tv Conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden CSPAN November 24, 2016 5:15pm-5:56pm EST
>> sunday december 4th on book tv in-depth, we are hosting discussion on attack on pearl harbor, on the program steve toomey, 12 days to the attack. author of japan 1941, countdown, and craig nelson with his book pearl harbor followed by interview by donald, pearl harbor survivor, american sailers firsthand account of pearl harbor. we are taking phone calls, tweets and e-mail questions live from 3:00 p.m. eastern.
>> dr. carla hayden can you remember asked about being the librarian of congress? >> i can remember that moment because i was surprised. i add been advising and consultant because this was an opportunity for the library community to weigh in basically on what would be needed for the library congress going into the next few decades and so my name was put forward as a person that they should talk to and that went on for a lit while and then i was asked would you consider being considered for the position yourself and it took me back a little bit and i had to then think about what i was
currently doing. really public service in a city that had the public library be the state library. >> baltimore. >> baltimore and maryland. this was a very good situation and i had baltimore and was really working on so many issues and i had how can i go from serving a community to serving the country and what contribution could i make and -- >> why did you say yes? >> because when i really thought about the treasures and what contained in the library of congress and what i had been privy to as a librarian and what i knew was contained here and
how exciting i always am, i love history and so to be able to share that with more people was really the turning point for me that it's not just administering and doing something for the world's largest library but it's an opportunity to make that library everyone's library and that serviced in the highest level and, in fact, that's how the opportunity was presented to me, would you serve as the lie brar aib -- librarian of congress and that's when it all came together for me. >> when you first came to the library as the nominee, did you say to somebody, i want to see that and what was it u if you did?
>> i wanted to see abraham lincoln's life mask and i had seen it years before, i had mistakenly said i had seen his death mask. no, it wasn't. it was actually a rendering that he had four months before assassinated and it was a life mask and so i wanted to see that item again with the understanding that when that mask was cast he was alive and that was a moment because my family is from illinois. i have a couple of personal book shelves on lincoln and i grew up with lincoln, my family is buried in the same cemetery that lincoln is buried in in springfield and that resinated with me. >> what's the thing that you
like most about abraham lincoln? >> integrity and his struggle to -- and i love reading more about the fact that he didn't come to some of these things that we admire so much about him now as easily as we saw it, that he had difficulties in his personal life. i mentioned springfield, we visited lincoln's home on a regular basis and sort of think about what was going on in that home and what he lost a child and all of these things, that there was a human behind this person that did so much and, i think, that's what draws a lot of people to lincoln and what he accomplished. >> there is a book in your past call bright april. >> yes. >> what was the book and what year did you read it?
>> you notice that when you even mention the title i said, ah, that i was about -- this is where i talk about my age. [laughter] >> you don't have to give that away. >> but i was about 7 or 8 and so 1960 or so and i went to grammar school in jamaica queens and right across the street was a store front library and i can't remember if a librarian gave me the book or anything like that but i just know that somehow this book by april was put in my hand and a book that featured a little african-american girl that was a browny and at the time i was a browny, she had two pigtails and the beautiful water color pictures and illustration
showed a loving family, there was a piano in the living room, there was a thanksgiving dinner, all of these things that just spoke to me as a child to see myself reflected in a book and i thought i looked like her and if not she was a little prettier. but it just meant so much to see what i thought reflected and later when i started as a children's librarian, i thought about and worked with and we still are working on diversity in children's books that children need books to have windows on the wall and we all talk about that a lot to let them see something else. but they also need to see them, see themselves in a mirror. if you don't see yourself in this important thing, what is
that telling you? >> how did you -- were you born in tallahassee? >> yes. >> lived in queens? >> yeah. >> grew up in the chicago area? >> yeah. >> how did all that happen? >> well, interesting, i think we talked about my parents being musicians and so my father was the -- he started the string department at florida a&m university in tallahassee, florida, so i was born there. and then when i was about 5 or so, he always liked, he played classical music but he liked jazz too and there was -- i love jazz, classical by day and jas by night and he connected with another musician and the musical family, some people know him as cannon ball. he was down there in tallahassee too.
