Carla Hayden, 64, the first African American to head the Library of Congress, was sworn in today, on Wed Sep 14, 2016. The longtime CEO of Baltimore's library system was nominated in 2015 by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the Senate to head the Library of Congress in March 2016. She will serve under the new law enacted by President Obama that limits the lifetime appointment to a 10-year term.
Surrounded by celebrities, including "Roots" actor and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, and American political leaders, including members of Congress, Carla Hayden was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, with her hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible.
"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," Carla Hayden said to loud applause.
During an interview with USA Today, Carla said: "And the fact that I’m the first African American, that’s somewhat more personal in many ways, because I have for years researched and looked into the relationship of African Americans and literacy, and the fact that for many years in slavery, slaves were forbidden to learn to read and they were punished by whipping and amputations and things like that. And people who were caught teaching slaves to read were also punished. So for an African American to be leading the largest symbol of knowledge in the world is quite momentous and that really touches me."
Carla Hayden is a career librarian who grew up in Queens, New York. She went to college at the University of Chicago. After receiving her masters and doctorate from the University of Chicago, Carla Hayden served as the deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library in 1991. In Chicago, she first met and built a relationship with President Obama. She is credited with keeping Baltimore's libraries open during 2015 year's civic unrests to protest the death of a black young man under police custody. In 1993, she became the director of the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore.
As the 14th Librarian of Congress, she will be the first woman and the first African-American to lead the national library.
The Library of Congress houses over 162 million items on about 838 miles of bookshelves. It also has disparate government functions, such as the US Government Copyright Office, that fall under its umbrella.
The Library of Congress has often been criticized for being slow to adopt advanced technology and for mismanagement. Carla Hayden, who is known for being a technological advances enthusiast, is expected to quickly address the gaps and propel the Library of Congress into a cutting edge research and reading center.