tv Conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden CSPAN September 24, 2016 11:20am-12:01pm EDT
live. notable authors for the call in segment involve bob woodward, the last of the president's men, john lewis and his book march, ken burns, author of grover cleveland, treasury of american presidents interviews with featured authors, lafayette and the somewhat united states and candace miller, author of hero of the empire, the war, the daring escape in the making of winston churchill. john meacham with destiny and power, the american odyssey of george herbert walker bush. black flag, the rise of isis. stacy schiff with the witches, salem 1592. join us live this weekend from the 16th annual library of congress national book festival on c-span2's booktv, to get the complete weekend schedule at booktv.org. >> doctor carla hayden, can you
remember the first moment you were asked about being in the library of congress? >> guest: i can remember that because i was surprised. i had been advising and consulting. it was an opportunity for the library community to weigh in basically on what would be needed for the library of congress in the next few decades so my aim was put forward as a person to talk to and that went on for a little while and i was asked would you consider being considered for the position yourself? it took me aback a little bit and i then had to think about what i was currently doing,
doing service in a city that had the public library be the state library in maryland. and i had become a baltimoreian and was lurking on so many issues and how could i go from serving a community to serving a country? what contribution could i make? c-span: why did you stay there? >> guest: when i thought about the treasures and what was contained in the library of congress and what i had been pretty to as a librarian and how excited i always am. i love history and to be able to
share that with more people was the turning point for me, not just administering, doing something for the world's largest library but it is an opportunity to make that library everyone's library. that is how the opportunity was presented to me. would you serve as the next librarian of congress. that is when it all came together for me. c-span: when you first came to the library is the nominee, did you say to somebody i want to see that? >> >> guest: i wanted to see abraham lincoln as life mask. i had seen it before and i was
mistakenly telling people all those years i had seen his death mask. no, it wasn't, it was a rendering four months before he was assassinated and it was a life mask. i wanted to see that item with the understanding that when that mask was cast, he was alive. that was a moment. my family is from illinois. i have a couple personal bookshelves on lincoln and i grew up with lincoln lore. my family is buried in the same cemetery lincoln was buried in in springfield, that really resonated. c-span: what do you like most about your grandmother?
>> guest: his integrity and struggles and i loved reading more, the fact he didn't come to some of the things we admire so much about him now as easily as we thought. he had difficulty in his personal life, we mentioned lincoln's home on a regular basis. to think of what was going on, all these things, there was a human behind this person that did so much. that drew a lot of people to lincoln and what he accomplished. c-span: there is a book in your past called bright april. what was the book and what year did you read it? >> guest: when you mentioned the
title, i talk about my age. i was 7 or 8. that was about 1961 or so. i went to grammar school in jamaica, queens. right across the street was a storefront library. can't remember if a librarian gave me the book or anything like that. and i knew this book was put in my hand and it was a book that featured a little african-american girl who was a brownie. at that time i was a brownie, had two pigtails and the beautiful watercolor pictures showed a loving family, a piano in the living room, thanksgiving
dinner, all of these things spoke to me as a child, to see myself reflected in a book and i thought i looked at the book, she was a little prettier. later i thought about working on diversity in children's books, to have windows on the world, we talk about that a lot, to let them see something else but there seems to be a mirror. they need to see themselves. if we want them to think books are important and books hold knowledge, if you don't see yourself in this important thing what is that saying? c-span: were you born in tallahassee?
