Obama nominates first black, female librarian of Congress

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Carla Hayden to be the new librarian of Congress — potentially marking the first leadership switch in nearly 30 years as criticism has mounted over the organization's technology policies. 

Hayden, currently the chief executive of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, served as the president of the American Library Association more than a decade ago. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. 


There have only been 13 previous librarians. 

"Being the first female and the first African-American really brings together two aspects of — of course — my life that make this even more significant in terms of how people view the future of libraries, and what a national library can be," she said in a video released by the White House. "It's inclusive. It can be part of everyone's story."

The nomination comes after long-serving librarian James Billington left under mounting criticism last September — abruptly moving up his retirement by three months. A series of watchdog reports had criticized the library's information technology policies and leadership. 

"Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture," Obama said in a statement. 

A Government Accountability Office report last March criticized the library for the lack of an IT plan as the country turned more towards digital records. The report also criticized the library's information security and the lack of a chief technology officer. 

The library, which houses the U.S. Copyright Office, appointed a technology officer in September. 

The law that created the librarian of Congress position did not include a term limit. Billington had served since Ronald Reagan's presidency. 

However, Obama signed a bill last year to limit the librarian's term to 10 years, with the option for reappointment. 

Hayden has faced a confirmation hearing before. In 2010, she was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board. 

— This post was corrected at 3:25 p.m. to note that the librarian's term was recently limited to 10 years.