Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

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Carla Hayden became the new Librarian of Congress on Sept. 14, 2016.
Credit: © American Library Association

On Wednesday, September 14, Carla D. Hayden was sworn in as the new Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman, the first African American, and only the third professional librarian to lead the Library of Congress, one of the world’s largest libraries. The United States Senate confirmed Carla D. Hayden in July. She is the 14th Librarian of Congress since the institution was established in 1800.

Hayden served many years as the chief executive officer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the public library system in Baltimore, Maryland. She has also served as the chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library system and as president of the American Library Association.

In February 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Hayden to fill the vacancy left by the previous librarian of Congress, James H. Billington. Billington, a former history professor, retired in 2015 after 28 years in the post. In announcing Hayden’s nomination, Obama said that she “has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture.” The librarian of Congress position, which previously held a lifetime appointment, now carries a 10-year term. Obama signed the term limitation bill into law in 2015.

Carla Diane Hayden was born on Aug. 10, 1952, in Tallahassee, Florida, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago and both master’s and doctorate degrees in library science from the University of Chicago. Hayden began working as a children’s librarian and a library associate with the Chicago Public Library in 1973. She later served as the library services coordinator for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and as an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hayden is a champion of such causes as freedom of information and civil liberties. In the early 2000’s, she fought against then Attorney General John Ashcroft over a provision of the Patriot Act of 2001. Among other provisions, the Patriot Act forces public libraries to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation greater access to patrons’ e-mail and library records. In 2015, Hayden kept the Baltimore libraries open during protests that closed many other parts of the city. The protests erupted over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody (see Police use of force).

In 1995, Hayden was the first African American to receive the Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal magazine. Ms. magazine named her as one of its 10 “Women of the Year” for 2003, and the Maryland Daily Record included her in its list of “Maryland’s Top 100 Women” that same year. In 2010, Hayden won Senate confirmation to the National Museum and Library Services Board.

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