lived in queens? grew up in the chicago area? how did that happen? >> guest: we talked about my parents being musicians so my father started at florida and m university so i was born there and he liked jazz. classical by day and jazz by night and connected with another musician, some people know him as cannonball in tallahassee so off they go to new york with my mom who is classically trained. next thing you know i am at bird
land having shirley temple while the group is out and that was quite an experience. my parents divorced when i was 10. we moved back to illinois. c-span: your mom is with us. i want to know what she said to you when you called her and said i want to be the library of congress. >> guest: she said your grandmother was right, my grandmother always said, career library, i never thought -- my nickname was squirrel. i like to books but, good, she is going to be a librarian, she
has no musical talent. she was still amazed. to think my love of books and all of this turns into something that required her to hold the lincoln bible and have me sworn in. c-span: now that you brought it up sitting on the table, the lincoln bible. >> my mother was very nervous about holding the lincoln bible. it symbolized so much not only to our family but what it meant and she was very nervous about that because -- this was something that a person used that you respect so much. that connection, i have to say
is something i hope i will be able to do even more of to connect people with history, digitally and make sure they understand real people. c-span: how much do you read? >> guest: i have matured, my eyesight has matured. a reader that will read just about anything, a cereal box, sign, something like that, took me years to realize i connected the same way my parents connected with notations.
one day i said they can look at milk and hear music and i can look at text and hear words. it is almost the same thing. c-span: where do you read? >> guest: i have a balcony where i can sit out. i found a meeting spot and read at a table but usually i can tell when i am very tired. >> folks found out i was going to be talking with you, three different people for whatever reason want to know are you going to continue to live in baltimore? how big a deal is that? how big a commute is that? >> guest: 35 miles. because i am from the midwest, viewed in a different way, have to go 35 miles from one end of
characters, nurture creativity. c-span: would you rather read fiction or nonfiction? >> guest: that is a hard choice. however, i would go for nonfiction. i love history. i can read all those things because -- i really like to read things like the queen's bed which is about queen elizabeth i and all the intrigue around that. history can be more exciting than fiction. c-span: a couple books in the history, nonfiction category you really like? >> guest: doris kearns goodwin, no ordinary time. i connect with eleanor
roosevelt, the only school that was founded by eleanor roosevelt, public service and all that, in chicago. to read doris kearns goodwin's history means it is like reading fiction. that is the best type of history writing sometimes. i heard her speak at the library, got the book, read it that night and i could hear her speaking. c-span: about fdr and the white house. >> guest: knowing what was there. c-span: when did you first meet michelle and barack obama? >> guest: in chicago i left the university of the pittsburgh, i was teaching and there were points in my life, decisions whether to continue in academics or public service and this is one of those times.
i arrived back in chicago from the pittsburgh to be deputy commissioner and chicago public library, the first lady was michelle robinson, working with the city administration, that is when i met her and her fiancé. and years later, to meet in a professional setting in different roles. c-span: how important that connection in chicago led to your choices as a librarian? >> guest: not sure if it led to choice. it was probably one of the most ironic things, to have a name
put forward -- she is still a librarian, isn't she? the institute, museum library, my name has been part of the professional library. c-span: you went to university of chicago, got an ma and a phd at the university of chicago. what was your dissertation about? >> guest: serving young people. i was working at the museum of science and industry in chicago, open the first public service library in the science museum in the country. that was really interesting, most museum libraries aren't open to the public. curators and educators, open up
a library, wasn't a lending library, let visitors come in. and not only interested in special libraries but also museums. so i took some courses and started visiting museums. what i was saying at that time was libraries, public libraries needed to use the methods museums use to engage young people. the children's museum and all these museums and you can go into public libraries all over the country and see play areas, not just books but things as well. c-span: a baltimore resident said to me this day, when i said i was coming over, she was
terrific in baltimore doing the kind of things you are talking about. trying -- movie night, a fundraiser, black-and-white every year. >> guest: dancing and theme related, connecting with books and all of that. c-span: when you went to baltimore 23 years ago, what is it? how many branches? what did you do that you were most proud of? >> guest: in library school we studied, and inundated library starting with mister pratt, he established it, a philanthropist businessperson at a time the city was growing. and he said my library shall be
without distinction of race or color and that was in 1886 in a city with racial challenges. when i had the opportunity to go to the library i didn't know much about baltimore but i knew the pratt library, there are now 21 branches, everywhere i would go in baltimore people would have a pratt library, people from all walks of life they would name their brand, what i am most pleased about, we find - revitalize branch libraries, we constructed the first new library in that city and 35 years. that is a lifetime.
