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Transcript: Carla Hayden: Palace to Knowledge

The full episode transcript for Carla Hayden: Palace to Knowledge.


The Oath with Chuck Rosenburg

Carla Hayden: Palace to Knowledge

Chuck Rosenberg: Dr. Carla Hayden, welcome to The Oath.

Carla Hayden: Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, it's a pleasure to have you with us, the Librarian of Congress, what a cool job.

Carla Hayden: I think it really is. And I get a chance to be surrounded by the world's largest library, and to work with people who are experts in so many fields. And so, I'm a perpetual learner, and this is like being in a candy store.

Chuck Rosenberg: It was also one of the most magnificent buildings I've ever been in. I mean, to get to go to work every day in a place like that.

Carla Hayden: And that was intentional. The Library of Congress started in 1800, with about 600 books, and it was actually in the US Capitol. And it was the War of 1812. And in fact, some of the books that were part of the library collection at that time were used to start a fire. And over time, though, the collection grew to be over 171 million items. The interesting part is that Thomas Jefferson had retired to Montello when the fire happened in the war, and he offered Congress his personal library. At that time, it was the largest personal library in the United States, a little over 6000 volumes, and it was in different languages. He had the Qur'an, and the Congress, purchased his collection. And that really started the emphasis on having all types of subjects available for reference for members of Congress.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, I have a whole bunch of questions for you about the Library of Congress, but I also have a whole bunch of questions about you. Where were you born?

Carla Hayden: I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, on the campus of Florida A&M University. Now, this college, then, historically black college, and my dad was recruited to teach there to start the string department in the music department. And my mom, of course, was with him. And she was also a musician. And she taught music in the elementary school there and I was born right on that campus.

Chuck Rosenberg: What instruments did each of them play?

Carla Hayden: My dad, string--violin was his primary instrument. He played the cello, and also the bass, upright bass and later electric. And my mom was piano, and still is at 89. She still practices and plays for pleasure.

Chuck Rosenberg: That's wonderful. How about you? Did you play an instrument growing up?

Carla Hayden: Well, there might be a reason that I'm the Librarian of Congress and not conducting an orchestra or playing because I didn't have the talent that they did. And we all agreed when I was 12 that that was okay. And there were great expectations, as you can imagine, with two parents that were so talented, but I did realize that I loved reading and words and books and things. And that's where I made a turn.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, they were educators, so it must have been fine with them that you had a preference for books over music.

Carla Hayden: Right. And I would, when they were practicing--with some of my earliest memories in the practice rooms where they would go over things--I would be under the piano while they were practicing, because she was his accompanist for quite a while.

Chuck Rosenberg: I read somewhere, Carla, that a favorite book of yours as a little girl was a book by Marguerite de Angeli.

Carla Hayden: Bright April. We moved to New York City for my dad's musical career. And when I was about five or six, and I attended a public school, PS-96, in Queens, and there was a small branch library of New York Public right across the street. I can't remember who put that book into my hands, but some wonderful person when I was about seven, put a book that showed me illustrations of a little girl that looked like me, and that was at a time, 1960 or so, that there weren't many representations of African Americans in children's books that you could relate to. I love books, but I never saw myself in a book. And I love that book to this day. And one of my greatest stories was visit the Philadelphia Free Library That's where the author and illustrator donated her papers and her manuscripts. And I got to see the original drawings. And she was very interesting at the time, because she did a series of books about children from different cultures starting--Bright April was written in or published in 1946. And she did a series of--she did Thee, Hannah, she did a book about a young Jewish boy, Asian child, immigrant, all of these different cultures. And I didn't know what at the time, but later, when I studied children's literature, I realized how brave that was for the publisher. And how significant that was.

Chuck Rosenberg: Right, and April was a little girl like you at the time, when you read it, who was in the brownies, and who lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia, exposed to racism. And it's really one of the first books ever to tackle that subject, isn't it?

Carla Hayden: And in a very simple way that children could understand it. April was part of a brownie troop that was integrated. But there were new members that came in that were not as comfortable around children that didn't look like them. And April was African American, she had two pig tails--that's why I thought she looked like me--I had two pig tails, was a brownie, it was so, they had a piano in their home, all of the things were the same. And she was rebuffed, basically, by one of the new girls on a camping trip. And it really hurt her. And she talked to her mother about why would she not--why doesn't she like me? She doesn't know me. And for a child that you can relate to that you're saying, yeah, why? That doesn't make sense that she doesn't even know me, and she just met me, and she doesn't like me. So what is it about me? And her mom, in a very gentle way, told her that sometimes people are not able to look beyond the outside. And if the outside is different, they might be afraid or they're not familiar with it. And they have that reaction. And years later, as I mentioned, during when I was studying children's literature, and a representation of different groups, and Bright April was mentioned as a seminal book for being able to have an African American child relate to the book, and also to explain something that sometimes difficult for young people to understand.

