The sound of history

Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden waves at attendees, while Chief Justice John Roberts, Speaker Paul Ryan and Hayden's mother look on

Photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

History is rarely made silently, and yesterday’s investiture of Dr. Carla Hayden as the nation’s 14th Librarian of Congress was anything but an exception.Seated among notables from every branch of government, the media and – of course – ALA and the library profession, the most memorable part of the often solemn forty-five minute ceremony may well prove to be its soundtrack:

. . . The palpable hush that overtook the packed room as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Chief Justice John Roberts and Dr. Hayden herself strode purposefully to the low dais.
. . . The precision click of military heels on the venerated marble floors of the Jefferson Building’s resplendent Grand Hall as an honor guard presented the colors.
. . . The last soaring strains of the national anthem rendered in a fine Irish tenor echoing from the frescoed ceiling’s perfect vaults.
. . . Glowing adjectives, too many to count, offered by one Congressional luminary after another in praise of the Library of Congress, its past and potential, and Dr. Hayden’s unique qualifications.
. . . And, finally, the quiet dignity of Dr. Hayden’s own strong sure voice unveiling her vision of a Library of Congress for the new century whose treasures will – more than ever before – be accessible to all Americans and the world.

But — for all of their solemnity, power and beauty — these sounds surely will fade from the memories of those privileged to attend Dr. Hayden’s swearing in yesterday.  The one sound, however, that won’t easily be forgotten is the thunder. Yes, thunder.

Two stories above the comfortably seated dignitaries, the balustrades of the Great Hall’s massive staircase were crowded four deep and standing-room-only by the staff of the Library of Congress. To the initial astonishment and dawning delight of those below, four times over the course of yesterday’s finely tuned and meticulously executed program this gallery of passionate professionals erupted into exultant, sustained cheers – thunderous, joyful, hopeful huzzahs – for the new Librarian and her vision of the institution that they clearly so deeply love.

Lasting minutes on end, ebbing only to irrepressibly swell again with optimism and pride, the spontaneous unbridled cheers of her new staff were incredibly and indelibly moving. They will forever be part of the Great Hall of the Library of Congress and now, with Dr. Hayden herself, of history.

About Adam Eisgrau

Adam Eisgrau is a former managing director of the Office of Government Relations.

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