President Obama Nominates Dr. Carla D. Hayden to be Librarian of Congress

Posted on February 25, 2016

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has set off a firestorm of controversy over who will be the next Supreme Court Justice. But before a potential new judge runs the gauntlet of endless Senate hearings, there will be another nomination which must be approved by the Senate: the appointment of the next Librarian of Congress.

President Obama has nominated Dr. Carla D. Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, to become the 14th Librarian of Congress. The previous librarian, James Billington, retired in January after a somewhat controversial term. Under his leadership the library basically ignored all technological advances and the sorry state of the computer system at the nation's library became national scandal.

Dr. Hayden was president of the American Library Association from 203 - 2004 and is famous for going to war with then Attorney General John Ashcroft over the Patriot Act. Dr. Hayden vociferously defended library patrons' rights to privacy in the face of the government's demands to see what library books people were reading. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Hayden will be the first African American and the first female Librarian of Congress. She has a distinguished career and holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.

The ALA is pretty happy about the nomination. ALA president Sari Feldman said, "The President could not have made a better choice. Hats off to President Obama for nominating Dr. Hayden, a professional librarian uniquely positioned with the leadership and management skills and understanding of digital technology to make the Library of Congress the preeminent national library in the world, highly-valued by and serving all Americans as a treasured resource. We look forward to working closely with her to further librarians' bedrock principle that all Americans everywhere deserve and must have equitable access to the information that they need to succeed and lead productive lives in the digital age."

Normally a Librarian of Congress serves for life. But President Obama signed the bipartisan Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015 which states that the position is only for ten years, although the current president can reappoint the serving librarian if he or she so chooses. Reports say that President Obama first offered the post to Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, but he turned it down.

So the next question is: will the Republican controlled Senate agree to meet with Dr. Hayden? Or will they refuse to do so, as they have done with any Supreme Court nominee? And if they agree to take up the nomination of Dr. Hayden, can she expect a bruising confirmation hearing full of long hours of hard questioning and assaults on her fitness to be the national librarian? We can't imagine such a thing, but given the current political climate it's certainly possible.

Here is a video the White House released so people can get to know Dr. Hayden:

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