Chuck Rosenberg: Do you remember talking about the book with your mom or dad?

Carla Hayden: Well, I didn't talk about the book, I talked about the fact that I thought April looked like me, and look at this, here's a book, and she has the same uniform. What I did learn with that book and had a conversation with my mom about was, I learned about library fines. And I took it out so much. And I didn't understand about you, you--there were these fines and things. So, that was my first kind of introduction to library management.

Chuck Rosenberg: I think it's wonderful that the Librarian of Congress learned about library management by paying library fines.

Carla Hayden: Yes, well, I had to give up by little hamburger candy store money, so I learned my lesson.

Chuck Rosenberg: What a wonderful story. You went to college at Roosevelt University.

Carla Hayden: Yes, I had a kind of not so good year at a small college that was in the, kind of, rural setting. And the second year, I went back to Chicago, and Roosevelt University named after Franklin D. Roosevelt, was founded to have a diverse student body and also faculty. And Eleanor Roosevelt supported this school was a major part of making sure that diversity was a feature and service. So, it was a school that gave me an opportunity to find a way to use what I love: history, working with materials, and get me on a track that led to librarianship.

Chuck Rosenberg: Although you described yourself as an accidental librarian, I wanted to know what you meant by that.

Carla Hayden: Well, after graduating from Roosevelt University with a major and history, minor in political science, I thought I might go to law school. And while I was doing that kind of thinking, I was at home, and my mom suggested that I might find some employment while I made up my mind. And so, I would go between job interviews, in more social services or different things where they politely told me that I had great grades, seemed to be very nice person, but I had no work experience. And I had--that's why I always encourage young people to intern, do volunteer, do all types of things, if they can, before they go out. And between the unsuccessful job interviews, I would go to my favorite place, the Chicago Public Library, Central Library. And I was there waiting for an interview and colleague came in who had just graduated with me and said, "Hey, Carla, you here for those library jobs, they're hiring anybody." And what he meant was, they're hiring anybody with a bachelor's degree. And those types, it's a library associate position. And libraries still do that. That's a way to introduce people with those different backgrounds to the profession of librarianship. And so, I went up to the HR department and said, I love books and reading and, and then I got hired, my colleague didn't, I want this noted, but he ended up founding a business, so he's okay. But, I got the job as a library associate. And they assigned me to the south side of Chicago, a storefront branch, similar to what I had known in New York, in fact. And when I walked in, I was shocked to see a young lady in jeans, sitting on the floor giving a storytime to children with autism. And I thought, this is not what I thought libraries were about. Judy Zucker, she was going to the graduate library school at the University of Chicago. That's when I found out about the profession of librarianship, that you can have public service, you can introduce young people to the thing that I love the most, books and reading, and it just opened up a world for me. And so, I enrolled at the graduate library school and never looked back.

Chuck Rosenberg: Was Judy a mentor to you?

Carla Hayden: Yes, she was, because she--I mentioned she wore jeans, she had frizzy hair, she was Jewish, and she was just so hip--and so, she really took the stereotype of a librarian to another level for me, and showed me that you can be almost boots on the ground, in neighborhoods, and what it really means to people to have access to information. And at that time, there wasn't, of course, the internet or things like that, but the fact that you had the things that could help them figure out what their doctor had just told them that they had, and you could help them with health information, or all types of things. It was something in the magic hours between three and six, after school, when all the kids would come in, ostensibly to do homework, but that was actually, we call them "latchkey kids."

Chuck Rosenberg: So, you were attending the graduate library school at the University of Chicago while you were working in the Chicago Public Library System.

Carla Hayden: And it was the best, I think, combination because the, the graduate library school at the University of Chicago was the first library school to offer a PhD. And it was a companion to the library school at Columbia University. And those two schools required two years of graduate work for your masters. They were known as the more academic, and philosophical and all of that theoretical library schools, and not as much with the day to day running of libraries. And so, to have that experience of working in a branch library, being part of a library that was really helping so many people in so many ways, was a good balance for finding out why do libraries exist, how did they, the history of libraries, all of the things that you were learning in class--it was a good balance.

Chuck Rosenberg: And why did you decide to pursue a doctorate?

