Episode 38: The world’s top librarian at the greatest library
Carla Hayden, Ph.D, says the Library of Congress is the biggest – the greatest – library in the world.
Hayden should know, she’s the Librarian of Congress.
And that would make her the world’s top librarian.
Hayden visited the Marysville Library on Aug. 1, 2019, along with Congressman Rick Larsen, and then recently joined podcast co-hosts Ken Harvey and Jim Hills for a conversation by phone from her office in Washington, D.C.
“I really enjoyed my time at the Marysville Library with Congressman Larsen,” Hayden says.
While there, Hayden took a turn at reading a book to a group of nearly 100 children. Hayden began her career as a children’s librarian in Chicago. Larsen followed her, reading another book to the children and impressed Hayden with his skills. “He’s very good,” she says.
Hayden touched on the evolving roles of public libraries. Before being appointed to her role at the Library of Congress, Hayden spent 23 years at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, the nation’s first library system.
Hayden helped “The Pratt” explore new ways to serve the city’s residents, even bringing pop-up libraries to neighborhood laundromats.
“Convening is a good word to think about libraries and their meaning to the community,” she says.
In many ways, Hayden says her leadership at the Library of Congress mirrors the work she has done in Baltimore and Chicago.
“The vision was to let everyone know the Library of Congress is for them,” Hayden says. “That would include a student in a remote area, as well as teacher who needs a lesson plan on Thomas Jefferson, and people interested in things like baseball; we have the world’s largest collection of baseball cards as well as the world’s largest collection of bibles.”
Carla Hayden is the 14th Librarian of Congress and nominated to the position by President Barack Obama. Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library. She is also the first professional librarian appointed to the post in more than 60 years.
Prior to her appointment, she was CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Hayden was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993. She was an assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991. Hayden was library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982 to 1987. She began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the young adult services coordinator from 1979 to 1982 and as a library associate and children’s librarian from 1973 to 1979.
Hayden was president of the American Library Association from 2003-04. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services at the Pratt Library, which included an after-school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling.
Hayden received a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an master’s degree and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.
Episode length: 43:16
- Library of Congress
- Librarian of Congress
- Enoch Pratt Free library
- Carnegie libraries
- Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts
Ken Harvey is Communications Director for Sno-Isle Libraries. Ken brings broad professional experience from his service with Community Transit, Sound Transit, Reno, Nev., and several positions in radio and TV.
Jim Hills is the library district’s Assistant Communications Director, Communications & Marketing. Jim is a storyteller who claims to still have some ink in his veins from familial connections with, and previous-career infusions from, the newspaper biz.
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