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Baltimore’s Chief Librarian Could Head Library of Congress

Carla Hayden — President Barack Obama's pick to head the Library of Congress — could soon make history as the first woman and first African American to hold to the post if approved by the full Senate.

The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday endorsed Hayden, the longtime head of Baltimore's library system, to be the next Librarian of Congress.

Image:
Carla Hayden, CEO of the Pratt Library, gives a tour of the library's central branch in Baltimore on April 16, 2015. President Barack Obama nominated Hayden, on Feb. 24, 2016, the longtime head of Baltimore'??s library system, as the next Librarian of Congress. Barbara Haddock Taylor / AP

Earlier this year, President Obama nominated Hayden to be the 14th Librarian of Congress in the institution's 214-year existence, a historic move that Obama called "long overdue."

Obama signed a law last year establishing a 10-year term for the Librarian of Congress with an option for reappointment. The position was previously considered a lifetime appointment.

The previous Librarian of Congress, James Billington, was criticized for not keeping up with advances in technology. Billington was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served for 28 years before stepping down last year.

If confirmed, Hayden would inherit an institution which came under fire after a congressional report found that copyright services and services for the disabled were hampered by the library's technological woes.

When Hayden served as president of the American Library Association from 2003-2004, she spoke out against the Patriot Act and provisions aimed at giving federal authorities access to the records of library users. She and then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft went back and forth in their disagreement over the law's thrust.

Hayden, who also once held the second highest position with the Chicago Public Library, was lauded by Obama for keeping the Baltimore library open during the tumult in the wake of Freddie Gray's death.

As head of the Baltimore library system, Hayden helped create an outreach program for the city's teens which included homework help and college and career advice. She also worked to improve Internet access of the Baltimore library's holdings — efforts she said she's like to continue at the Library of Congress were she to be confirmed.