Carla Hayden: That was an interesting one. I decided to pursue the doctorate because there were opportunities that were coming up for me. And one in particular, I was the librarian at the Museum of Science industry in Chicago, and they wanted me to help with a public library in a museum. And that was very intriguing. And so, the idea of being able to go to still go to and continue with the academic aspect, but also, the practical was still there. And I wanted to teach and be in library schools, because I could see that there was a need for more diversity, frankly, in the faculties of library schools. And so, I combined those two. Now, what eventually happened that led me back to the operational and management was, I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh after received a PhD at University of Chicago. And I was one of those firebrand professors, power to the people, you know, librarians are information specialists, and can help people and communities, your information advocates, and all of this. And there's about, about five years, thinking about the tenure process of already getting involved, and a student came back and said that he was going to be part of their Ph. D. program. And he has had a wonderful position, we thought at a major urban library. And I dug a little bit, well, what, why would you want to do that? And he said that, well, you know, you told us all these things about helping people and branches and what you could do. And he said, and I went up to, the director of the library, had a lot of ideas, and he brushed me off. So the student wanted to go and get a PhD to see if he could advance in the profession. And I thought, Oh, you can't just send them out there, sometimes you have to go out there and be part of a management structure that would encourage that.

Chuck Rosenberg: That's what led you out of academia and back into Library Management,

Carla Hayden: Right. And it's interesting because in management positions, especially in leadership, you can still teach, and you can still be a mentor to staff. And if you approach it more in that vein, public libraries in particular often call it "the people's university." In fact, playwright August Wilson, received a degree from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, because he spent all of his time there, he dropped out of high school, and he went to his branch library, and the librarians knew he was out in school, but they counseled him, and they let him be there every day. And he always credited that. So, when you think about what libraries are for the people they serve, they can also be that for the people who work there.

Chuck Rosenberg: You know, in preparing to speak with you today, I was reflecting back, Carla, on the Shelter Rock Public Library in Albertson, New York. And the fact that my mom used to drop me off there two or three times a week. I don't know what she was doing while I was there. But I know what I was doing, which is reading, I just, I just roamed around and pick books off the shelves and sat down and read them.

Carla Hayden: And think about the freedom as a young person that you experience. It's one of the few places where you can just decide what you want to do. People aren't saying here--unless they, they see that you might have an interest in something--and they might say "here, why don't you try this," or that if you have that sometimes the first card, like a credit card or something that a young person gets to sign their name to and it, and it just opens up so much for you.

Chuck Rosenberg: Oh, I had a library card. I thought it was the coolest thing in the whole world because I could take books out of the building by showing them a card.

Carla Hayden: Yes. And you learn the honor system in terms of bringing it back. Hopefully you didn't have fines like I did, but Even in challenged neighborhoods now, there are libraries that are giving kids an opportunity to help out if they can't pay the fines. And many libraries now are eliminating fines because that's sometimes a barrier. Parents don't want the kids to get a card because they don't want to incur possibly the fines or if the child loses them.

Chuck Rosenberg: Before we leave the University of Pittsburgh, I wanted to ask you about a couple of faculty members there, including a gentleman named E.J. Josey, a very thoughtful, progressive and renowned African American librarian.

Carla Hayden: There's a new book about him now, he has written several books and have been included in many books about librarianship. But he was just phenomenal. That's why exclaimed when you said his name, and I'm so glad you did. He was very much a part of the American Library Association's efforts to make sure that Southern libraries who were discriminating against African Americans opened up to the point that he made sure that the library associations from those states were not included all types of things, he was just put stand up for human rights, civil rights with our profession, and externally too. So, he was the conscience--our conscience, of the library profession. And I was very fortunate to be able to be a junior faculty member while he was there, and to have a mentor like that was significant. He encouraged me to run to be the president of the Library Association.

Chuck Rosenberg: And he was also active in the NAACP.

Carla Hayden: Oh, yes. So, he was known in the civil rights movement. And he was one of the first librarians to take a stand out, we had, there was a librarian in Congress, as well, but he didn't run for office, but he certainly made his mark outside of the profession.

Chuck Rosenberg: And I heard about another faculty member there, renowned, a gentleman named Spencer Shaw.

Carla Hayden: Oh, you're naming all of them. This, he was notable for his research in African American literature and history. He was such a gentleman, and in the best sense of the word, in terms of making sure that even if you disagreed, or you had pretty strong discussions about things that you could still go out to dinner afterwards. And that that was part of the academic enterprise. And he was just a wonderful man as well. So--and then there was Margaret Mary Kimmel, who was the consultant for Mr. Rogers, in terms of his program there in Pittsburgh.

