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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Librarian of Congress

Yesterday I posted about some of the most beautiful libraries in the world.  One of the books on Schatje’s Shelves, The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World, includes The Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  That library made news recently for more than its beauty:  a new librarian was appointed. 

Dr. Carla D. Hayden was appointed to that position by President Barack Obama.   At 64, she is the first African-American and the first woman to lead the 216-year-old library, one of the world’s largest, and the U.S.’s leading repository of knowledge and culture.  The Library of Congress has a collection of more than 162 million items, 3,100 employees, and an annual budget of close to $650 million.

Dr. Hayden has a reputation as a fierce advocate for her patrons and employees.  In 2003 and 2004, while serving as president of the American Library Association, Dr. Hayden clashed frequently with Attorney General John Ashcroft over what she perceived as privacy overreaches in the USA Patriot Act.

More recently, Dr. Hayden made the news in April 2015 when she was Baltimore’s chief librarian.  Freddie Gray died after being injured in police custody and Baltimore erupted in violence.  Though the governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency, Dr. Hayden and her staff kept the library open. 
For Dr. Hayden, the unrest was the test that clarified her values:  Libraries are about far more than books.  “The people of that neighborhood protected that library,” Dr. Hayden said.  “There were young men who stood outside. It was such a symbol” (

Since more than 80% of librarians are women, it’s about time a woman was appointed to this position.