Released: August 29, 2013

At Library of Congress, changes are afoot in technology as well as in physical space


For the first time in 40 years, a small team is also reinventing the way the library catalogues re­sources, developing a system that’s designed to become the new global standard. Elsewhere in the library, staffers are creating the institution’s first holistic online strategy of the Internet age and restructuring its stable of Web sites.

Bill Kellum, who oversees Web and mobile initiatives at the library, is leading an effort to centralize online resources by reining in the sprawl of countless Web sites that sprang up independently from various divisions of the library in the 1990s. Something similar is happening offline as the library weighs a plan to merge several existing reading rooms into the Main Reading Room.

“People compare libraries to churches,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, a researcher who has studied how libraries are changing for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. “People talk about them as sacred spaces. Libraries evoke this sense of awe, this place of stillness and quietness and reflection. So there’s this central tension we’re seeing between the more traditional role of libraries and newer roles libraries have taken on.”

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