we even had the staff members bring a photograph of themselves, 5 to 10 years old and when we meet we would say what would a child now, 35 years from now, what possibilities are we making? that is why i am staying in baltimore. c-span: how did you get something that wouldn't normally go to a library? >> guest: a lot of people in the city have basic life challenges, they need to get computers to file jobs. and they don't have the access to computers to do that. flu shots, all types of things to bring people in and make the library less intimidating especially for people with
challenges with literacy, the last place you want to go if you can't read well is the library. bringing in authors, the way to start letting them know it is a safe place, whatever level you are coming in. c-span: you came into the library of congress, 3200 employees, $600 million, what is the first thing you said i want to change this? >> guest: wasn't so much changing, but keep it moving forward. there is a wonderful book i think about change. when you are helping something move with momentum, teaching the elephant to dance, i know there
are some right things to be careful about but thinking about how you get it to move or be nimble and things like that, i really am excited about working with staff members of the library of congress, the old term crackerjack, dedicated, helping be part of that. this library has changed in so many ways. c-span: this new law says a librarian can only serve ten years. the last librarian served almost 30 years. good idea? >> guest: there have been other librarians who served even longer, 48 years, different
times in library history, longer or shorter, lawyers, politicians, scholars, historians along the way, and at this point when there are so many opportunities but also challenges for technology and things moving so rapidly, and opportunity to step back and say where are we, we hope to have accomplished, to digitize that 162 million items would be something. it is healthy to look at an institution in different times. c-span: how much is digitize today? >> guest: i am not sure. even though i have just been sworn in i am still investigating.
i want to get it in the weeds, and i know there are a number of collections, the rosa parks, to see the actual artifacts, to work with staff, how many things are available online, how many are in the queue, i am pretty sure there are a number of things and old collections that are ready and to see if we can match some of those collections with potential donors would help with the process. c-span: this is a question from someone who has never been to the library of congress and doesn't have a clue what they can see or do. don't want -- got my first library of congress card.
what would you suggest to somebody who is intimidated by the big buildings? >> guest: when you think about this temple of knowledge, it looks like a massive palace of information to encourage people to come in, that is something to work on quite soon, to make sure the public knows not only do they come in and see the copies of the gutenberg bible, and thomas jefferson original library, starting the library of congress at a crucial time, to reach out to the public and let them know. it is difficult to put it in one type of thing. when you walk into the library, there are young readers that can
go into that. can go into the music parts and see sheet music from decades, hundreds of years ago. that is a challenge. we need to read more about it. i want the american public in particular to know more. congress is a library but also america's library. c-span: i want them to be able to walk in somewhere in the library system and say doctor carla hayden told me to come here and ask what i want to see, where would you send them? >> first thing the person should do is go up to a wonderful information desk and talk to the person there, there will be a person there. the jefferson building, they can also go into the madison
building and there is an adams building. they can say i am interested in gerri lewis films. i am interested in bob hope. i am interested in this information about rosa parks. i'm interested in finding out something about my family's history. i am visiting from iowa and i understand you have newspapers that go back. i am trying to find my great-grandfather. when they go to that information, that is where you go, your first point of contact. that person, what do you need, make that connection, a vast resource here and in other places. c-span: say they can't travel here but you have it digitized
online. how do you figure out what is there? >> guest: that is where technology comes in. the library website should be able to direct you in the same way so you are going to search, type in what you are looking for and you will get a response and print, i will be very -- getting in the weeds aspects, excited about. making sure that website is just as responsive as talking to a person, people won't be in this technology wilderness. c-span: at your confirmation hearing the subject of the congressional research service came out and there seems to be quiet movement that the public got to see the product, 700 people produce for members of
congress. what do you think? have you studied that since your confirmation? >> guest: the congressional research service, the library of congress is like the special forces of the library. they are analysts, librarians, specialists in different areas that prepare research, nonpartisan research and analysis for members of congress to inform their work. and the reports are available by request from a particular member. if you know someone is working on something, i heard different aspects of how much information and when information should be ready or available to the public
