Carla Hayden isn’t talking much these days, just patiently waiting. However, those who work with the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and library patrons can’t contain their excitement as Hayden prepares to become the next librarian to lead the Library of Congress, the first African-American to hold that post.
“We’re very excited for Dr. Hayden,” said Roswell Encina, director of communications at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where Hayden has been the CEO since 1993.
“If she’s confirmed by the Senate, she’ll be the first woman and the first African American to serve as the Librarian of Congress,” Roswell said. “It’s an honor to have her work recognized by President Obama.”
Lucinda Sherman, who lives about one mile from the library and regularly visits with her grandchildren, said Hayden’s selection is undoubtedly the right choice.
“She’s a tremendously caring, engaging and thoughtful leader. This library has come a long way under her guidance and, if you remember, during the riots she made sure to keep it open because she understood that the children and everyone else needed positive messages and a positive place to go,” Sherman said.
On February 24, 2016, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Hayden as Librarian of Congress. Her appointment is now awaiting Senate approval.
In nominating Hayden, the president cited her long history at Enoch Pratt as well as her previous experience in his hometown.
“Michelle and I have known Dr. Carla Hayden for a long time since her working days at the Chicago Public Library and I am proud to nominate her to lead our nation’s oldest federal institution as our 14th Librarian of Congress,” President Obama said in a statement. “Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture. 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.”
Born in Chicago in 1952, Hayden received her B.A. degree from Roosevelt University and began work as a library assistant at the Chicago Public Library in 1973. She later received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School.
Hayden worked as library service coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Library and Information Science.
In 1991, she returned to Chicago where she worked as the Chicago Public Library System’s deputy commissioner and chief librarian.
According to a biography from the HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African-American Video Oral History Collection, Hayden is the second African-American to become the executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, one of the oldest free libraries in the United States.
“Being the first female and the first African-American really brings together two aspects of my life that make this even more significant in terms of how people view the future of libraries, and what a national library can be,” Hayden said in a video released by the White House. “It’s inclusive. It can be part of everyone’s story.”
Hayden has continually championed the cause of civil liberties and freedom of information, spearheading efforts to overturn legislation that forced all libraries receiving federal funding to install Internet content filters on their computers.
Eventually the Supreme Court upheld the right of adult library users to request the filter’s deactivation, though they did not overturn the requirement that the filters be installed.
Hayden has been honored with the Andrew White Medal by Loyola College; the President’s Medal by Johns Hopkins University; and the Legacy of Literacy Award by the DuBois Circle of Baltimore. She was named one of Ms. Magazine’s 2003 Women of the Year and one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women of Maryland. She is also the first African-American to receive the Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal Magazine.
“If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position— both of which are long overdue,” Obama said.