Chuck Rosenberg: Mr. Rogers, Fred Rogers was Pittsburgh based, as I recall.

Carla Hayden: Yes, right there. And I turned into a five-year-old when she took me over to the studio and said, "Oh, your mother must be so proud of you." And I just melted. "Yes, Mr. Rogers," but she was his literary consultant, basically, in terms of how to talk about books, and what books, and they were very close.

Chuck Rosenberg: So, Carla, I have to imagine you've done so many cool things in your life. But you actually got to meet Mr. Rogers.

Carla Hayden: I got to meet Mr. Rogers, and he was just as nice and gentle and it was authentic. What you saw on the screen was really how he was and Margaret Mary Kimmel--there were a lot of three named women in librarianship, we talked about that--she was a fiery, very gregarious person, and they just enjoyed each other and talking about books and things.

Chuck Rosenberg: You've used the term a couple of times, so far: "librarianship." What do you mean by that?

Carla Hayden: It's the profession of making and developing libraries. So the people who are part of librarianship, there are a range of positions. So the people who catalog the books decide where they're going to be placed, people who design the buildings, all types of ways and types of librarians: school librarians in elementary schools, high schools, academic librarians are usually the ones in colleges and universities, community colleges, special librarians, and that's a group of people who work in companies. So, for a corporation. And so, there's a variety of ways that you can be part of this group of people who support literature, learning, knowledge.

Chuck Rosenberg: Seems to me to be a combination of literature, education, history, social science, all those good things, rolled up into librarianship

Carla Hayden: And culture. That program that I mentioned earlier, when I'm saying I was an accidental librarian, gives people from all types of backgrounds with all types of academic backgrounds--someone that majored in engineering might end up being the science specialist. And we have quite a few at the Library of Congress. So, there are ways and you find out what the opportunities are and what fits you.

Chuck Rosenberg: So, after teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, you went back out to the field, so to speak, to Chicago, where you ended up as the Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library.

Carla Hayden: Yes. And that was at a time that the Chicago Public Library was getting ready to open what's now the Harold Washington Library Center, the new Central Library. So, the central library that I used to go to is now our cultural center in Chicago, and beautiful building, but they'd outgrown it. And so, it was an opportunity to really think about what a central library in the new age would be. So, the media center, special place for teenagers, all of these types of things were--also public broadcasting studio was part of the Harold Washington Library too.

Chuck Rosenberg: How long did you spend in Chicago with the Chicago Public Library System?

Carla Hayden: About two years. And then I had the opportunity to think about being the library and the commissioner at Chicago Public, I was offered that. And then, the librarian, the director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. And that was a library that I had studied in library school, we all had, it was the first public library system in the United States. Andrew Carnegie, came to Baltimore, and said later in his Gospel of Wealth, and philanthropy on page 26--just happen to know it--that he talks about visiting Enoch Pratt in Baltimore, and said that it was the best example of public-private partnership. And he got more information about how to give libraries to communities. And that's how he credited Enoch Pratt. My mom was still working in human services and planning for the city of Chicago. And there was a newspaper headline that she loved: "The Tale of Two Cities: Will She Go, or Will She Stay?" But the opportunity to help a library system that we all knew about that was so notable for starting services for teenagers, there were so many things that the Enoch Pratt Free Library System was known for. And I decided to go.

Chuck Rosenberg: And you were its Executive Director for almost a quarter of a century.

Carla Hayden: Yes. And I still live in the city. Even as a Librarian of Congress, I commute because I knew about the library system, been part of that experience. In fact, I had visited before and everything but I didn't know about the city and Maryland. And so, that's when it just melded, it became home.

Chuck Rosenberg: Tell me a little bit about what you inherited at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and what you hope to do with it, and where it stands now.

Carla Hayden: Well, the Enoch Pratt Free Library had suffered, actually, the difficulties of the city itself. Library systems in just about any area reflect what is going on in the city and there had been a lot of urban flight to the suburbs in the city, the system--the branch libraries, they hadn't had a new facility in over 30 something years. They really were struggling. And so, that was actually the lure for me, was to help this library system that we all knew about and respected to regain its place in the life of the city. I quickly found out when I got there: everyone had a prat library story, the senators there. You name it, any business people, everybody talked about what the Pratt Library meant to them when they were coming up. But these people were in their 60s and 70s, and 80s, and even 90s. They talked about it. And so, one of the first things I wanted to do was to have the library staff focus on what will young people today, say 50 years from now, about the prep library, and how it helped them. And that became the guiding principle.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, Carla, how do you know that a library is serving the public? I mean, what--how do you think about that? How do you measure that? It can't just be usage or the number of books that are loaned.

