Library of Congress

Candidate to head Library of Congress pledges modernization

Carla Hayden. Photo credit: Enoch Pratt Free Library

Dr. Carla Hayden, President Obama's choice to head the Library of Congress, says she is prepared to lead the institution into the digital future.

By all accounts, the world's largest library needs leadership prepared for the digital age. President Barack Obama's Librarian of Congress nominee, Dr. Carla Hayden, told the Senate Rules Committee on April 20 that she was up to the challenge.

In a statement accompanying Hayden's nomination, Obama said that she "has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture."

The Library of Congress boasts more than 162 million items in its 10 terabyte catalogue of data, but Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the library is "struggling to adapt to a new century" and risks degradation to some of the massive collection without IT upgrades.

Hayden, whose resume includes a term as president of the American Library Association and the 1995 National Librarian of the Year Award, is currently the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore, where she oversaw and helped raise money for a $114 million upgrade that digitized the collection and increased access to computers and e-readers. 

Her nomination means a return to having a librarian in the post. The job's two previous occupants -- James H. Billington, whose tenure spanned 1987-2015, and Daniel Boorstein, librarian from 1975-1987, were renowned scholars but not professional information specialists.

Hayden, 63, said that modernizing access to the Library of Congress and putting its collections online "will help libraries across the country" by reinforcing the necessity of their collections and making it so anyone with Internet access has equal access to the information the Library of Congress has to offer.

Hayden also stressed the necessity of improving the copyright system, a suboptimal, decade-old system that has been taken offline by equipment failures. Artists "must be able to promptly register," she said, "and the copyright office must be innovative and efficient."

Hayden also mentioned looking forward to working with the Library's CIO, Bernard Barton, saying he had assured her "technology will not be a problem."

After Billington's retirement, Congress instituted a 10-year term limit -- with the possibility for reappointment -- on future Librarians of Congress. If confirmed, Hayden would be the 14th Librarian of Congress since 1800, but the first under the new term limit, as well as the first woman and first African-American Librarian of Congress.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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