Carla Hayden, first female and African-American Librarian of Congress, confirmed by Senate
WASHINGTON — The Senate has confirmed the longtime head of Baltimore’s library system to be the next Librarian of Congress. She is the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position.
The vote was 74-18 for Carla Hayden on Wednesday. President Barack Obama had nominated Hayden to be the 14th Librarian of Congress in the institution’s 214-year history. He called her milestones on gender and race “long overdue.”
Obama signed a law last year establishing a 10-year term for the Librarian of Congress with an option for reappointment. The position was previously considered a lifetime appointment.
The previous Librarian of Congress, James Billington, was criticized for not keeping up with advances in technology. Billington was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served for 28 years before stepping down last year.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
Wiki: Dr. Hayden is a graduate of Roosevelt University and received her master’s and doctorate degrees in Library Science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School. She taught as an Assistant Professor of Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh before returning to Chicago to begin her professional career as a children’s librarian at Chicago Public Library. She was appointed second-in-command at Chicago Public Library in 1991. In 1993, she was appointed to the position of Director at Enoch Pratt Free Library. She was honored as the national Librarian of the Year by Library Journal in 1995, becoming the first African American to receive the prestigious award. Dr. Hayden has twice given the Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture.
As ALA President in 2003–2004, Dr. Hayden was vocal in her public opposition to the Patriot Act, leading a battle for the protections of library users’ privacy. She especially objected to the special permissions contained in Section 215 of that law, which gave the Justice Department and the FBI the power to access library user records. Hayden often sparred publicly with then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over the language of the law. Ashcroft often ridiculed the library community, and stated that the ALA had been “misled into opposing provisions of the act that make it easier for FBI agents to fish through library records”. Hayden’s response was immediate, stating that the ALA was “deeply concerned that the Attorney General would be so openly contemptuous” (to the library community), while also pointing out that librarians had been monitored and been under FBI surveillance as far back as the McCarthy Era. Hayden asserted that Ashcroft should release information as to the number of libraries that had been visited under the provisions of Section 215.
Along with her objections of the Patriot Act, Dr. Hayden has done much in her career in outreach programs. As ALA President she wrote:” At a time when our public is challenged on multiple fronts, we need to recommit ourselves to the ideal of providing equal access to everyone, anywhere, anytime, and in any format. . . . By finally embracing equity of access we will be affirming our core values, recognizing realities, and assuring our future.
One program she is notable for is for the outreach program she began at the Pratt Library. This outreach program included “an after school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling.” Because of this, Dr. Hayden received Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award.
In January 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Dr. Hayden as a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board and National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities.
On February 24, 2016, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dr. Hayden as the next Librarian of Congress. In a press release from the White House, President Obama stated:
Michelle and I have known Dr. Carla Hayden for a long time, since her days working at the Chicago Public Library, and I am proud to nominate her to lead our nation’s oldest federal institution as our 14th Librarian of Congress. Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture. 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.
Hayden was subsequently confirmed by a 74-18 vote in the United States Senate on July 13, 2016.
Fortune magazine ranked Dr. Hayden among the World’s 50 greatest leaders in 2016.