Carla Hayden: And that's the difficulty when you're just counting how many books, for instance, especially in the 70s, and 80s, when a lot of urban areas, in particular, were having difficulties, how many books were checked out? Quite a few, as I mentioned earlier, of the young people might have had holds on their records, they couldn't check the things out. So, just looking at what was leaving the building wasn't a good measure, in terms of need, or use. You could look at, and you do look at how many people are in the buildings, and what are they doing. And with technology, libraries have been able to track and make sure that people are having access to the computers. And so, that's how you're looking at it. But also, you get a sense in the branch libraries and rural areas, and in urban areas are so much a part of their communities. You can tell the vitality of a branch by volunteers, the people who are there, their regulars, everything, and then we try--and I say "we"--to make sure that they librarians are part of the community, that they go to the community meetings, they go to city council meetings, or county meetings, that they are part of whatever else is going on in the community. So, they can raise their hands and say, "Oh, we have to do the census, so maybe you could have those meetings or things in the library."

Chuck Rosenberg: Right, because the more that people know about you, the more they are going to use what you have.

Carla Hayden: And you have to go where they are, there are school visits--one of the first things you do as a children's librarian is to make those annual school visits and more than annual to go and talk to the teachers too. So, there's a communications part of librarianship as well.

Chuck Rosenberg: And my understanding is that usage, one measure of a library's connection to the community, soared in Baltimore under your stewardship.

Carla Hayden: Yes. And that was very heartening, because we were able to really look at what the communities were asking for in terms of books, there was a big discussion and remember about urban literature? Well, basically, that means books that have African American characters, and that are similar to other mysteries, their love stories, and things. And so, if you give people things that they want to read, they'll check them out, and not be as judgmental. Everybody doesn't need to read, possibly, War and Peace. And so, there's been a shift in terms of that, and comic books aren't so bad.

Chuck Rosenberg: Right, as long as people are reading.

Carla Hayden: Because it's a muscle--reading is like a muscle, the more you do it, you get better at it.

Chuck Rosenberg: During your tenure in Baltimore, that city was rocked by the death of Freddie Gray and the protests that followed Freddie Gray, as many of our listeners will know, died in police custody in 2015. And the library played a really vital role in the life of the City during that tumultuous period. And I was hoping you would talk about that.

Carla Hayden: Well, the Pratt library had become even more and returned to being an opportunity center in the community. And in the community that was heart of the unrest, the heart of that community, which is a branch library, the Pennsylvania Avenue branch. It sits on the corner that so many people saw on the news reports with the drugstore, right across the street from the library that was burned. And all of the protests and things were happening right at that corner. And the library there had, for many years, and become even more so with computers and all this, the nerve center and information center for the community. And the night that the worst of the unrest happened, the library patrons were trapped in the library, there was so much going on. And we got the staff out and the public out the back, but that evening, the librarian there, Elena Coulson called and said, "Dr. Hayden, this community counts on us, there are people who need those computers to fill out their job applications, we've got to open tomorrow, we can't be closed." She had already told us that we couldn't board up the library. It's a two-story facility with beautiful glass windows. And she said what, what kind of message would that sent to the community. And in fact, that night, young men from the community stood outside of the library and protected it so that it never had any graffiti or anything. And so, the next morning, we were there I went, and we had staff members that volunteered to be there. And we opened and there was a young man standing there waiting and said, "Thank you, I am so--thank you, because I'm, I am applying for a job, I needed to get on the computer." And a couple of days later, he came back and said he got an interview. And soon, that library became the nerve center for the community that had no way to get food. So, there was a food distribution project that was running out of the library, the media was using the library, was the only place, even for restrooms, and for a number of weeks. And then, classes were taught, and teacher volunteers were coming in. And so, it was really wonderful to see the community know that the library was still there for them. And that also happened in Ferguson, Missouri. The librarian there kept the library open, Scott Bonner, we got to meet and talk. And it was really something because he had only been on the job three weeks when the unrest happened in Ferguson. But that became the place that classes were held and things were open for the community.

Chuck Rosenberg: It strikes me as a very powerful statement to not board up the windows and to keep the doors open. But it had to be with some trepidation.

