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Billington Moves Up Retirement as Librarian of Congress

Billington will retire in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Billington will retire in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, isn’t the only high-ranking government official who announced an early retirement Friday morning.  

James H. Billington, the 13th librarian of Congress, announced his retirement would be effective Sept. 30. Billington, 86, had announced in June that he was retiring effective Jan. 1 after having served since 1987, when he was chosen by President Ronald Reagan.  “It has been the great honor and joy of my life to lead the Library of Congress for 28 of my 42 years of public service in Washington,” Billington said in a statement distributed by the Library of Congress. “I am grateful to God for the privilege of having served with so many selfless and dedicated colleagues in the ongoing search for knowledge and understanding made possible by this amazing American institution.”  

On Thursday, Billington attended a ceremony at the library accepting as a gift from Saint John’s Abbey and University an Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible. It’s a 2-feet tall by 3-feet wide, handwritten artifact that is more than 500 years ago. Present at the ceremony were Boehner and Pope Francis, who had come over after his speech to a joint meeting of Congress.  

Earlier this month, the library hired Bernard A. Barton Jr ., as its first long-term chief information officer since 2012. The library’s information technology program was the subject of a scathing Government Accountability Office report in April.  

Library watchers had speculated whether Billington would wait until the Jan. 1 date since this summer’s announcement. At this month’s National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Center, a festival he helped bring to reality, he was nowhere to be found.  

President Barack Obama will appoint Billington’s successor, who must be confirmed by the Senate. Speculation about would-be successors has been making the rounds in Washington recently. Walter Isaacson, author of “Steve Jobs,” and the chief executive officer of the Aspen Institute, was approached by the White House over the summer but turned the job down.

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