Carla Hayden Becomes The First Woman And The First Black Person To Head Library of Congress

Carla Hayden was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress today, and with that, the “rock star librarian” became the first woman and the first black person to head the institution.

Carla Hayden is the 14th Librarian of Congress and was nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the 216-year-old institution.

carla hayden

At the age of 64, Hayden is one of the most vibrant figures in American academia and is most famous for her fierce campaign against the USA Patriot Act — legislation that would harm the privacy of library goers — when she was president of the American Library Association.

Hayden’s swearing in by Chief Justice John Roberts was broadcast live on YouTube. She is now in charge of the world’s largest library.

Between 2003 and 2004, Hayden’s headship at the American Library Association was thrown into sharp significance when the USA Patriot Act came to the fore.

The act would enable the government to gain information on library usage of citizens, and as such, was an infringement of the freedom of a library goer.

Hayden — by then a known figure who was already familiar to Barack and Michelle Obama — spoke out against the law. Her one action caused a ripple that led quarters to question her nomination to the Library of Congress, with allegations that she is “anti-establishment.”

However, the first person to debunk those theories is Hayden herself. In an interview with USA Today, the seasoned librarian spoke about the necessity of speaking out then.

“That was a time when everyone was concerned about national security, and what the library community was concerned about was that we make sure there was a balance with security and with personal freedom to know — that you could have an interest in a topic and no intend to do anything. People wanted to know about jihad, they wanted to know what was going on. And we just wanted to make sure that people had a right to know, and that that right couldn’t be infringed upon.”

During her long tenure from 1993 to August, 2016, as head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore of Maryland, Carla Hayden rose to prominence by bringing to light the powers of a librarian.

Hayden not only leaves behind a legacy of expertly keeping alive an fast dwindling edifice of education and culture — the city library — but also key moments that distinguished her as a vocal advocate of the necessity of reading.

Hayden — a doctorate degree holder from the University of Chicago and therefore affectionately known as ‘Doc’ to people — has turned the notion of the quiet pushover librarian on its head.

When the city of Baltimore was ravaged by riots following the police custody killing of Freddie Gray, in 2015, Hayden’s decision to keep the Pratt Library open garnered praise for her from all over the country.

carla hayden

The Washington Post reported on the farewell program organized in Baltimore to honor and bid goodbye to Carla Hayden as she takes up her new job.

According to the Post, the function saw city residents of all walks of life come up to Hayden and wish her well. The article quotes Maureen O’Neill, a librarian at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

“She’s like a rock star. To see a librarian exalted and appreciated is very touching.”

From earning $224,908 (her earnings last year) for heading a 22-branch institution, Hayden, according to the same article, will be earning $179,700 annually for a ten-year term.

She is the first Library of Congress head to be serving a set term of 10 years and takes over from James Billington.

As her senior advisor, Carla Hayden has chosen Roswell Encina, who served as director of communications at Enoch Pratt for the last ten years. According to the Baltimore Sun, Encina is “honored” to be chosen, yet “sad” to leave the city and the institution he has served for so long.

Carla Hayden, however, will not be leaving her beloved Baltimore. She will travel every day to Washington from there.

[Photo by Ted S Warren/AP Images]