Former Librarian of Congress James Billington dead at 89

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Librarian of Congress James Billington, who led the world’s largest library for nearly three decades and brought it into the digital age, has died. He was 89.

The current librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, praised Billington’s “vigor for philanthropy and tireless efforts to expand the reach and impact of the library.”

Billington, chief librarian for 28 years, doubled the size of the library’s traditional analog collections, from 85.5 million items in 1987 to more than 160 million items. He retired in 2015.

The library is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It was formed largely from Thomas Jefferson’s collection of books to begin building a national library. It now holds a vast collection of research materials, historical resources and cultural treasures.

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