Carla Hayden will become not only the first woman to lead the Library of Congress when she is sworn in on Wednesday, but also the first African American.

Carla Hayden First Black Female Librarian Of Congress

Hayden is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday as the 14th Librarian of Congress at the library’s Great Hall by Chief Justice John Roberts, who will administer the oath of office. The moment is historic as no woman nor African-American has led the Library of Congress since President John Adams created it in 1800.

“The fact that I’m the first African American, that’s somewhat more personal in many ways [than being the first woman], because I have for years researched and looked into the relationship of African Americans and literacy, and the fact that for many years in slavery, slaves were forbidden to learn to read and they were punished by whipping and amputations and things like that,” Hayden told USA Today. “So for an African American to be leading the largest symbol of knowledge in the world is quite momentous and that really touches me.”

Hayden, the longtime CEO of the library system in Baltimore, is succeeding James Billington as the Librarian of Congress. Billington has led the national library for 28 years. Hayden, however, can only serve a maximum of 10 years in the role, as President Barack Obama signed a law in 2015 that established a 10-year term for the government position. The introduction of a term limit likely stemmed from criticism about the Library of Congress’s failure to keep up with technological advances. Hayden plans to bring the national library into the modern age.

“With the rapid influence of technology on libraries of all types, of all sizes, it’s critical that the Library of Congress regain its leadership in showing how a library can digitize collections, make things available on line, and also preserve the items as well,” Hayden said. “The Library of Congress is in negotiation to become a partner for the Digital Public Library of America. … Some of the items from the Library of Congress are already available, but to be a full partner would be a significant step and so I can’t wait to be the librarian that signs that paper.”

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