so that is an area that is still being looked at because private businesses that go into forming a report. c-span: the congressional research service, i need a report on the b-52 bomber. what is your personal instinct, should that be in the public domain? >> guest: i am not sure. i will be in the weeds with some of these aspects and a complex issue in terms of what was it prepared for. what is it informing? working with congress on it because it will be a congressional decision to find
out how members are looking at congressional research service provides for them and already been in contact with some members about how we look at this issue and really look at it in a way that would benefit congress and the people they serve. c-span: what is your sense talking to members of congress about the future of the budget or a place like this? >> i must tell you the -- one of the most pleasant parts of the confirmation and nomination process has been meeting with members and really getting a sense of their sincere appreciation for the library of congress. a lot of them are interested in history. they can follow books and they do. they are interested in the workings of the library and
there is a lot of support for the library. c-span: is it enough given this fiscal time we are in? >> guest: i hope it will translate. i am excited about working with members and already there are indications they see the value of the librarians appreciate it. that is a good position to be in when you are in an environment where there are fiscal checks and balances. not much dispute about the value of the library. of the 16 you were c-span: you were approved overwhelmingly but there were 14 republicans who voted against your confirmation. >> guest: that might be. c-span: what was their reason?
>> guest: what i understand, there might have been concern about some of my professional affiliations, not even affiliations, librarians as a group have taken. specifically in that segment because i was heading up a professional organization, representing 55,000 members. when you agree to be the representative, you are the spokesperson for the group, a card-carrying member of the american library association. that was an honor for me. it also puts you in a different arena being the spokesperson, there were some concerns in a
role that is not representing a profession, that i might be -- still have strong views that i express about certain things. c-span: talking about the patriot act. >> guest: the patriot act, making sure people can get information freely without interference and things like that. >> caller: c-span: are you comfortable with the law in the patriot act? >> guest: the profession is comfortable that their concerns were heard and there is consciousness that in the balance of security, you have to have that balance with personal liberty. it was a difficult time. c-span: i want to give your time back but before we close i want
to ask you to define what a librarian is beyond the obvious, and why people who are librarians feel so strongly about it? >> guest: we like to say librarians are the original search engines. librarians are people who help other people get the information, the resources, even the entertainment, you mentioned fiction, that they need for their lives or they may want or they can help them distinguish health information but also tell them what the latest novel is by a famous author if that particular thing isn't there. librarians are people who help
people get information. c-span: a question i did not follow up on, is your dad still alive? >> guest: no. c-span: you have brothers and sisters? >> guest: no. c-span: only child? >> guest: only child. interesting when you say is your dad still with us? some of his music, he liked jazz, he was also a studio musician. so sometimes i am in a mall and i can hear my dad playing in the background on a song, that is quite a feeling. c-span: who is your favorite jazz musician? >> guest: my favorite? because i actually met him, he was pretty cool back then and i
always felt there was something about him as an 8 or 9-year-old. i didn't know how cool he was then but he was nice to me. c-span: to mister kelly after the london house or places like that in chicago? >> guest: i knew about the london house. that was a group they took things -- you could still hear their music. i knew about the london house. c-span: i saw that. >> guest: that was something. chicago was something for music and still is. c-span: doctor carla hayden, the new librarian of congress, thank you.
>> today booktv is live for the 16th annual national book festival in washington dc founded in 2001 by then first lady laura bush, this event held at the convention center. we have a full lineup, here are a few authors you will hear from. john meacham, douglas brinkley and several more life from the history and biography room and the booktv set at the convention center, bob woodward, john the was, and ken burns discuss their book and answer your questions. for complete schedule of the day's events you can visit our website at booktv.org. you can follow us on twitter at booktv, on instagram,@booktv, and on facebook, facebook.com/booktv. we have been posting behind the scenes pictures on all these platforms and you can watch