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ALA Past President Carla Hayden receives warm Senate welcome

It was a standing room only crowd at today’s confirmation hearing of Dr. Carla Hayden, President Obama’s nominee to serve as Librarian of Congress, with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. The hearing marks the first step in the Senate review process.

Three Maryland senators (one former) presented Dr. Carla Hayden to the committee. Former Senator Paul Sarbanes (and current Enoch Pratt Free Library board member) joined Dr. Hayden and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin at the microphone to open the hearing.

Dr. Carla Hayden, her mother and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Dr. Carla Hayden (center) with her mom Colleen and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“It would be a great, great day for the nation, but a loss for Baltimore,” if Dr. Hayden were confirmed, said Senator Mikulski in her introduction to Senate colleagues. She highlighted Dr. Hayden’s ability to work with everyone from “electeds” to people in both wealthy and “hard scrabble” neighborhoods, and referenced the fact that the library stayed open in the wake of massive protests that followed Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. Senator Cardin recognized her leadership not only of the Enoch Pratt Free Library but also the Maryland State Library Resource Center, including managing technology transitions and capital improvements. “Dr. Hayden is the best qualified and will bring the respect that is needed,” Senator Cardin said.

“(Dr. Hayden) is an extraordinarily able, committed person,” said Senator Sarbanes. “The nation will be extremely well-served (by her) and I strongly urge her confirmation.”

Dr. Hayden’s testimony shared the evolution of her career, as well as changes across the profession and the Library of Congress. “As I envision the future of this venerable institution, I see it growing its stature as a leader not only in librarianship but in how people view libraries in general,” she said. “As more of its resources are readily available for everyone to view online, users will not need to be in Washington, D.C.; everyone can have a sense of ownership and pride in this national treasure.”

Committee Chair Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) followed the Maryland senators with a recollection of his own visit to the Ferguson (MO) Public Library and an acknowledgement of the “big job” ahead for the future Librarian of Congress. The big job was made plain in questions from committee members that largely focused on the modernization of the Library’s technology infrastructure, the future of the Copyright Office, and public access to reports from the Congressional Research Service.

Throughout, though, the questions were open and respectful—even warm and encouraging—on both sides of the political aisle. During a hotly contested presidential election year, it was a welcome respite and encouraging sign for Dr. Hayden’s ultimate confirmation. You can watch a webcast of the hearing here.

The ALA also submitted to committee members yesterday a letter of support for Dr. Hayden’s nomination signed by more than 20 leading national nonprofit organizations, two dozen educational institutions (ranging from community colleges to the Big Ten and Ivy League); two dozen academic libraries from every corner of the country; more than a score of national library groups; and virtually all of the nation’s state library associations.

Stay tuned to the District Dispatch for the most current news related to the confirmation process.

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Larra Clark

Larra Clark is the deputy director of both the Public Library Association and Washington Office’s public policy team. Larra received her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Arizona and has a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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