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Carla Hayden is one Senate vote away from becoming a groundbreaking librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, chief executive of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, has been nominated to be librarian of Congress. (Baltimore Examiner and Washington Examiner)
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Carla D. Hayden — President Obama’s nominee to become the 14th librarian of Congress — is one vote away from making history.

The Senate Rules Committee recommended that the full Senate approve the nomination of Hayden, 63, to become the new head of the Library of Congress.  If approved, the head of Baltimore’s public library system would be the first woman and the first African American to lead the federal agency.

A past president of the American Library Association, Hayden has served on the National Museum and Library Services Board since 2010. She earned a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago.  She is credited with improving the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she has been chief executive for 23 years, by upgrading its technology and establishing it as a vital community resource.

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American Library Association President Sari Feldman praised the committee’s action.

“Once confirmed, [Hayden] will be the perfect Librarian to pilot the Library of Congress fully into the 21st century, transforming it again into the social and cultural engine of progress and democracy for all Americans that it was meant to be,” Feldman said in a statement.

If confirmed, Hayden would succeed James H. Billington, a Reagan nominee who served 28 years before retiring last year. After his departure, the Senate made the librarian job a 10-year appointment that could be renewed.

Appearing before the Senate committee in April, Hayden acknowledged the challenges facing the sprawling library. Last year, a congressional report criticized the agency for widespread technological failures that wasted tax dollars and caused problems for the Copyright Office and for services for the disabled. Hayden told lawmakers she believed the library could become a model for all libraries, which must adapt to a changing world.

“I see it growing its stature as a leader, not only in librarianship but in how people view libraries in general,” she said.

[America’s library is lacking in leadership, yet another report finds]

The oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress has 3,200 employees and an annual budget of $630 million. It serves as the research arm of Congress, provides Congress with legal advice and runs the Copyright Office, a major player in the world’s digital economy.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced Hayden to the committee in April. She repeated her support Friday, saying that Hayden will be a loss for Baltimore but “America’s gain.”

“I was proud to recommend Dr. Carla Hayden to President Obama and am so pleased that she has been nominated as the next librarian of Congress,” Mikulski said. “When I consider nominees for the executive branch, I have three criteria: competence, commitment to the mission of the agency, and integrity. Dr. Hayden not only meets these standards, she exceeds them.”

There is no announcement about the Senate vote. The American Library Association is asking its members to contact their congressional representatives to urge them to confirm her immediately.