Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress and the first woman and the first African American to hold the position, will be the 2021 Commencement speaker, and receive an honorary degree and the Elizabeth Blackwell Award.
On Sunday, May 16, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will deliver the keynote address during the exercises for the 196th Commencement of Hobart College and the 110th Commencement of William Smith College. Nominated to the position by President Barack Obama, Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on Sept. 14, 2016, becoming the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library.
As part of the Commencement ceremony, 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.
“For decades, Carla Hayden has served communities and the country as a champion for access to knowledge and literacy. With indefatigable energy, she is a trailblazer and a role model whose work has helped people across the nation enjoy the freedom and opportunity that the library holds,” says Hobart and William Smith President Joyce P. Jacobsen. “Our community looks forward to honoring Carla Hayden for her remarkable professional achievements, her service to the American public and her belief in the power of education.”
Hayden began her career with the Chicago Public Library, serving as a library associate and children’s librarian from 1973 to 1979, when she became the library’s young adult services coordinator. She subsequently served as library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982 to 1987, before joining the University of Pittsburgh faculty as an assistant professor for Library and Information Science from 1987 to 1991.
Following her tenure as deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993, Hayden served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, prior to her confirmation as Librarian of Congress.
In 2010, Hayden was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board. She was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services at the Pratt Library, which included an after-school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling.
Hayden has received a number of other honors, including the American Library Association’s Joseph W. Lippincott Award, Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year award, the Johns Hopkins University President’s Medal and honorary degrees from six institutions of higher education.
The author of A Frontier of Librarianship: Services for Children in Museums and editor of Venture into Cultures: A Resource Book of Multicultural Materials and Programs, Hayden earned a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.
The Elizabeth Blackwell Award is conferred by Hobart and William Smith to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humanity, with two aspects of Dr. Blackwell’s own story guiding the selection of honorees: first, she was a woman whose life opened doors to other women by conspicuous professional achievement in a previously male-dominated occupation. Second, she lived a life of service, in which her talents and skills were offered to aid and benefit others. Recipients of the Elizabeth Blackwell Award are women who have achieved and women who have served.