An alumnus is getting to know some of the nation’s most important books.
David Mao, who graduated in 1990, was appointed acting librarian of Congress on Oct. 1 and will oversee the entire library, including the national library, the law library, the Congressional Research Service and the U.S. Copyright Office.
His goals include modernizing the 215-year-old library on Independence Avenue with infrastructure changes and positioning “the Library of Congress for the 21st Century.”
“We hope to be a new and modern library that will continue to sustain what it has been doing for the past 215 years and for another 215 years, and more so I hope,” Mao said.
At GW, Mao was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and majored in international affairs with a minor in Chinese language and literature. After graduation, he went on to the Georgetown University Law Center and earned his library degree at Catholic University.
It was at Georgetown University where he was a work-study student at the law library, that he developed an “appreciation for libraries.” He even considered working as a law librarian after graduating law school but decided to wait instead.
“It wasn’t in the cards at the time, so I practiced law for a while before I went back to school for my graduate degree in library sciences,” Mao said.
Mao said GW allowed him to pursue his areas of interest like international affairs and politics, studies that translated into various jobs he has had. In his junior year at GW, Mao studied abroad in China and that helped develop his “interest in the international arena.”
“You can connect those two: my interest in studying abroad and international affairs and politics, and how that translated to working in the law library with an international collection with international attorneys working on comparative law,” Mao said.
Mao has been working at the Library of Congress since 2005 as a deputy law librarian managing the library’s global research portfolio, then serving as law librarian. In January of this year, he became deputy librarian with program and management authority over the library’s services. The former Librarian of Congress James Billington retired on Sept. 30, and a day later, Mao was appointed to his new role.
The Librarian of Congress position is a presidential appointment. When asked how long Mao will be serving as acting librarian of Congress, he said “your guess is as good as mine.”
The Library of Congress has more to offer than books, housing more than 160 million items in their collections with a wide range from books and photographs to musical instruments, Mao said.
“I was down in the instrument vault and it just so happens that the best Stradivari violin was in the vault and I got to put it under my chin and similarly the Fritz Kreisler’s Guarneri,” Mao said. “These are priceless instruments and I was able to put it under my chin and have that experience.”
Mao said that moment was especially memorable as music has always been a passion of his – he sang with the University Singers at GW and even considered minoring in music.
While he was at GW, Mao said he had no aspirations to be in his new position, but the library is a huge institution with more than just librarians and books.
“There are lots of opportunities here at the Library of Congress, so interested students should look into what we have available and consider working here because it really is a fabulous institution,” Mao said. “If you work hard, stay focused and strive for a particular goal, then you will eventually get there.”