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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Dr. Carla Hayden - Librarian of Congress

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 24, 2016

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress.


She is the first librarian to occupy the position in the past 60 years, and the first African-American and the first woman to hold that post.


Speaking on behalf of the library profession, we are delighted at her appointment and excited to what she will bring to America’s largest library.


President Obama made the appointment last February following the retirement of James H. Billington, a scholar and author who had held the position for the past 28 years.


Most recently, Dr. Hayden had served as CEO and Chief Librarian for the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, one of America’s leading metropolitan library systems.


She is a graduate of Roosevelt University, and received her library training at the University Of Chicago Graduate Library School.


Dr. Hayden was an Assistant Professor of Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh before working at the Chicago Public Library.


Since 1993, she has led the Baltimore Library serving as President of the American Library Association in 2003-2004.


Her time with ALA became known for the opposition of librarians to the Patriot Act, when the federal government and the FBI began to perform surveillance of librarians, including your own library director who was, at the time, President of the Ohio Library Association.


The Library of Congress is a research library that serves the United States Congress, but has also become the “de facto” national library of the United States.


A congressional library was first proposed in 1783, but today’s Library of Congress was established April 24, 1800 by an Act of Congress.


Destroyed in the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold his personal collection of books to Congress in 1815 to replace the lost library.


Another fire in the Capitol Building in 1851 destroyed much of the collection again.


In 1898, the Library of Congress finally was moved to its own building across 1st Ave. from the Capitol and was led for 40 years by Librarian Herbert Putnam which saw the 1939 Annex building added to the library space.


Large collections of American history were assembled in the 20th Century as the Library of Congress became the repository for America’s history.


The third building for the Library of Congress opened in 1980, named for James Madison, completing the complex in D.C.  Today, additional buildings in Virginia house many of the non-book items of the collection.


The 838 miles of shelving at the Library of Congress houses 155.3 million items, making it now larger than the British Library in London.


Millions of items are now available in the American Memory Project, digitized items that can be accessed worldwide.


The collection, in addition to books, contains newspapers, microfilm, sound recordings, maps, sheet music, prints, also contains items such as Stradivarius violins.


In recent years, the Library of Congress has attracted more than a half billion dollars in private donations, the largest being from the Packard Humanities Institute which funded an audio-visual center for film preservation.


Dr. Hayden will have the responsibility of administering the $ 620 million annual budget of the Library of Congress and its 3,200 employees.


If you are ever in Washington, D.C., add the Library of Congress to your visit.  It is now connected to the U.S. Capitol Building via the new Visitor’s Center and the underground walkway.