It’s history in the making: On Thursday the Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full Senate approve the nomination of Carla D. Hayden to serve as the nation’s 14th Librarian of Congress. If confirmed, Hayden would become the first female, first African American, and only second librarian to take on the role.
Hayden has been a prominent figure in many critical library issues through her career. She was elected president of the American Library Association (ALA) in 2002, shortly after the passage of the USA Patriot Act. During her year as president-elect and her 2003–2004 presidency, Hayden was a vocal opponent of the Patriot Act, and one of ALA’s most prominent spokespeople against the Section 215 provisions allowing the Justice Department and the FBI to access library user records.
More recently, Hayden attracted significant attention for her leadership during the unrest in Baltimore in 2015 after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died while in police custody. Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Pennsylvania Avenue branch was located at the epicenter of the protests, and several businesses across the street were burned. Hayden kept all of the library’s branches open as a haven, resource, and anchor for the community.
As the Rules Committee’s vote was announced, ALA launched a large-scale grassroots and social media campaign (#Hayden4LOC) to encourage senators to support her confirmation, and to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to schedule a Senate vote on her nomination immediately.
Given the Rules Committee’s strong endorsement and the absence of public opposition to Hayden’s nomination, that vote may come before the Senate takes its summer recess in mid-July, and possibly before the Independence Day recess, which begins July 1.
By accessing ALA’s Legislative Action Center, members can choose their preferred method of communicating and follow the prompts to contact their senators. More background on Hayden and the history of the Librarian of Congress position is available through ALA’s Washington Office.
Update: ALA President Sari Feldman issued the following statement on the Rules Committee’s vote:
“Today’s unanimous vote by the Senate Rules Committee to recommend Senate confirmation of past ALA-president Carla Hayden to serve as the nation’s next Librarian of Congress is historic, much appreciated, and great news not just for libraries and library supporters everywhere, but for the nation.
“Dr. Hayden is one vote away from confirmation as Librarian of Congress, and she is poised to become the first professional librarian to be named Librarian of Congress in over 60 years. Once confirmed, she will be the perfect Librarian to pilot the Library of Congress fully into the 21st century, transforming it again into the social and cultural engine of progress and democracy for all Americans that it was meant to be.
“With pleasure and pride, ALA calls on its supporters in every corner of the nation to join us in urging the Senate to approve her nomination without delay by using ALA’s Legislative Action Center to contact every Senator—whether by email, tweet, or phone —with this simple message: ‘Please confirm Carla Hayden now!’”