Jessamyn West has been advocating for the next Librarian of Congress to be a Librarian of Progress. It's something I've been thinking about a lot, too, though not as proactively or articulately as Jessamyn (I can first-name her; she's totally stayed at my house).
I'm referencing the song Jane & Michael Banks sing describing the perfect nanny.
My #1, non-negotiable requirement is that they be a librarian. That is a person who works in libraries and has earned a degree in library and information science. I don't care that much about American Library Association (ALA) accreditation, to be honest, but I do really care about the MLIS. A Ph.D. and a passion for librarianship is not enough for me. That's controversial, but it's not what I'm here to talk about, so I'll move on.
Our profession is comprised primarily of women, like 80%, more or less whether we're talking public, academic, school, or other types of libraries. Since 100% of the current and previous thirteen Librarians of Congress have been dudes, is it too much to ask for a woman? I'm gonna say no. I honestly have too many recommendations for lady Librarians of Congress to list them all here. I will put in a plug for my homie Emily Drabinski, though, just because I love her and think she'd be great. Then again, few of the librarians I most love and admire would tolerate the bureaucracy and hooha required of a high-level government job. Jessamyn, less than anyone, I think. Same with Barbara Fister, unless she could set up a rotating chair (I'd +1 that idea, btw) and my other librarian crushes.
Our profession shamefully underrepresents people of color, so I think it would be swell if the Librarian of Congress could serve as reinforcement that people of color are welcome and can be mad successful as librarians. Because of the underrepresentation, this criterion could be trickier than "hire a chick," but I've got still some suggestions: Courtney Young and Carla Hayden, both former ALA presidents.
Since I spend a fair amount of time railing against Library of Congress subject headings, I'd be stoked to see the Head Librarian in Charge have a clue about cataloging and metadata, like Amber Billey, Custodian of Knowledge, who already has an in with President Obama, having posed with a photo with him with Billey's wife Lydia Willoughby, who is many #critlib-bers and my go-to girl for critical theory.
I'm not sure Librarian of Congress should be a lifetime appointment. Is that regressive? I want the person to be able to act without fear of reprisal, but this is an administrative position. To that end, as much as I love and admire LIS faculty members, I'd only want one to be Librarian of Congress if they were still logging time as a librarian, and not just a couple hours a week on a ref desk. The big thinkers should be consultants, advisers, whatever, but we need someone who is in it. Don't get me wrong. The Librarian of Congress can have a Ph.D. if they're really into it, but they should also be engaged in the day-to-day of librarianing. Dorothea Salo could be the exception to the "no full-time faculty" rule.
I've mostly gone to demographics. As far as areas of interest and expertise, I'll echo/tweak Jessamyn's to say: fair use, making stuff happen, advocacy, best practices in stuff for which they don't yet exist, open access, and being a caring and thoughtful boss. I'd also throw in someone who embraces, but doesn't fetishize technology. Finally, they should be open to allowing library staff to bring their animal companions to work.
Executive Summary of my Mary Poppins of Congress
- Admin experience
- Knowledgeable about the issues concerning our profession
- Animal lover
Sincerely, Jenna Freedman, MaLIS