Former Chicagoan oversees the Library of Congress, the 'final treasure chest' – Chicago Tribune

Bursting at the seams with greater than 164 million gadgets, the Library of Congress is the world’s largest, dwelling to treasures together with a Gutenberg Bible, the archives of 23 presidents and the papers of Sigmund Freud.

In cost of all of it is former Chicagoan Carla Hayden, who started her profession in a storefront library on the South Aspect in the early 1970s after a pal advised her they had been hiring “anyone with a bachelor’s diploma.” Later, she was library companies coordinator at the Museum of Science and Trade and rose to carry the No. 2 job at the Chicago Public Library.

Hayden, 65, is the first girl and first African-American to supervise the assortment of greater than 24 million books, 14 million images, eight. million items of sheet music, 5.5 million maps and three.6 million recordings in what’s generally known as “America’s Library.” It dates to 1800, and its holdings embrace an unlimited trove of uncommon books and the world’s largest collections of authorized supplies, movies, sound recordings and comedian books. She is the 14th Librarian of Congress.

Hayden was nominated for the put up by then-President Barack Obama, whom she met in the early 1990s. In an interview, she in contrast her job to being the conductor of a symphony. She oversees the assortment, library operations and a workers of about three,100, passes the plate for personal donations and maintains ties to Congress, which funds the library.

This month, she learn vacation tales, together with “Santa’s Underwear,” to youngsters. In November, she gave Tony Bennett the library’s annual Gershwin Prize for In style Music; a 12 months earlier she handed it to Smokey Robinson. In Might, the library hosted a symposium and an after-hours dance occasion, drawing Gloria Gaynor, heralding the historical past of disco. Such occasions let individuals grew to become higher acquainted with the library assortment, Hayden mentioned.

“Opening up this treasure chest, all of the fantastic issues, to the public, is actually I feel one of the finest presents that we may give,” she mentioned.

Whereas she’s the first Librarian of Congress with a Twitter account, Hayden mentioned she isn’t seeking to make a lot of a private affect on the establishment.

“I don’t wish to do something in another way. I wish to proceed the nice legacy that this Library of Congress and different Librarians of Congress have left. So I see myself as choosing up the baton, identical to any race. It’s my flip,” she mentioned. “And I've a duty to verify it will get safely to the subsequent particular person, handy off.”

Hayden was born in Florida and mentioned she was 10 years previous when she moved along with her mom from New York to Chicago following her dad and mom’ divorce. Family on each side of her household had deep roots in Illinois. Her late father, Bruce Okay. Hayden Jr., was a jazz musician and educator who taught at colleges together with Chicago’s Malcolm X Faculty, the place a performing arts middle is called for him.

She graduated from South Shore Excessive Faculty and Roosevelt College, the place subsequent 12 months she is scheduled to ship the graduation deal with.

Her library profession began quickly after her commencement, when she stopped off whereas job searching at the previous fundamental Chicago Public Library and bumped into one other Roosevelt grad.

“Carla, are you right here for the library jobs?” she remembers her pal asking. “They’re hiring anyone with a bachelor’s diploma.”

The tip led to her being employed as a library affiliate in a storefront department on West 79th Road in the Auburn neighborhood. She mentioned she grew to become hooked on the career, loving to learn, discover and share info and to construct up libraries and their choices. She went on to earn a grasp’s diploma and doctorate in library science from the College of Chicago.

After receiving her doctorate in 1987 and educating at the College of Pittsburgh, Hayden returned to Chicago in 1991 as the metropolis library system’s deputy commissioner and chief librarian.

A protege, retired Chicago librarian Emily Guss, mentioned some librarians keep in a silo, spending their profession in a public library, a college library or legislation library. Guss referred to as Hayden a “threat taker” whose credentials and work ethic noticed her achieve a spread of realms.

In 1993, Hayden was up for the Chicago library’s prime job, after which-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s workplace even publicly introduced she’d been picked. As a substitute, she left to change into CEO of the library system in Baltimore, the place she nonetheless lives. Information accounts mentioned the Chicago library board’s foot-dragging on selling her prompted Hayden to decamp. She disputed that this month, saying she left for the uncommon alternative of revitalizing Baltimore’s legendary library system. She was there for 23 years earlier than taking her present, 10-year appointment final 12 months.

The crown jewel of the library’s three-constructing campus on Capitol Hill is the Thomas Jefferson Constructing, a Beaux Arts-type edifice neighboring the Supreme Court docket and Capitol. Hayden works in a close-by, fashionable constructing with sweeping views of the 1897 landmark, which is legendary for its grand, domed studying room and wealthy assortment of work and sculpture. The library additionally homes the analysis arm of the Congress and the U.S. Copyright Workplace.

Speaking about her Illinois ties, she recalled childhood summers spent in Springfield along with her paternal grandparents and mentioned the expertise led her to admire Abraham Lincoln. She was sworn in with the bible Lincoln used at his 1861 inauguration — it’s in the library assortment — and in her speech afterward reminded that below prevailing legal guidelines of the time, slaves caught studying could possibly be lashed or punished much more harshly. A descendant of slaves, she is fond of quoting ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who exhorted: “When you study to learn, you'll be free ceaselessly.”

She returned to the Illinois capital in September with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of close by Taylorville, who sits on the Home committee that oversees the library. He mentioned she is “doing nice work at the Library of Congress to focus on our nation’s historical past.”

Throughout the Springfield go to, she learn to youngsters, met with librarians and examined artifacts from a lethal race riot in Springfield in 1908 which might be being thought-about for nationwide preservation, Davis mentioned.

Hayden considers Illinois “dwelling” and retains an previous set of Land of Lincoln license plates and sweet tins from Marshall Subject’s as mementos. She tries to get again at the very least annually.

She mentioned she’s proud of her Chicago years, noting that her time at the Museum of Science and Trade working with curators, educators and exhibit designers has been useful to her present work since the Library of Congress “has a museum facet.”

What does one of the nation’s main librarians learn? Hayden mentioned she’s an “eclectic reader” who even peruses cereal bins. She singled out thriller writers Laura Lippman and M.C. Beaton as favorites, however mentioned her tastes additionally run to newspapers, magazines, nonfiction and historical past.

Dan Cohen, dean of the libraries at Northeastern College in Boston, referred to as Hayden a “famous person librarian.”

“She has an infectious enthusiasm for libraries and librarians,” he mentioned, “that's useful to the career and to the establishments themselves.”

kskiba@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @KatherineSkiba

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Former Chicagoan oversees the Library of Congress, the 'final treasure chest' - Chicago Tribune