An administrator so dedicated to bringing the library to the people that she kept everything open during last year's unrest in Baltimore will become the first black American and first female librarian of Congress.
By a vote of 74-18, the U.S. Senate confirmed
Carla Hayden for the top post at the largest library in the world on Wednesday. Hayden is chief executive officer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore. She drew praise last year when she kept Baltimore's libraries open during the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who'd been in police custody.
Colleagues credit her with keeping the city's libraries up-to-date and connected to Baltimore's neighborhoods and people who rely on the libraries to access the Internet, hunt for jobs and get career advice.
Hayden will become the 14th librarian of Congress and will be the first librarian to hold the post in six decades, according to the
American Library Association. Her renewable term is 10 years. She will be responsible for the care and sharing of 162 million items in the Library of Congress collections.
"I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the Library of Congress," Hayden said in a statement Wednesday. "I will be honored to build on the legacy and accomplishments of my predecessors in this position, to be part of a continuing movement to open the treasure chest that is the Library of Congress even further and to make it a place that can be found and used by anyone."
Hayden began her career as a children's librarian in Chicago after earning her master's and doctoral degrees from the Graduate Library School of the
University of Chicago. She was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004.
Colleagues hailed Hayden with making sure that the 130-year-old Pratt system, named for a businessman and philanthropist, was up-to-speed technologically and had some connection with Baltimore's neighborhoods and people. Since joining the Pratt system in 1993, she has overseen construction of the first new library building in Baltimore in 25 years, guided renovations of 10 branches, introduced teen after-school programs that include college and career guidance, created Spanish-speaking programs and introduced the digitization of special collections, the library system said.
She is so well-liked that after
President Obama nominated her to the post in February, members of the American Library Association pushed for her confirmation via a social media campaign based on the hashtag #Hayden4LOC, the American Library Association said.
"There is no doubt that Dr. Hayden will have a positive impact by leading efforts to establish a more modern approach to serving members of Congress, researchers and the public at large," ALA president Julie Todaro said in a statement. "Hayden holds a profound understanding of the integral role libraries play in formal education, community-based learning and the promotion of individual opportunity and community progress."
Kelvin Watson, chief operating officer of the Queens Library in New York City and president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, called Hayden's confirmation "a victory for diversity and equality."
"As our nation continues to be in the midst of healing through so many recent tragedies, I'm reminded of Carla's courage to make the library a safe haven for the Baltimore community, when needed," Watson said via email, referring to the Baltimore protests as well as the recent deaths of two black men and five police officers in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. "The library is the equalizer for all, and I'm certain that Carla will make the nation's library even greater," Watson said.
Colleagues at Pratt agreed.
"Respecting Enoch Pratt's mission to provide equal access to traditional library resources to all citizens, she has successfully led efforts to modernize the
Pratt Libraryso all city citizens have access to the advantages of the digital world," Patricia Lasher, chair of the Pratt board, said in a statement.
During the protests in Baltimore last year, Hayden herself opened the doors of the library branch across the street from a CVS store that burned and was rebuilt, said Roswell Encina, Pratt director of communications.
One man came to the library to thank Hayden for keeping the doors open because he'd gotten two callbacks for jobs he'd applied for during the disturbances, Encina said.
Pratt, founded in 1886 to bring a free system to Baltimore residents representing all backgrounds, is the country's oldest library system. It includes a central library, anchor library and 22 branches, a center of technology and two bookmobiles.
Hayden will take over from Acting Librarian
David Mao, who assumed his role after the retirement of James Billington in September. She will be sworn in on a date to be determined, the Library of Congress said.