With the overwhelming support of the Senate, Dr. Carla Hayden has been approved as the next librarian of Congress.
Hayden, the head of Baltimore’s public library system and the former president of the American Library Association, is the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post.
Hayden was nominated by President Obama in February, but a vote on her nomination wasn’t held until Wednesday.
John Billington, the previous librarian of Congress, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served for 28 years before retiring in a cloud of criticism in 2015.
The position used to be a lifetime appointment, but after Billington retired, Obama signed a law establishing a 10-year term for librarians of Congress, The Associated Press reports.
The Library of Congress, under Billington’s leadership, was criticized for failing to keep up with changes in technology. The Government Accountability Office highlighted problems with the library’s information technology systems, in particular.
In a White House statement from February, when Hayden was nominated, President Obama highlighted her long experience in the world of public libraries.
“Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture,” Obama wrote. “She has the proven experience, dedication, and deep knowledge of our nation’s libraries to serve our country well and that’s why I look forward to working with her in the months ahead.”
It’s actually rather newsworthy that the next librarian of Congress is, well, a librarian.
Many previous librarians of Congress have been scholars or writers. Both Billington and his predecessor, Daniel J. Boorstin, were historians. Before Hayden’s nomination, the American Library Association (which Hayden used to lead) had called for Obama to nominate a professional librarian for the post.
And, as many have noted, all the previous librarians of Congress were white men. In nominating Hayden, Obama said it was “long overdue” for that to change.
“The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with 162 million items in its collections,” NPR’s Elizabeth Blair notes. “It also oversees the U.S. Copyright Office.”