Carla Hayden: Yes. However, to see the respect, when you say, you mentioned, "well, how do you know that a community uses it?" The fact that that community, that they protected that library, and wanted to make sure that it would survive a lot of the things that people saw on television. And that, that's a testament to the fact that that library was serving the community.

Chuck Rosenberg: Carla, one year later, in 2016, President Obama, who had been a friend from the Southside of Chicago, as I understand it, nominated you to be the 14th Librarian of Congress.

Carla Hayden: And I must tell you in terms of synergy, or how things develop, I never imagined that I would have a basic job interview with a person that I knew years ago that's sitting in the White House. However, I was really, not torn, but thinking I've done so much with the library system and public libraries and been so involved, I wondered what could I bring to the nation's library that's known for all of the wonderful materials and the treasures and all of these things--what, what could I bring? And that when, then President, Obama said, you know, I've seen the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was assassinated. I've seen all of these treasures at the Library of Congress. And he said, but I think that some of the things that I've seen have been because I'm who I am now. What could you do to make sure that this national library with all of these treasures is accessible and open for everyone? And that's when I said to myself, to him, I think I can do that. And so, now, the Library of Congress is reaching out and has been reaching out to school systems, to teachers teaching with primary resources online, digitizing availability of 39 million books, and manuscripts, music, and comic books, and all types of things are available online. Presidential papers are now digitized, 23 presidential collections. So, when people think about and people that might not ever get a chance to physically visit the Library of Congress, can have the experience of looking at the materials and mining the collections, the Rosa Parks election, based on her personal papers, and personal correspondence and all of those things, and now online.

Chuck Rosenberg: It's a magnificent resource, before you actually started to run it, you had to be sworn into office, you had to take the oath. And I think I saw a picture of the Chief Justice of the United States administering that oath to you.

Carla Hayden: It was quite something and I had the opportunity to--I have to tell you, that photo, you see my dear mother giving me a look. And if you didn't know the background of that look, you think, oh, she's just so proud--well, I'll have to share with your audience what happened. The oath is given a new swear and pledge that you will uphold not only the Constitution, but that you will faithfully execute the position to which you were you were taking, and because it is the Librarian of Congress, yes, Chief Justice Roberts, was going to administer the oath. And they, the Library of Congress provides Bibles to the presidents for their swearing in. And the staff asked me what Bible would I like to be sworn in from the library's collection, and I selected the Lincoln Bible, and that's the Bible that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on. But it had a special significance for me because my father grew up, and my grandparents, every summer I would visit Springfield, Illinois, and there's such a strong connection. My mom was from Champaign, Illinois, so we're really, corn is coming out of our ears all the time. But that meant so much to me for the Lincoln Bible, because I grew up going, visiting Lincoln's home, it was all part of my childhood and everything. And they said, "Well, your mother's going to be there. Would you like her to hold the Bible? And you place it?" Now, the Lincoln Bible is under, it's in vaults, it's just, it only comes out for very special things like that. And so they sent me home with a replica, an exact replica of the Lincoln Bible, that actually the library sells copies of in its store. And it's the exact weight, size, everything, and I grilled my mother on that holding that Bible the correct way, we practiced because I said--oh, I was really kind of tough--and I said, there are people that are going to hand you this. They're going to have on white gloves. As soon as it's over, you hand it back to them. I was just so nervous about what she might do and how she might drop it and all of this stuff. And so, we get there and a lot of pomp and circumstance. It's time, Chief Justice Roberts, nice gentlemen. We have the Speaker of the House, all these dignitaries, and Chuck, I looked in the import of the moment, hit me, and I flubbed the oath.

Chuck Rosenberg: Oh no.

Carla Hayden: Oh yeah, I did. And that look, and my mom just gave me--I think sometimes the kids call it a side eye or something. But that look is not of love. It's like, oh, look who made a mistake.

Chuck Rosenberg: Your mom might have been gloating a little bit.

Carla Hayden: I think, yeah, I think if you look at it with that background, you'll see oh, yeah, that's a little funny little smile, but it was good. She's a good sport.

Chuck Rosenberg: I've got to tell you, Carla, we've spoken to dozens of people on this show who have taken the oath. None of them have taken the oath on the Lincoln Bible.

