Monday, April 16, 2018

Nation's librarian wants you to see our country's treasures

      The CVS drug store across the street had been looted. Buildings were burning. Rioters tossed rocks, injuring 15 police officers. The governor imposed a curfew and called out the National Guard. While the University of Maryland closed its downtown campus and the Orioles postponed their home game against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards, head librarian Carla Hayden decided to not to close the Pennsylvania Avenue branch of Baltimore's venerable Enoch Pratt Free Library, even though it was at the center of the turmoil surrounding the killing of Freddie Gray.
     Because it was at the center of the turmoil.
     "We had to be open and available for the community in need," said Hayden, now the Librarian of Congress—the 14th, and first African-American to hold the title. "We did it because, in that neighborhood, like in so many others, the library is the opportunity center and there were people who needed it, to have a safe place."
     In addition to its usual functions, the library distributed food and diapers, since stores were closed.
Hayden will visit Chicago next week to receive the 2018 Newberry Library Award, in recognition of her lifetime of service to libraries.
     Born in Florida, Hayden came to Chicago when she was 10 after her parents divorced, and graduated from South Shore High School and Roosevelt University.
     She got into library work, at the Auburn branch on 79th Street, after a friend told her the library was hiring "anybody with a bachelor's degree." She shifted over to working at the Museum of Science and Industry while earning her her masters and doctorate from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Library Science.
     Hayden, who spent 23 years in Baltimore, has seen how libraries have been transforming into community centers, even before the Internet.

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  1. Wasn't it Carla Hayden, at the time the head librarian in Chicago, who had a security guard override the automatic elevator controls & make sure she rode the elevator alone every day?
    Shades of Scott Pruitt!

    1. I can't find any evidence of that.

    2. That doesn't really sound consistent with the woman described in this column. If she was that standoffish, why would she have kept that library branch in Baltimore open during a riot?

    3. There was certainly a CPL head librarian that did that when the library was in the Mandel Building. I personally witnessed it! I was told to wait for the next elevator by a security guard. It also made it into the newspapers.

    4. It wasn’t her. She was head librarian of CPL in 1991-1993. The Mandel Building was demolished in 1989.

      Robert M.

  2. I've only been in DC twice, but I somehow managed to miss the Library of Congress both times. The most magnificent library I've been to is the Trinity College Library in Dublin. A one word description of The Long Room: Magestic. Honestly, your jaw will drop.

  3. Thanks. As a government information librarian this is of special interest to me. Here is an article about Hayden meeting with Davita Vance-Cooks who was the first woman and first African-American to be Public Printer (head of the Government Printing Office).


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