On MSNBC’s popular podcast, The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg, the 14th Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden discusses her career journey as a self-described “accidental librarian” and her mission to make the national library’s collections more accessible. Hayden is Hobart and William Smith’s 2021 Commencement Speaker. The Colleges will award her with an honorary degree and the Elizabeth Blackwell award for her exemplary public service.
On Jan. 27, Hobart and William Smith’s 2021 Commencement Speaker Carla Hayden was interviewed on the MSNBC podcast, The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg. The hour-long conversation, titled “Carla Hayden: Palace to Knowledge” delves into Hayden’s journey to becoming the 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden also reflects on the power of libraries and the work of making the Library of Congress’ collections more accessible and diverse.
Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama.
“When, then-President Obama said, ‘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.”’
Listen to the podcast here.
During the episode, Hayden discusses her expansion of the Library of Congress’ digitization efforts. More than 61 million items are now available online, including 23 presidential collections, 5 million maps, 15 million photographs, 6 million works of sheet music and 3 million audio recordings. Through the Of the People initiative, volunteers have helped transcribe 2 million pages of materials.
She also highlights new projects, including the creation of a Treasures Gallery in the Jefferson Building, where people will be able to view items such as the Gutenberg Bible, George Washington’s inaugural address, in his own hand, and a copy of the Gettysburg Address.
Even when Hayden is sitting in the majestic Reading Room at the Jefferson Building, she is thinking about access. “When you look up at that ceiling, it’s so beautiful that you are just struck with the fact that there were people who looked up at the ceiling and then back 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, through the decades and centuries that are right there, but you can sit there as a citizen and request to see things.”
At the Colleges’ Commencement for the Classes of 2021, Hobart and William Smith will present Hayden with an honorary degree and with the Elizabeth Blackwell Award for her groundbreaking accomplishments and dedication to an informed public. Read more about Hayden here.
The Oath is a weekly podcast featuring the men and women who work in public service. Recent guests of the podcast include Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the former Director of the Peace Corps; Frank Figliuzzi, who led the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division; and Matt Olsen, head of the Guantanamo Task Force and NSA General Council.