The United States Senate has made history yesterday in swearing in Carla Hayden, the first African American woman to lead as the 14th Librarian of Congress.
Hayden’s career has exceedingly prepared her for the demands in the role of the Librarian of Congress. She earned her undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University and continued with earning a M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago, studying Library Science. Following a stint as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Hayden worked as one of the lead librarians at the Chicago Public Library, where she encountered and formed a relationship with President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The president nominated Hayden for the position in February of 2016, with a 74-18 voting decision under the U.S Senate.
“Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture,” the president said. “She has the proven experience, dedication, and deep knowledge of our nation’s libraries to serve our country well and that’s why I look forward to working with her in the months ahead. If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position – both of which are long overdue.”
Since the establishment of the position of Librarian of Congress in 1802, Dr. Hayden will serve not only as the first African American woman, but she is one of the only to hold the position that has had a career as a professional librarian. All appointed before her were white men, who prior to the appointment were politicians, scholars, writers, lawyers, and more.
“As the director of the Enoch Pratt library she took public library services to greater height by revolutionizing its operations and making more relevant to the needs of the communities they serve,” said Chris Iweha, Information Literacy Librarian at Morgan State University. “It is not out of place to say that Baltimore City benefited and continues to reap the benefits of her leadership savvy,”
Hayden’s latest accomplishment comes as a result of being the CEO and director of the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD. She managed over 22 library branches in Baltimore, of which she decided to keep open during the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. This decision was acknowledged and commended by both the community, senators, and the president.
Also serving as President of the American Library Association in 2003-2004, Hayden refuted the Patriot Act in opposition to “library provision”. She argued that monitoring what people researched in the public libraries, was not only an act of violating their privacy, but it was making assumptions about their character based on their learning interests.
The previous Librarian of Congress, James Billington served for 28 years but was criticized for his lack of integration with technology. Hayden’s goal is to modernize the institution allowing access to the collections of artifacts and resources through technology. She has already done so at the Enoch Pratt Library, being the first to integrate internet access to public libraries in Maryland. Afterwards, she began to digitize books and artifacts in the Enoch Pratt libraries. Hayden brought e-readers, kindles, and iPads to the Enoch Pratt Library branches for children to have a learning experiences equivalent to the surrounding communities.
“Her track record of achievement in terms of library management and library- community base development is outstanding and undeniable,” said Iweha. “I believe that her appointment and success would inspire a lot of women, particularly black women to aspire to high secular positions in the country”.