Interview of the First Lady and Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington by FOX & Friends
8:20 A.M. EDT
Q Now it’s time to go down to Washington, D.C., because tens of thousands of book lovers are about to gather in Washington to celebrate America’s finest authors, illustrators and poets. Who better to give the scoop on this even than America’s most famous librarian –- former librarian, First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush, and the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington. They join us from the White House. Good morning to both of you.
MRS. BUSH: Good morning, how are you?
Q I'm doing fine. Just out of curiosity, who would be the number one librarian? Would it be the First Lady or the guy sitting next to you, Mrs. Bush? Who is –-
MRS. BUSH: I think it’s the Librarian of Congress; he’s the number one librarian in the United States.
DR. BILLINGTON: But she is the Reader-in-Chief for the United States. (Laughter.) No one has done more to dramatize the importance of reading, and libraries.
Q Absolutely. And Mrs. Bush, it seems to me last time you were here there was a question whether or not all the books in your house were arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. But I do believe you’ve updated to a new system, right?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I still do use the Dewey Decimal System. What did you think I used?
Q I think you used the Library of Congress --
MRS. BUSH: Well, I should use the Library of Congress, but the Dewey System is a little bit simpler, it’s perfect for a home library.
Q Okay. Well, then, tell us what you guys are up to with this enormous festival of readers and writers and everything else down there.
MRS. BUSH: Well, tomorrow is the 7th Annual National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington. I want to encourage people to come to the Mall tomorrow to meet your favorite authors. We’ll have over 70 authors, historians, children’s authors, poets, home and family, garden authors, chef, cook book authors; fiction, of course, your favorite fiction writers. We’ll have a really terrific day with many, many writers reading from their work and talking about books. And people can meet their favorite writers as well as their favorite storybook characters.
Q That sounds fantastic. Dr. Billington, I understand there are 50,000 books written in the United States each year. How do you figure out which authors to invite?
DR. BILLINGTON: Well, the general rule is prize-winning authors. There are large numbers of forms of recognition of good writers, good books and so we rely heavily on that list. And we try to get new people every year, because there are so many interesting and good books. And of course we get them all on copyright deposit, so our people have a pretty good sense of who’s writing.
Q Sure. You get all the books for free first, right? (Laughter.)
DR. BILLINGTON: Well, yes, we get them, but on copyright deposit, technically. But, yes, sure, they come -- they come and it’s a very interesting –- there’s so much good literature and so many varied things, and that's what they’ll see on the National Book Festival on the Mall. It’s free and it’s fun. The authors, you hear them read their own works and you hear them answer questions; you can sign books and get a word or two in with them. And it’s like a big carnival, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s free and we hope readers of all ages and people who even aren’t reading but are curious will come and hear the authors.
Q Even balloons for the kiddies, I bet. Mrs. Bush, just out of curiosity, what are you reading these days, and what about the President?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm reading as quickly as I can one of our Book Festival writers, J.A. Jance. She’s a mystery writer; she’s a best-selling writer. She’s written tons of books, so I hope people will look at hers. The President right now is reading a book by Jay Winik, who is a historian. It’s called “The Great Upheaval.” It’s a very long history of the world, really, up to the –- around the same time as the founding of the United States. And I think it will be very interesting. I also have that big book on my bedside table; Lynne Cheney gave it to me.
Q That's nice. I understand in addition to doing a lot of reading, is it true that you and your daughter have decided you're going to sit down at the word processor and try to produce a book?
MRS. BUSH: That's right. We’ve actually already written it; now we’re in the stage where we’re working with our illustrator –- we have a great illustrator, Denise Brunkus. And we’re working with the editors of course, and so fighting over every word. (Laughter.) A children’s book is just about 34 pages long, and so there’s not a lot of text, so every word has to be absolutely necessary. But it’s been really fun, we’ve loved it.
Q Now, you said “fighting over every word.” Obviously, that means you and Jenna have -–
MRS. BUSH: No, it means Jenna and I against the editors. (Laughter.)
Q Oh, I see. So the two of you are together on what you’ve written down and now you've got to complain to the people at the publishing house.
MRS. BUSH: That's right. Not really. I mean, but it’s a really fun process to go through with editors.
Q What would you say, Mrs. Bush, is your favorite book of all time?
MRS. BUSH: Well, there are so many great books, that's really hard to ask a librarian –- that's like asking which child is your favorite. But there are a lot of books that have meant a lot to me, “The Brothers Karamazov” was a book that I've read over and over. Newer books that I liked a lot, Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” is a new book that was just out in the last couple of years. Willa Cather is one of my favorite writers, “My Antonia,” many other books by her that I’ve liked.
Q Did you ever think about doing what your mother-in-law did? I remember back during the Bush ’41 administration –- okay, sure, it said Millie, the dog, wrote it, but I got a feeling the lady in the pearls helped out. Did you ever entertain the idea of having a Miss Beazley book?
MRS. BUSH: That's right, I have thought about that and maybe I will have a story from Barney and Miss Beazley and Kitty. I think it could be fun and very entertaining for kids.
Q All right. Well, Mrs. Bush and Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, we thank you very much. And festivities kick off tomorrow at what time, Doctor?
DR. BILLINGTON: Ten o’clock in the morning until 5:00 p.m.
MRS. BUSH: Come to the National Mall tomorrow, it’ll be a really great day.
DR. BILLINGTON: All your favorite storybook characters will be there, as well as the authors. You’ll also have the chance to learn about how you preserve things, as family photos, the digital photos, paper, all those kinds of things. So it will be a lot of fun and a lot of surprises.
Q Fantastic. When you're near it, you'll hear it. All right. We thank you very much for joining us today live from the White House. Thank you.
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much.
END 8:26 A.M. EDT