Georgetown Law COO David Mao, L’93, Named Librarian of the Supreme Court

June 17, 2024

After seven years in leadership at his law school alma mater, Georgetown Law Chief Operating Officer David Mao, L’93, will be taking a new position this summer, as the 12th Librarian of the Supreme Court of the United States. He will be the first Asian American to serve in the role.

A head shot of a man with short dark hair and glasses

Georgetown Law COO David Mao, L’93

Mao, who spent more than a decade at the Library of Congress before returning to Georgetown in 2017 – including stints as Law Librarian of Congress and Acting Librarian of Congress – traces his interest in libraries back to his days as a work-study student assigned to the Law Center’s Edward Bennett Williams Law Library.

“I really got my start in law libraries here at Georgetown,” he said. “I enjoyed working with the people in the library and the research side of things. That’s what I really liked doing.” After graduation, he worked in private practice for a few years before returning to school to earn a library science degree.

The Supreme Court Librarian leads a staff of 29 and oversees a collection of more than 600,000 books and electronic resources. The Library serves as the working library for the research needs of the Supreme Court Justices.

Mao’s years as COO have been eventful, especially with regards to the establishment and growth of what is now known as the Georgetown Capitol Campus – the relocation and expansion of multiple university entities from the original “Hilltop” in the historic Georgetown neighborhood to the Capitol Hill area Georgetown Law has called home for some 50 years.

Mao recalled a breakfast meeting with Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor at the beginning of his tenure as COO, as they discussed possibilities and hopes for maintaining the Law Center’s culture and identity while welcoming the chance to collaborate with cross-campus counterparts, such as what has now happened with the construction of the just-opened building for the McCourt School of Public Policy, adjacent to the Law campus.

“Dean Treanor had a really great vision at the time. And if you carry that full arc to where we are today, generally speaking, the way the expanded campus is going to operate is how he envisioned it,” said Mao. “We’ve built a good team. We have great leaders in all of our departments. And so things will just continue to move forward.”

Three curvy, purple, upholstered benches

Architectural rendering of the new purple benches in the renovated Hart Auditorium lobby

Another project that Mao helped shepherd was the renovation of the law campus’s Hart Auditorium, soon to reopen after more than a year of construction. What had become a dim and dilapidated room is now a bright, high-tech convening space. Talking about the process of working with the architects and engineers, Mao noted that he is leaving a “fingerprint” behind in one aspect of the auditorium’s design: the benches in the upper lobby, which are upholstered in rich shades of violet.

The architects, wanting something to contrast with all the Georgetown blue around campus, were trying to decide what color the benches should be. “They originally proposed a bright red, which was just not us. So I suggested we should go with purple, because in U.S. academic dress, purple is associated with the discipline of law. I thought this would be a nice, subtle nod,” he said.

Having divided the past three decades between jobs in government, the private sector and academia, Mao described his career path as “serpentine.” Now that he is returning to the public sector, he is excited about both the practical and the symbolic aspects of his new position.

“The space is beautiful – the library itself has a beautiful reading room, very ornate,” said Mao. In addition to the Court’s handsome surroundings and historic collection, he said he also was drawn to the opportunity to serve an important institution at what in many ways is a turbulent time, as much of the current coverage of government institutions focuses on political polarization.

“Making sure our democracy continues after 248 years – that’s what it’s all about,” said Mao, “Civil servants work to make sure that our institutions continue to carry on in the way they’re supposed to.”

A group of students standing outside the Library of Congress, listening to a man leading a tour

During Mao’s tenure as COO, he regularly offered walking tours of Capitol Hill, including to his former workplace, the Library of Congress, seen here, during new student orientation.