History has just been made: the new librarian of Congress is a woman of color for the first time ever. Since its inception in 1800, the role has been exclusively filled by white men — so Carla Hayden's appointment back in July was breaking several barriers all at once. On Wednesday, she was officially sworn in.
The 216-year-old Library of Congress is one of the world's largest libraries, and Hayden will be in charge of it for the next 10 years. Her main duties will involve assisting Congress with the research required to pass new bills (so basically, reading a ton), as well as overseeing the US copyright system, and naming the poet laureate. Despite the name, the librarian of Congress isn't always a librarian. Surprisingly, the role doesn't require official training as a librarian — but Hayden, who has over two decades' experience as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, is more than qualified for the job.
Hayden herself has spoken up about the significance of her appointment, both as a woman and as a person of color. She pointed out in an interview that even though librarianship is a "feminized" profession (meaning that 85% of the workforce is female), "there haven’t been an equal amount of women in the leadership positions.” Appointing Carla Hayden as librarian of Congress is therefore a much-deserved step — and it becomes even more of a historic moment when you consider the context of having a woman of color in the role. Hayden explained it best: “To be the head of an institution that’s associated with knowledge and reading and scholarship when slaves were forbidden to learn how to read on punishment of losing limbs, that’s kind of something."