‘Audacious Plan’: Carla Hayden, Library Of Congress Steward, Plans To Make The Vast Collection Accessible Online

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Written by Ann Brown
Carla Hayden
Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, speaks before the unveiling of a previously unknown portrait, c. 1868, of abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, on Monday, March 25, 2019. The photograph is believed to be the earliest photo of Tubman in existence. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

Carla Hayden is the first African American and first woman to hold the position of librarian of Congress, and she plans to make history in other ways.

Hayden, who is in charge of the library’s ongoing digitization efforts, wants to make the Library of Congress’ collection available to everyone worldwide.

The 14th person to head the library, Hayden aims to “throw open the treasure chest” by digitizing its collection and then making it accessible online.

It’s all part of the library’s five-year plan, “Enriching the Library Experience.”

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“We’re throwing open the treasure chest, as we like to say, because this is the world’s largest library, with so many unique items. We want to make these things accessible to people who could never come in person, so they can see our manuscripts division and see Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence with footnotes or little side notes, with BF for Benjamin Franklin and JA for John Adams,” Hayden told Cnet.

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 and today is the oldest cultural institution in the United States. It features the world’s largest collection of photographs, maps, comic books, and Bibles in the world. It stores 70 million items, including 68 million manuscripts, 6.5 million pieces of music, and more than 3.4 million recordings and adds about 12,000 items to its collection every business day. There’s everything from the letters of Abraham Lincoln to early-edition Batman comics.

“The library has been digitizing its special collections for over 20 years. And we have made quite a bit of progress. For instance, in the past year, we’ve digitized more than 7.1 million items. Most of the things that we’re putting online now have never been able to be digitized before,” Hayden said.

The Library is currently digitizing the Rosa Parks collection.

Hayden began her career as a children’s librarian in 1973 at the Chicago Public Library. She went onto serve as the head of the American Library Association and executive director of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library.  President Barack Obama appointed her as the Librarian of Congress in 2016.


About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.