The Library of Congress made history this past week when Carla Hayden was sworn in as the new Librarian of Congress. Hayden represents both the first woman and the first person of color to hold the position since the Library was opened in 1800.
The Librarian of Congress is not required to have any formal training in library science. Many Librarians of Congress are historians or writers. The American Library Association had been pressing for an actual librarian to hold the position for some time. Hayden is certainly qualified with over two decades of experience working as CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore (with over 20 individual branches).
Carla Hayden has worked throughout her career to bring libraries into the digital age. It is hoped that with her appointment, the Library of Congress will show great improvement with keeping up with modern technology.
Hayden will have a variety of responsibilities ranging from research for new bills, to naming the poet laureate, to overseeing the copyright system. The position used to be a lifetime appointment (Hayden is only the 14th Librarian) until President Obama recently signed a law establishing 10 year terms. The last librarian was John Billington, appointed by Ronald Reagan.
While people think of librarians as mostly female (85%), the higher positions still remain mostly male. For the past 216 years, every Librarian of Congress was a white male. It is definitely an important step (for both race and gender) for this position to be held by Hayden for the next ten years.
In Hayden’s own words:
“To be the head of an institution that’s associated with knowledge and reading and scholarship when slaves were forbidden to learn how to read on punishment of losing limbs, that’s kind of something.”
It’s certainly a great time to be an American.
YouTube Channel: LibraryOfCongress
Featured image via Boston Globe