The Slatest

Senate Confirms First Female, First African-American Librarian of Congress

The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building October 8, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here’s a bit of nice news: the Senate confirmed Carla Hayden as the head of the Library of Congress Wednesday, making her the first woman and the first African-American to oversee the library. Hayden, 63, will be only the country’s 14th Librarian of Congress and fills the vacancy left by a Reagan-appointee.

Here’s more on the woman who will oversee the institution that has a $620 million budget and 3,200 employees (via the Atlantic):

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Hayden is credited with modernizing the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore’s 22-branch city library system. (She also successfully kept the library open throughout the Freddie Gray protests last year.) As president of the American Library Association in 2003 and 2004, she frequently and publicly criticized Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which allowed federal law enforcement to access public-library borrowing records. Hayden has sat on the National Museum and Library Services Board since 2010. She holds a doctorate degree in library sciences from the University of Chicago. Though these may sound like job requirements, Hayden is the first professional librarian to run the Library in more than 60 years.

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Hayden was confirmed by the Senate 74-18. All 18 “no” votes were cast by Republicans who, if you can believe it, were suspicious of her tenure as president of the American Library Association. From the Washington Post:

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As president of the ALA, Hayden opposed parts of the Patriot Act, which librarians believed invaded the privacy of library uses. During her April confirmation hearing, she was challenged on this, as well as the ALA’s opposition to a law requiring libraries to install Internet filters to block pornography. At her confirmation hearing in April, Hayden explained her position on the filters, saying that the technology at the time was inadequate and hampered access to important health information. A search for “breast cancer” would be blocked, she said. “Since that time, technology has improved,” she told the committee. “My library, the Pratt Library, in its state role, has installed filters.”

That didn’t stop a Republican senator from putting an anonymous five-week hold on her confirmation.

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