From her standpoint as the United States’ new top librarian, former Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden still looks very fondly upon her 23 years spent leading Baltimore’s public library system.
The venerated librarian said in a glowing profile published yesterday in The New Yorker that when she first accepted her position at Enoch Pratt in 1993, she heard endless stories about its role in Baltimoreans’ lives. She described these as “Pratt stories” – “Everybody—senators, medical doctors, people at the grocery store—all told me, ‘Pratt helped me’…fill in the blank,” she told the weekly magazine.
The article also highlights the heroic role Hayden played in keeping Baltimore’s libraries, particularly the branch at Penn North, open during the spring 2015 riots following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. As chronicled in a May 2015 piece by Library Journal, after having to lock out a crowd of rioters, Hayden and the branch manager chose to keep the library open during its normal hours to give community members a safe place to rest, recharge and access the internet during the ongoing unrest.
“That community, like so many communities across the country, depends on the library,” Hayden said.
Most of the story covers Hayden’s goal to make the Library of Congress — an impressive, but somewhat intimidating complex of buildings on Capitol Hill — an accessible place for the community.
“It was that word, ‘serve,’ that helped me,” she said of President Obama asking her to be the first-ever black and female librarian of Congress. “With the Baltimore experience, you really were almost touching the people who were benefitting from the work of the library. And I had to think about, How can I make this library that relevant, and that immediate?”
Hayden has surely made Baltimore proud.
“Dr. Hayden helped the Enoch Pratt Free Library become the crown jewel that it is today in the City of Baltimore,” said Enoch Pratt spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell in an email. “She brought the Library into the modern age, and transformed it into a vital resource for our community that helps change lives.”
The New Yorker’s profile also touches on Hayden’s “rock star” status to others in her profession, the grandeur of her experience being sworn in last September and her journey to becoming the country’s top librarian. Click here to read.
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