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Carla Hayden Makes History as First Black, Female Librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden (Enoch Pratt Free Library)

Carla Hayden (Enoch Pratt Free Library)

In a historical feat, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the 14th librarian of Congress on Wednesday. The CEO of Maryland’s Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore has made two firsts in her new role. She is the first African-American and the first woman to lead the 216-year-old library.

“I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the Library of Congress,” Hayden – who will hold a 10-year term – said in a statement. “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 anyone.”

The Hill reports the 63-year-old was approved by a 74-18 vote. All 18 dissents came from Republicans. Heritage Action, a conservative group, urged senators to vote against the former American Library Association president deeming her “unqualified” because of her liberal activism.

Concerns stemmed from Hayden’s stance against the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which requires internet filters to be used on computers in publicly funded libraries to prevent access to content deemed harmful. The law was challenged by the ALA before Hayden lead it in 2003 out of consideration for legitimate searches like breast cancer.

However, the Tennessee native made it clear in her April confirmation hearing the precision of filters has improved. She also stressed pornography on public computers was not supported “in any shape or form.”

Hayden is taking over for Acting Librarian David Mao who assumed the position when James Billington retired after a 28-year term. Billington was criticized in his last years in the role because of the Library of Congress’ lacking IT infrastructure.

When Hayden was nominated, she called technology modernization one of the library’s “biggest challenges.” As director of Pratt Library, USA Today reports Hayden was praised for her ability to get the 130-year-old building up to date on technology and connecting with the community. During the Baltimore protests last year, Hayden notably kept the Pratt Library open so the community would have computer and internet access.

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