It seems like every year libraries across the country are faced with the daunting task of justifying their need for existence. There’s a misconception by some that because of Google, libraries are no longer relevant.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, when we hear that position we simply remind people that libraries have one thing that Google doesn’t have –librarians.
Librarians are the most valuable commodity to the library. With their intelligence, extensive knowledge of the collections, and most of all their humanity – they will never be extinct. And the fact that a librarian was recently appointed to lead the oldest cultural institution in America is further proof of that.
President Obama recently appointed Dr. Carla Hayden to serve as the Librarian of Congress. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with 162 million items in its collections.
This was a historical appointment for several reasons.
Hayden is the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post since the position was created in 1802. But the most surprising thing about her appointment is that she is an actual librarian. Believe it or not, many previous librarians of Congress have been writers or scholars.
The last time an actual librarian was running the Library of Congress was 1974, when Lawrence Quincy Mumford, who previously worked at the New York Public Library, retired as Librarian of Congress after a 20 year tenure.
Until President Obama changed the law last year, the position had always been a lifetime appointment. It will now be a 10 year appointment.
Dr. Hayden brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position. In her most recent position she was the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore. In a video on the White House website, Hayden talks about keeping the Enoch Pratt Library open during the recent unrest in Baltimore.
She was the deputy commissioner and chief librarian at the Chicago Public Library from 1991-1993. She is also a former president of the American Library Association.
In January, 2010, President Obama nominated her to the National Museum and Library Services Board.
With Dr. Hayden’s appointment, librarians everywhere can stand a little taller while basking in the shine of this historical appointment. While you relish in this moment, know that you matter and you are valued. And most of all, you can NEVER be replaced.