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Obama Nominates Carla Hayden To Lead Library Of Congress

Then-American Library Association President Carla Hayden holds a pamphlet promoting early literacy as she talks to reporters in 2004.
Ted S. Warren
Then-American Library Association President Carla Hayden holds a pamphlet promoting early literacy as she talks to reporters in 2004.

President Obama has nominated Carla D. Hayden as the next librarian of Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African-American ever to lead the world's largest library.

Hayden is currently CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

In a White House statement, Obama says he and the first lady have known Hayden since she was at the Chicago Public Library, where she was deputy commissioner and chief librarian from 1991-1993.

"Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture," Obama says. "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. If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position — both of which are long overdue."

In a video on the White House website, Hayden talks about keeping the Enoch Pratt Library open during the recent unrest in Baltimore.

"It was very evident that people needed, not only information, but a safe place and a trusted place to go," Hayden says. "We became a site for people to actually get food, to get supplies. We opened up our meeting room. It became that community meeting place. People were so relieved to have a safe place to be."

Hayden would replace James H. Billington, who served as the nation's librarian for 28 years. During his tenure, the Government Accountability Office issued a report criticizing library leadership for numerous IT infrastructure problems.

Hayden is a former president of the American Library Association. In January, 2010, Obama nominated her to the National Museum and Library Services Board. She was confirmed by the Senate six months later.

If confirmed as the 14th librarian of Congress, Hayden says her position would affect "how people view the future of libraries and what a national library can be. It's inclusive. It can be part of everyone's story."

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Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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