Carla Hayden: Well, it's, it's just an honor to be able to do it because that Bible is the, the real. The authentic Bible is worn, it's got a kind of red velvet cover, it was small, it wasn't a Bible that he intended Lincoln to be sworn in on because of the dangers around his swearing in and things, he didn't have--his family Bible hadn't arrived from Springfield. And so, a clerk of the Supreme Court went and got a Bible from the Supreme Court and brought it over. So, that's actually the Bible that was used. But then, once he was sworn in on it, it became the Lincoln Bible. And it's given to the Library of Congress by his granddaughter, when she gave the contents of the pockets, his pockets, the night he was assassinated, and also, jewelry of her grandmother, of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Chuck Rosenberg: Speaking of things given to the Library of Congress, I read somewhere that 15,000 new items arrive every business day at the library, and that on average, you keep about 12,000 of them per day.

Carla Hayden: And that's because in 1870, the Library of Congress became the administrator, basically, of the US Copyright Office, it had been divided before that with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. And in 1870, it was formalized that the Library of Congress would be the administer of that process. And part of the registration process is, requires you to deposit copies of whatever you're copywriting. And the library was then able to really expand its holdings, because it is an opportunity to select from everything that's being published. And that, from 1870 on, is when the library really began to grow and become a true National Library, because its holdings were of course to serve Congress. And we have a special unit, we call them the Special Forces, the Congressional Research Service that just dedicated analysts and librarians and everything that are the researchers for Congress. But being able to have a broader collection, and more materials, allow the library to be able to loan materials and be that resource.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, I read the CRS materials all the time, they do extraordinary work.

Carla Hayden: They are something. One of the analysts told me that her, one of her proudest moments because they pride themselves on being not only nonpartisan, but objective and just presenting the materials in a way that would be useful, but with no particular slant. And she said her proudest moment was when she did a report about a subject that she personally felt very strongly about. And when the report was sent in, and some legislators thought that she had, might have slanted it, or appeared for the opposite of the position that she personally held. And she said, well, that that means I did a good job.

Chuck Rosenberg: But that's the power of the Congressional Research Service work. It's objective, it's not partisan, and it's very, very, very good.

Carla Hayden: And there, then they have specialists now that's where you have special forces, lawyers, specialists in just about every subject area, and that goes back to Thomas Jefferson's library, which was a universal library. And he said that there is no subject I'm paraphrasing, there is no subject to that, to which a member of Congress should not have to refer and that's why had all types of materials and these specialists, they have the law specialists, ones in health, every subject area that you can think of, the Congressional Research Service has specialists in those areas.

Chuck Rosenberg: Now, I'm glad you mentioned Jefferson again, because when he sold his collection of books in 1815, to the Library of Congress, about 6500 books or so, he had grouped his books into three categories. That was his categorization: memory, reason, and imagination. That's how he organized his stuff. You have 170 million items. I imagine you have more categories now than that.

Carla Hayden: Yes, the Library of Congress cataloging system has about 26 areas of study. And it was interesting, though, when his library was--they had presented they even though they were purchasing it, you know, that was a matter for Congress to decide, where are they going to purchase it, and there were some books, they actually went through all 6000 books and examined them to see what might contain some things that wouldn't be good--Voltaire--it caused quite a bit of stir. And when you--there were hearings on accepting Jefferson's library. But the way he divided it really provided really the cornerstone for the Library of Congress's classification of materials, from then on.

Chuck Rosenberg: Library of Congress used to be housed physically in the Capitol, and when the Capitol was burned in 1814, much of the library's holdings were destroyed.

Carla Hayden: Yes, in fact, some of the books, and there's a fireplace in the Capitol that where the library room where it was, and that they were actually used to start the fire. And that's what has been said. I've seen the scorch marks on the fireplace. And that was the, really the impetus for us, or saying, we have to rebuild a library, a reference library for members of Congress. And I think it was very interesting that that was an important item in terms of making sure that you had those reference materials.

Chuck Rosenberg: Now, the 1814 fire was deliberately set by the British, there was an 1851 fire...

Carla Hayden: Right. It was a faulty chimney flue, and when they found that out, and it was really terrible, because the books had almost overtaken hallways, there's some representations of where the books were. And they were, they were everywhere. And after the fire, there was a real recognition that a new library that they said in a safer room would need to be built. And so, it took years for the appropriations and everything to lead to a separate building that opened in 1897. After that fire took that long, but it was a massive undertaking. And the Thomas Jefferson Building opened. And at that time, it was the first federal building to have electricity. It was built, and you mentioned earlier that it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Capitol. And that's because it was built on the model of an Italian palace. And to show that in this country, we build palaces to knowledge, and not to people or any monarch or anything like that.

Chuck Rosenberg: The main Reading Room in the Jefferson Building is probably the most magnificent room I've ever seen.

Carla Hayden: It is.

Chuck Rosenberg: Do you ever just walk in there and stare?

