Carla Hayden, Ph.D., is the 14th Librarian of Congress and the first woman and first African American to hold the post. She is also the first professional librarian appointed to the post in more than 60 years. From 1993 to 2016, she was the CEO and executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. In 2003-04, she also served as the president of the American Library Association.
Hayden earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in library science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School. Her passion for reading was inspired by Marguerite de Angel’s “Bright April,” a 1946 book about an African American girl in the Brownies.
Her career began in 1973 at the Chicago Public Library, where she served as an associate/children’s librarian and a young adult services coordinator. From 1982 to 1987, she worked as a library services coordinator at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Hayden was an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences from 1987 to 1991, before moving back to the Chicago Public Library to become the deputy commission and chief librarian. She held those posts until moving to the Enoch Pratt Library in 1993.
Hayden received the Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in 1995 for developing an after-school center for teens, which offered homework assistance and college and career counseling at the Enoch Pratt Library.
As president of the American Library Association, she was adamantly opposed to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gave the Justice Department and FBI the power to access library user records, and she publicly sparred with then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over the language in the law. As a result of her concern for a “balance between security and personal freedoms,” Hayden was named “Ms.” magazine’s 2003 Woman of the Year.
“Librarians are activists, engaged in the social work aspect of librarianship. Now we are fighters for freedom,” she said at the time.
On Feb. 24, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as the next Librarian of Congress. After her nomination, more than 140 library, publishing, educational and academic organizations signed a letter of support. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July 2016, and sworn in on Sept. 14, 2016.