Hero status: Dr. Carla Hayden

Yesterday, Dr. Carla Hayden became the 14th librarian of Congress. W00t!

carla hayden, via white house
via White House video

So who is she?

After 13 white guys, Dr. Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to be the librarian of Congress. She’s the former prez of the American Library Association and has a Ph.D. in library science from U Chicago. As ALA prez in the early ’00s, she butted heads with noted dick John Ashcroft over the Patriot Act, because it gave the FBI access to people’s library records. She (and likeminded groups) eventually got that part of the Patriot Act thrown out. When Ms. Magazine named her their 2003 Woman of the Year, she told the mag this:

When libraries fight against the PATRIOT Act, or against [mandatory Internet filters], we’re fighting for the public. Most of the people who use public libraries don’t have the opportunity to buy books at a bookstore or on Amazon.com. What the library does is protect the rights of all people to fully and freely access information and to pursue knowledge, without fear of repercussion.

Hell to the yeah.

Dr. Hayden was also in charge of Baltimore libraries for over 20 years. The NYT notes, “In Baltimore, she overhauled what was widely considered a failing urban library system.” She pushed for technology like e-readers and internet access in Baltimore libraries because people lacked them at home. And when schools and churches closed in April 2015 due to protests and violence after police killed Freddie Gray, she kept the Baltimore libraries open so they’d be safe community spaces. She said in a White House video:

During the recent unrest in Baltimore, it was very evident that people needed not only information but a safe place and a trusted place to go. And so when we decided to open the library right across from the epicenter of the unrest, we knew that the community would be responsive. And then we became a site for people to actually get food, to get supplies. We opened up our meeting room. So it became that community meeting place, and people were so relieved to have a safe place to be. Making those libraries vital to communities will always be something I will look back on and say, ‘We did that!’

Other miscellany: She describes libraries as “treasure chests” (YES!). And one of the first books she checked out from the library in Queens where she grew up was Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli, about an African-American girl growing up in Philly and encountering racism for the first time.

Basically, she’s amazing! HEART.



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