billington at Library of Congress.”)

In the June 10 article, “Library of Congress chief retires under fire,” Shear quotes Courant on Library of Congress limitations under Billington’s 28-year tenure. “One expects the Library of Congress to be a leader,” said Courant, “but with regard to digitization and the use of digital technologies, the library has basically been a bust.” Paul Courant is perhaps best known for his leadership role in founding the HathiTrust digital library, among the largest digital libraries in the world with 13.5 million volumes.

Paul Courant’s recent scholarship focuses on the economics of libraries, archives, and universities and the effects of new information technologies and other disruptions on scholarship. He is an outspoken advocate for mass digitization of library collections and public access to scholarly research.