Senate confirms first black female librarian of Congress

Senate confirms first black female librarian of Congress
© Getty Images

The Senate on Wednesday approved Carla Hayden to be the next librarian of Congress, making her the first black woman to hold the job. 

Hayden was approved 74-18 in a vote that unexpectedly came to the floor Wednesday afternoon. A hold had reportedly been placed on her nomination that prevented it from moving by unanimous consent. 

Hayden is a veteran of the American Library Association (ALA) and the current chief executive of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

Despite some Republican objections, Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator: Capitol Hill's sexual harassment reporting protocol is 'totally inappropriate' Senate passes resolution requiring mandatory sexual harassment training Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win MORE (R-Mo.) said Hayden was "thoroughly vetted" and noted the committee spent more time reviewing her nomination than any of the past 13 librarians. 

Hayden was nominated to replace James Billington, whose final years were marked by criticism that the library's IT infrastructure was not up to par. Billington served for 28 years, which was seen as one reason why Congress recently reduced the term of the librarian to 10 years, instead of maintaining the previous unlimited appointment.

ADVERTISEMENT
Maryland Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiClinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere MORE (D) lauded Hayden, noting that she brought her Baltimore-based library "into the digital age."

During her confirmation hearing, Hayden described technology modernization as one of the library's "biggest challenges."

All 18 votes against the nomination came from Republicans. The conservative group Heritage Action urged senators to vote no, saying Hayden has a record of liberal activism and that she is "unqualified" for the job. 

The conservative group has pressed Republicans to hold up all nonsecurity-related nominations with only six months left in President Obama's term. 

Opposition to Hayden centered on her previous stance against the Children's Internet Protection Act when she headed the American Library Association. The law requires publicly funded libraries to install internet content filters on computers used by the public.

The ALA challenged the law before Hayden took over because of concerns that the pornography filters would block out legitimate searches for other topics such as breast cancer. 

During her confirmation hearing, Hayden noted that technology has improved and filters are now more precise. She said libraries make sure to stress that pornography on public computers is barred and that "we do not support that in any shape or form."

Blunt defended her on Wednesday by saying she led the library association "not when they challenged the law but when they implemented the law."

During her confirmation, Hayden also answered a number of lingering questions about the library's role in managing the Copyright Office and her strong positions against bulk surveillance as head of the library association in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.