Carla Hayden: The new librarian of Congress

Librarians are more freedom fighters than shushers” – Carla Hayden, Ms. Magazine

carla-hayden

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)

PBS NEWS HOUR (video) The Library of Congress has a new chief: Carla Hayden. Jeffrey Brown speaks with Hayden about the continuing importance of the library in the digital age.carla-hayden-on-cover-of-library-journal

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.carla-hayden-in-baltimore-library

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)

carla-hayden-promoting-early-literacy

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Theaster Gates: “Social Practice installation artist”

Portrait of Theaster Gates Roller Skating
Portrait of Theaster Gates Roller Skating

Theaster Gates  is an American “Social Practice installation artist.” He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still lives and works. Gates’ work has been shown at major museums and galleries internationally and deals with issues of urban planning, religious space, and craft. He is committed to the revitalization of poor neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices.

Above Video: Artist Theaster Gates turns Chicago’s empty spaces into incubators for culture.
An internationally recognized artist, Theaster Gates is well versed on how to shape materials into meaningful forms. But Gates applies those principles to more than just art — he’s also a renowned urban developer who shapes downtrodden neighborhoods into community gathering places and low-cost housing. Gates joins Jeffrey Brown to explore the intersection of art and activism.

Theaster Gates Library Archive
Theaster Gates Library Archive

Theaster Gates is the founder and Artist Director of the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit focused on cultural-driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. Under Gates’ leadership, the Rebuild Foundation currently manages projects in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago. Rebuild received official 501(c)3 status in December 2010. Program sites include the Stony Island Arts Bank, the Black Cinema House, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, Archive House, and Listening House.

Theaster Gates art installation image
Theaster Gates art installation image

For the Dorchester Projects, one of Rebuild’s Foundation’s most celebrated works, he restored vacant buildings and turned them into cultural institutions with artifacts from the South Side. Gates’s Rebuild Foundation has renovated two houses on Dorchester Avenue, now called the Archive House and the Listening House. In 2013, he purchased the Stony Island State Savings Bank from the city of Chicago.  The Archive House holds 14,000 architecture books from a closed bookshop.  The Listening House holds 8,000 records purchased at the closing of Dr. Wax Records. The Stony Island Savings Bank now known as the Stony Island Arts Bank contains the book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines; the record collection of Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of house music; and slides of the University of Chicago’s and Art Institute of Chicago’s collections.  In 2015, his Stony Island work was included in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Above Video:  How to revive a neighborhood with imagination, beauty and art