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First Woman And African-American Sworn In As Librarian Of Congress


Carla Hayden became the 14th Librarian of Congress today. She is the first person to hold the position who isn't a white man, and she faces a huge change in how we interact with information. NPR's Andrew Limbong reports.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: It's not an overstatement to say that a little bit of history was made this afternoon.


CARLA HAYDEN: People of my race were once punished with lashes and worse for learning to read.

LIMBONG: That's Carla Hayden at her swearing-in ceremony.


HAYDEN: And as a descendant of people who were denied the right to read to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is the national symbol of knowledge is a historic moment.


EUNICE ANDERSON: Public service - that was always at the heart of her instruction.

LIMBONG: Eunice Anderson worked under Carla Hayden while Hayden was head of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library. And it was in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray where Hayden made a national name for herself. There's a library branch right at the epicenter of the unrest. Hayden decided to keep it open. Eunice Anderson says it was for anyone who needed it.

ANDERSON: From the children to the adults, she was greeting everybody as they came in. And it was very positive.

LIMBONG: As Librarian of Congress, she'll have even more on her plate. The library manages collections of books, documents and music. It handles research for the legislative branch. It deals with copyright. And she's got this whole internet thing to think about. It's a tall order.

In 2015 the Government Accountability Office even released a report criticizing the library's slow response technology. It was called "Strong Leadership Needed To Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses." But Carla Hayden knew all this going in, and she seemed to smile when she repeated...



HAYDEN: So help me God.


LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

MCEVERS: And this weekend on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, listen for an interview with Carla Hayden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.