By AUBURN MANN, ALANA PEDALINO and TROY JEFFERSON
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has nominated Carla Hayden, the head of Baltimore’s public library system, as the first woman and African American to be the 14th Librarian of Congress.
“This is truly a great honor to be nominated by President Obama to lead the nation’s library, the Library of Congress,” Hayden said in a statement released by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. “It is my privilege to serve the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the citizens of Baltimore for more than 20 years, during which time we restored its world-renowned reputation.”
Hayden, 63, has been the chief executive officer of Baltimore’s library system since 1993, one of the nation’s oldest public library systems. If confirmed, she will succeed James Billington as Librarian of Congress. He retired from the position in September after 28 years.
The Library of Congress is one of the nation’s oldest federal institutions and boasts the world’s largest library collection. It is responsible for providing Congress with research, setting copyright standards and leading various literary initiatives.
Hayden, born in Tallahassee, Fla., grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of Roosevelt University. She received her master’s degree and doctorate in library science from the University of Chicago.
Obama said in a statement that he has known Hayden “since her days working at the Chicago Public Library.”
After spending the early part of her career in the Chicago Public Library system as a young adult services coordinator, children’s librarian and library associate from 1973-1987, Hayden was nominated by Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010 and was confirmed by the Senate in June 2010.
She also was the American Library Association’s president in 2003 and 2004. In that position, she voiced her displeasure with the portions of the Patriot Act allowing easier federal surveillance of library records.
“Many Americans are not willing to concede their most basic civil rights and liberties to those in positions of power who simply ask us to trust them,” Hayden said in August 2003.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that “the hysteria is ridiculous.”
But he eventually apologized in a telephone call to Hayden and agreed to make public how the government was using library records.
“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,” Obama said. “If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position – both of which are long overdue.”
Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both Democrats, recommended Hayden to Obama. Mikulski and Cardin applauded the nomination.
“I’m proud to have recommended Dr. Hayden to President Obama to serve as our next Librarian of Congress, and look forward to her confirmation by the Senate,” Mikulski said.
“Dr. Hayden is a cultural treasure to our city and a long-time defender of the free flow of information,” Cardin said. “While the loss will be a great one for Baltimore City, I look forward to introducing Dr. Hayden to my colleagues and to welcoming her as our nation’s top librarian.”