First woman and first Black American to be the Librarian of Congress
"Dr. Carla Hayden is an American librarian and the 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to hold the post. She is the first professional librarian appointed to the post in over 60 years.
From 1993 until 2016, she was the CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, and president of the American Library Association (ALA) from 2003 to 2004. During her presidency, she was the leading voice of the ALA in speaking out against the newly passed United States Patriot Act.
Hayden began her library career at the Chicago Public Library. From 1973 to 1979, she worked as an Associate/Children's Librarian and from 1979 to 1982, she was Young Adult Services Coordinator at the Chicago Public Library. From 1982 to 1987, Hayden worked as a Library Services Coordinator at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Hayden moved to Pittsburgh, where she was an associate professor, teaching at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences from 1987 to 1991… Hayden then moved back to Chicago and became Deputy Commissioner and Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library, posts she held from 1991 to 1993. During her time working at the Chicago Public Library, Hayden became acquainted with Michelle Obama and Barack Obama.
From 1993 to 2016, Hayden was Executive Director of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library.
As president of the American Library Association (ALA) from 2003 to 2004, Hayden chose the theme "Equity of Access." In her role as ALA President, Hayden was vocal in her public opposition to the Patriot Act, leading a battle for the protections of library users' privacy. She especially objected to the special permissions contained in Section 215 of that law, which gave the Justice Department and the FBI the power to access library user records.
As a result of her stand for the rights of every American, she became Ms. magazine's 2003 Woman of the Year. In her interview with the magazine, she stated:
Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy—where information is free and equally available to everyone. People tend to take that for granted, and they don’t realize what is at stake when that is put at risk.
Hayden says, "(Librarians) are activists, engaged in the social work aspect of librarianship. Now we are fighters for freedom...”
Along with her objections of the Patriot Act, Hayden has done much in her career in outreach programs. As ALA President she wrote: "At a time when our public is challenged on multiple fronts, we need to recommit ourselves to the ideal of providing equal access to everyone, anywhere, anytime, and in any format... By finally embracing equity of access we will be affirming our core values, recognizing realities, and assuring our future…”
On February 24, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Hayden to serve as the next Librarian of Congress. In a press release from the White House, President Obama stated:
Michelle and I have known Carla Hayden for a long time, since her days working at the Chicago Public Library, and I am proud to nominate her to lead our nation's oldest federal institution as our 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture. She has the proven experience, dedication, and deep knowledge of our nation's libraries to serve our country well and that's why I look forward to working with her in the months ahead. If confirmed, Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position – both of which are long overdue.
After her nomination, more than 140 library, publishing, educational, and academic organizations signed a letter of support. The letter said in part that Congress had "an opportunity to equip the Library and the nation with the unique combination of professional skills and sensibilities that Dr. Hayden will bring to the post…”
Even though more than eighty percent of American librarians are women, for over two hundred years the position of Librarian of Congress was filled exclusively by white men making Hayden the first woman and the first African American to hold the position. Notably, she is also a librarian by profession. Many past Librarians of Congress have been scholars and historians." (1)