Carla Hayden: Yes. And what you realize when you look up at that ceiling, and that it's in fact, it's so beautiful that you are you just struck with the fact that there were people who looked up and at that ceiling and then look down at what they were working on through the years. So when you're in that magnificent Reading Room, you get a sense of the majesty of knowledge, and really through the decades and centuries that are right there, but that you can sit there as a citizen and request to see things.

Chuck Rosenberg: I love the way you described it: a palace to knowledge.

Carla Hayden: It is.

Chuck Rosenberg: Can you also talk a little bit about the modern Library of Congress?

Carla Hayden: Yes, we want to be able to make sure that people throughout this country have an opportunity to interact with the materials, but also when they physically visit the Library of Congress, they will have an orientation experience. So, there'll be a new orientation center that will feature Thomas Jefferson's library. And they will also be able to go into a learning lab for the young and the young at heart. And for the first time, the Library of Congress in the Jefferson Building will have a Treasures Gallery, not only the greatest hits like the Gutenberg Bible, of course, George Washington's inauguration address, in his own hand, the Gettysburg address, the copy believed to be the one that Lincoln took on to the field. And then, we're expanding the virtual experience. We have an initiative by the people, we've asked people to help us transcribe, they've transcribed over 2 million pages of materials, and then, a brand new initiative called "Of the People." And we were so fortunate to receive a grant from the Mellon Foundation to help people not only understand their own histories, but to share those histories with others.

Chuck Rosenberg: You had mentioned you use crowdsourcing to transcribe some of your rare documents, some of our listeners might be able to get involved in that project.

Carla Hayden: Yes, And it's called "By the People," I think I mentioned 2 million. The interesting thing about some of the letters is that there's sometimes a generational difference in how people are able to interpret cursive writing. And so we've been very fortunate to have a number of more senior people who have joined in. And so that's been something that we're really excited about. So right now we've, I think I mentioned 2 million items have been transcribed. And we have more, we have more.

Chuck Rosenberg: So, there's a need.

Carla Hayden: Oh, there's a big need. And we're still getting collections in and we could use all the help we can get.

Chuck Rosenberg: What can I ask Carla about your digitization project?

Carla Hayden: Well, actually, my, the Library of Congress, for the last 20 years preceded me, had started on digitizing items. And now, there are more than 61 million items that are available. Library has more than 5 million maps, 15 million photographs, and those are being digitized.

Chuck Rosenberg: And I think I read somewhere: also 6 million works of sheet music and 3 million audio recordings.

Carla Hayden: And film. The David Packard Center in Culpeper, Virginia holds the Film Archives of Disney, Warner Brothers, radio programs like Studs Terkel, PBS, all of these things are stored there and restored in that facility as well.

Chuck Rosenberg: Libraries are crucial because we need a literate nation, and we want to preserve our past, but how do you think about the future of libraries? What does that look like? And how do you train people in librarianship for what is ahead of us?

Carla Hayden: Quite a few of the young people today are curating and they're very literate in the digital world. That's the opportunity that libraries have now to introduce them to the fact that they can capture history, current history, and then think about making history themselves. And when you let them work with materials, see the real thing, see the process of creation, you're getting them excited that they can also help capture what is happening now for future generations. They're born digital. That's exciting because you're now bringing in a generation full of digital natives. So, we are able to recruit more tech savvy, young people and we are very pleased that they are taking this on and seeing it as something that they can take forward.

Chuck Rosenberg: And Carla even though so much of your collection is digitized, and this is a really amazing number, you still have more than 800 miles of bookshelves in the Library of Congress.

Carla Hayden: Yes. And the collection continues to grow because history doesn't stop.

Chuck Rosenberg: Carla, I have to tell you: you have one very cool library and you are one very cool librarian.

Carla Hayden: Oh, we don't get that often. Thank you.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, I don't think it's an oxymoron to be a cool librarian.

Carla Hayden: Well, I appreciate it because to be able to really know that when I take The Oath, I am working with people who live The Oath, and how they care for the materials. They want to make sure that people have this opportunity. And so, that's, that's my greatest story. Because all of these materials are wonderful, we care for them are there, but they're to be used. And that's what it's about.

Chuck Rosenberg: Well, thank you for spending a professional life giving people this opportunity in Chicago, and Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, and now at the Library of Congress in our nation’s Capitol. A real pleasure to have you on the show, Carla.

Carla Hayden: Thank you. I'd have to tell you when you think about The Oath and what it means, I'm very glad that I've been able to be part of this.