September 20, 2016
Carla Hayden sworn in as Librarian of Congress, America’s Library sworn to awesomeness
by Chad Felix
We’ve expressed our excitement about Dr. Carla Hayden here before. Back in July of this year, the respected librarian and community leader was appointed to the position of Librarian of Congress by President Barack Obama.
Last Wednesday, Hayden was sworn into office, thereby officially becoming the fourteenth Librarian of Congress. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to receive the honor. (She’s also, somehow, the first career librarian to hold the position since 1974 —the last two were academics.)
So, yeah, she’s already made some history. But something tells us she’s just getting started (she is literally just getting started).
Hayden had great success as CEO of Baltimore’s large public library system, the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Prior to that she served as president of the American Library Association (ALA), a position from which she heroically upheld a staunch, public opposition to the Patriot Act, which former president George W. Bush signed into law in 2001.
Joining her at the ceremony on Wednesday were members of Congress and, more excitingly, LeVar Burton, the beloved host of Reading Rainbow (here he is reading the children’s classic Go the Fuck to Sleep). With her hand upon Abraham Lincoln’s bible (part of the Library of Congress’s esteemed collection), Hayden took the oath under US Chief Justice John Roberts. In her speech she made the importance of her inauguration explicit, to much deserved applause: “As a descendant of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is the national symbol of knowledge, is a historic moment.”
Elsewhere in her speech, Hayden expressed the importance of digitization and announced her plans to digitize the 162 million items in America’s national library. No small task, but one that she’s optimistic about. She concludes her speech with a call for support from her peers and beyond: “To have a truly national library, an institution of opportunity for all, is the responsibility of all.”
Watch the full ceremony below:
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.