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Free Expression, Open Internet

Look It Up: Carla Hayden is Qualified

When I had questions growing up, my parents and teachers would tell me to “look it up.”  For a Gen-xer, that meant tracking down an encyclopedia and thumbing through the pages to find answers.  At school, it meant heading to the library’s thousands of tiny drawers holding the card catalog and searching for sources among the stacks.

When my kindergartener asks me a question I can’t answer, she finds my phone, brings it to me, and demands that I “look it up.” The internet has become the first stop for much of the research in our daily lives, and is not only a critical part of library infrastructure, but also a historical archivist recording our times.

It is imperative that the largest library in the United States be modernized and better positioned to keep pace with the world.

Our most recent Librarian of Congress was a renowned scholar, who held the post for the better part of three decades.  While he had many accomplishments in the role, he was widely criticized as being inattentive to IT issues and technological change.  It is imperative that the largest library in the United States be modernized and better positioned to keep pace with the world.

Dr. Carla Hayden understands technology and its interaction with libraries.  She is passionate about using technology to modernize the collection and digitize its assets to increase access to the Library, with an emphasis on bringing resources to rural areas. She wants to make sure digitized materials are accessible in formats that will allow people with visual disabilities to access them.  She believes in the value of free access to information, and protecting the privacy of library users.

Her background suggests that she will be able to drive these goals and values forward at the Library. She is widely credited with modernizing and improving the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she oversaw a $112 million renovation of its central branch and the opening of the first new branch in 35 years. She earned a PhD in in library sciences from the University of Chicago and has served on the National Museum and Library Services Board since 2010. Her confirmation is strongly backed by every state and major national library association in America.

Dr. Hayden was approved by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee — without dissent and by voice vote – but her confirmation process has mysteriously stalled in the Senate.  Despite her outstanding credentials and overwhelming support, Dr. Hayden’s nomination has been pending since February.

Our country deserves a Librarian of Congress who will ensure that the Library keeps up with the times.  If our Senators want to be able to send their staffers to the library to “look it up,” they should confirm Dr. Hayden without further delay.