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Library of Congress’ Collection Growing at 2.5 Million a Year

May 7, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Library of Congress is in danger of being overwhelmed by the more than 100 million items in its growing collection, a private consultant told a congressional panel Tuesday.

Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. recommended that, to manage growth of the collection, the government redefine the library’s purpose in light of all-but-certain budget cuts, said Joyce Doria, a company vice president.

However, some of her suggestions drew strong objections from Librarian of Congress James Billington.

Doria said that unless Congress plans to increase the library’s budget, it should decide whether to scale back library operations.

Instead of an agency serving a world community of libraries, publishers and scholars, the library could limit itself to serving Congress only, Doria told the House-Senate Joint Committee on the Library of Congress.

And, rather than operating principally as a independent archive, it could focus instead on organizing worldwide networks of information and becoming a ``comprehensive broker or referral agency,″ she said.

Billington rejected the idea, saying the library is ``the world’s largest and most wide-ranging storehouse of human knowledge and of American creativity.″

The library has successfully been fulfilling its duties despite a declining budget, he said.

``The library rejects in the strongest terms this challenge to its historic mission,″ he said. ``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.″

Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., 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.

The library, founded in 1800, has more than 103 million items and adds to its collections at a rate of about 2.5 million a year or 7,000 a day, according to the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigating agency.

It collects a wide range of materials _ including books, manuscripts, photographs and sound recordings _ in more than 400 languages.

The library also provides a variety of services, including research for Congress, copyright registration, cataloging and producing books on tape for the blind and physically handicapped.

Criticism about how the library handles labor problems and thefts of its rare materials prompted Hatfield and Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., to ask the GAO for a review.

The GAO in turn hired Booz-Allen to study library management and Price Waterhouse LLP to audit its 1995 financial statements.

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