Carla Hayden Confirmed As First Black, First Woman Librarian of Congress

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The Senate confirmed Dr. Carla D. Hayden, 63, to be the 14th Librarian of Congress Wednesday.

Hayden is the first woman and first Black person to hold the post.

She was the chief executive of the Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, and succeeds James H. Billington, a Russia scholar and author who retired last September after 28 years.

Hayden earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Before she worked in Baltimore, she was chief librarian in the Chicago Public Library. She has served on the National Museum and Library Sciences Board since 2010.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) described Hayden, 63, as a transformational leader who is the perfect candidate for the job of modernizing the library, an agency with a $620 million budget, 3,200 employees.

“She’s proven herself to be a skilled manager of large complex projects. She moved the Enoch Pratt into the digital age,” Mikulski said. “Our nation will be well served by her confirmation.”

Hayden was widely praised for keeping Baltimore’s libraries open during last year’s protests over the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. As head of Enoch Pratt – which has 22 locations, 500 employees and a $40 million annual budget – Hayden oversaw the opening of the first new branch in 35 years and the ongoing $112 million renovation of the central branch. She has upgraded its technology and added programs such as college and career counseling.

Hayden, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in February, thanked the staff and board of the Enoch Pratt for their support and said she looks forward to working with her new staff. “I will be honored to build on the legacy and accomplishments of my predecessors in this position, to be part of a continuing movement to open the treasure chest that is the Library of Congress even further, and to make it a place that can be found and used by everyone,” she said in a statement.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress serves many functions. It is the research arm of Congress, provides legal advice to its members, public programs and assistance to scholars, and operates the Copyright Office.

Photo: Dave Munch, Baltimore Sun Media Group