Musings on Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

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    At our library’s African-American Read-In a few weeks ago, on February 11, I took a turn at the podium to talk about Carla Hayden and read some quotes from interviews with her.

    I was thrilled when President Obama nominated Carla Hayden to be the 14th Librarian of Congress, and I celebrated her swearing-in on September 14, 2016. I was already an admirer, and it was wonderful to see the first woman and African-American as the Librarian of Congress.

    I wanted to emphasize at the Read-In that libraries are for everyone, and to highlight that Carla Hayden says that books open us up to the world. She says, “The main theme [of the Librarian of Congress] has been an interest in ideas and knowledge and a belief in that. That’s what prepares you—to have an open mind, to want to expand other people’s interest in history and knowledge.”

    In an interview with the New York Times, she quoted Frederick Douglass, saying, “Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ If you can absorb information yourself and make your own decisions, that’s a freedom. And for so many times in history, being able to read and access information has been part of it, especially in my case, with African-Americans.”

    Ms. Hayden has upheld this spirit throughout her career. She was the director of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library at the time of the 2015 protests over the death of Freddie Gray. She kept Baltimore’s libraries open while stores were closing, creating a “haven” for people. I Check the Library of Congress website for information and read some of her statements and speeches for inspiration.

    New York Times interviews, Jan. 19, 2017 and Aug. 3, 2017; and Library of Congress website: loc.gov.

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