Unless Congress plans to put more money into the Library of Congress, it should consider redefining the library's purpose and scaling back its operations, a private consultant told a congressional committee.
The library is in danger of being overwhelmed by the more than 100 million items in its growing collections, said Joyce Doria, vice president of Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc.Some of her suggestions drew strong objections from Librarian of Congress James Billington.
"The library rejects in the strongest terms this challenge to its historic mission," he told the House-Senate Joint Committee on the Library of Congress on Tuesday.
"It seems inconceivable that the world's largest and most varied record of human knowledge - in effect American's strategic information reserve - should be pulled apart and scattered as America is entering the Information Age," he said.
Doria said that instead of an agency serving a world community of libraries, publishers and scholars, the library could limit itself to serving only Congress and its American customers.
And, rather than operating principally as an independent archive, it could focus on organizing worldwide networks of information and becoming a "comprehensive broker or referral agency," she said.
Billington said that view incorrectly implied that the library is not doing its job. The library has successfully been fulfilling its duties despite a declining budget, he said.
Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., the committee chairman, said he doubted there was much congressional support for reducing the scope of the library, despite a tight budget. But he said he would like to see the library correct some of the operational and financial management problems pointed out in the consultant's review.