Librarians are more freedom fighters than shushers” – Carla Hayden, Ms. Magazine
The new librarian of Congress on the value of ‘free information’
According to Hayden, the profession was “feminized” when Melvil Dewey, who created the Dewey decimal system, said “it was time to let women in because there was a lot of monotonous work to do. And he also said women in public libraries could be hostesses because they were part of the home”.
“Oh he was quite the fellow,” Hayden said, laughing. “So for a woman to be actual manager, CEO, is poetic justice.”
Hayden says she’s even more proud of her role as the first African American Librarian of Congress.
“I’ve talked for years and cited how slaves were forbidden to read, you could get your hand chopped off, or people who taught slaves to read were punished, that’s Fredrick Douglass’s thing,” Hayden said. “So to have an African American heading up the world’s largest library is not quite an oxymoron, but it speaks to the history.” (source: Baynard Woods, The Guardian 9-15-16 article)
Hayden first came to national prominence in 2003 when she spoke out against certain elements of the Patriot Act as the head of the American Library Association. Attorney general John Ashcroft attacked Hayden for sowing “hysteria” about the provision of the act that would allow the government to search library and bookstore records.
Hayden shot back.
“We are deeply concerned that the attorney general should be so openly contemptuous of those who seek to defend our Constitution,” she said. “Rather than ask the nation’s librarians and Americans nationwide to ‘just trust him,’ Ashcroft could allay concerns by releasing aggregate information about the number of libraries visited using the expanded powers created by the USA Patriot Act.”
At the time, there was political risk in such statements, but Hayden said she never considered that.
“It wasn’t an either or – it was a how do we do both. How do ensure national security and protect a person’s right to know,” she said. “What was happening at that time was people wanted to know what are these groups [like Al Qaeda and the Taliban], a lot of people didn’t know what jihad meant or anything like that and they were seeking information and the concern was just because you want to know, you don’t intend to do anything. You just want to know.” (source: Baynard Woods, The Guardian 9-15-16 article)
Carla Hayden Sworn In as 14th Librarian of Congress (9/14/16, 12PM) Ceremony (video) Streamed live on Sep 14, 2016: Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 14 at noon. Hayden is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Librarian of Congress. Hayden was nominated by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Today, I’m nominating Dr. Carla Hayden to be our 14th Librarian of Congress. Michelle and I have known Carla since her days working at the Chicago Public Library, and her dedication to learning and education is unparalleled. More recently, she’s been hard at work revitalizing Baltimore’s struggling library system as the CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library. Last year, during the unrest in Baltimore, Dr. Hayden kept the doors of the Pratt open as a beacon for the community. Her understanding of the pivotal role that emerging technologies play in libraries will be essential in leading the Library of Congress as it continues to modernize its infrastructure and promote open access and full participation in today’s digital world. Finally, Dr. Hayden will be the first woman and the first African-American to hold this position in its 214 year history – both of which are long overdue. (from President Barack Obama’s Facebook)
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. https://www.loc.gov/
Hayden was the head of Baltimore’s library system since 1993 until she resigned earlier this year, after her nomination. When unrest erupted in the city after the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody, Hayden kept the libraries open, even though almost everything else was closed.
“My thinking was that at a time of crisis the library should try to be open,” she said. “And it was heartening that the staff members were willing.”
She tells the story of one young man who was there the morning after the riots to fill out job applications. When he returned two days later to tell her he had three interviews “It really reinforced the fact that the community needed us open”, she said. (source: Baynard Woods, The Guardian 9-15-16 article)