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ALA President-elect Jim Rettig to call for Library of Congress to maintain its service to the public


WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, October 24, American Library Association (ALA) President-elect Jim Rettig will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Administration Committee at an oversight hearing on the Library of Congress.

Traditionally, the Library of Congress has served as a de facto national library, upon which thousands of libraries across the country rely for bibliographic records and services to the blind and physically handicapped, among other things. Countless users rely on the Library’s records every day to find the books and materials they need.

“The diminution of the quality and quantity of Library of Congress cataloging has had an enormous financial impact on the nation’s libraries,” Rettig states. “Cataloging that the Library previously provided must now be performed by multiple libraries, often doing duplicative work, thereby wasting tax dollars.”

“ALA strongly recommends that the Library of Congress return to its former practice of broad and meaningful consultation prior to making significant changes to cataloging policy.”

The Library of Congress’ communication efforts are a theme that runs through each aspect of Rettig’s testimony. Rettig also expressed concerns about the need for more funding for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), which serves more than 750,000 people, and surely more in the near future, as the baby boomer generation ages.

“[The NLS also serves] thousands more Americans – our military veterans who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with new access needs – who need and deserve fully funded NLS services.”


Jim Rettig currently serves as University Library at the University of Richmond, Virginia. During 2007-8, he is President-elect of the American Library Association, the world’s oldest and largest library association.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

One Comment

  1. Audiobooks are more popular than ever, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has thousands of unabridged recordings in their archive that are not available anywhere else. The problem is, the NLS does not hold the audio rights to any of their productions.

    The NLS is currently upgrading to a digital infrastructure, but Congress is reluctant to provide full funding. My suggestion is that the NLS should generate income by pursuing the audio rights for books in their archive. Here’s how it could work:

    The NLS should put out an RFP to audiobook distributors to secure the rights to as many titles in the NLS archive as they can. The distributor would then market the title and a percentage of sales or rental fees would go to the NLS (and the original copyright holder, of course).

    NLS titles would be ideal for libraries and educational use. There is no guarantee this will generate a significant income, but it would show the NLS is willing to try to recoup taxpayer funds – something Congress will appreciate.

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