the next thing you know, i'm at birdland sitting on a -- having shirley tempels and that was quite an experience. my parents divorced around 10. that was just a little too much and then we moved back to illinois. >> by the way, your mom is very much with us and i want to know what she said to you when you called her and said i'm going to be the librarian at congress. >> the first thing she said was, your grandmother was right. my grandmother always said as i progressed in the career of librarianship i never thought being a librarian would lead to this.
she never -- she's going to be a librarian. she has no musical talent. that's good, but she was still amazed and to think that my love for books and all of this and turn intoed something. that required her to hold the lincoln bible and had me sworn in was something. >> now that you brought it up, it's sitting in the table, the lincoln bible. >> still gives me chills. in fact, my mother was very nervous about holding the lincoln bible. it serve -- symbolizes so much not only our family but what it meant and she was very nervous about that because you're touching history and this is something that a person used
that you respect so much and that connection and i have to say that's something that i hope that in my tenure i will be able to do even more of to connect people with history, to touch history digitally and to make sure that they understand that these are real people. >> how much do you read? >> probably a little too much because i have matured. my eyesight has matured so i require stronger lens. i'm a reader that will read just about anything that has serial box, sign, something like that. i connected and it took me years to really realize that i connected with texts the same way my parents connected with
notes, notations and one day i said, well, they can look at notes and hear music and i can look at texts and hear words and it's almost the same thing. >> where do you read? >> well, i've just now have a balcony where i sit out and find a reading spot and a chair and i read in bed and i can read at a table or -- but usually i can tell when i'm very tired, if i can't read in bed, that's the signal. >> now, when folks found out that i was going to be talking with you, i think three different people for whatever reason want to know, are you going to continue to live in baltimore and commute to washington? >> yes. >> how big a deal is that? how big a commute set? >> it's 35 miles. i think because i'm from the
midwest mileage is viewed in a different way. you have to go 35 miles to go from one end of chicago to the other end and in the southern parts of illinois going from danville to champagne to do something is not unusual. so i think that's -- so i will stay in baltimore because baltimore has really become home. >> how many years? >> i've been there now 23 years and my mother has moved from illinois to baltimore. and sometimes i joke everybody knows your name and i'm looking forward to being a civilian in baltimore but it's a city that really grabs you. it's a city with so many characters and when you read her book, you get a sense of so many
characters there because it nurtures creativity and caring, i think. >> if you have to make a choice, would you rather read fiction or nonfiction in. >> now, that's a hard choice, however, i would go for nonfiction. i love history. now, i can read will paul and all those things and all of that, but i really like to read things like the queen's bed, which is about -- it's about queen elizabeth the first and all the intrigue around that. history can sometimes be more exciting than fiction, so -- >> overtime a couple of weeks in nonfiction category that you really liked?
.. >> guest: at made me want to know which room and office and it was just while. c-span: what did you first meet michelle and barack obama? >> guest: in chicago. i was working and i had left the university of pittsburgh. i was teaching and there have been certain points in my life where the president made
decisions about do i continue with the academics in the back of public service of this was one of those times and i had arrived back in chicago from pittsburgh to be the deputy commissioner, chief librarian of the chicago public library where i started and the first lady was michelle robinson and working with the city administration, that's when i met her and then later her fiancé, and so that was something years later to meet and a professional setting and in different roles. c-span: how important do you think that connection way back then in chicago led to your choice as librarian? >> guest: i am not sure if it led to the choice. i think it was probably one of
the most ironic things to have a name put forward from a search that you say carla, yeah she's still the librarian, isn't she? but i had been part of a board, institute of library services so my name has in part of the professional library setting. c-span: you said you went to roosevelt in chicago and you even m.a. and ph.d. at the university of chicago. what was your dissertation about? >> guest: it was about serving young people in museums. i was working at the museum of science and industries in chicago and i was working to open the first public service library in a science museum in the country and that was really
interesting because most museum libraries aren't open to the public. they are for the curators and the educators and hear you are going to open up a library. it wasn't a living library but you are going to let these visitors come in and what were they going to do, so that got me really interested in not only special libraries but also museums so i took some courses and things and really started visiting museums and basically what i was saying at that time in the 80s is that libraries, public libraries in particular needed to use some of the methods that museums used to engage young people. the boston children's museum in all these museums and now you can go into public libraries all over the country and see play areas and see not just books but things as well. c-span: all right, a baltimore resident said to me this day,
when i said i was coming over to interview you, she was terrific in baltimore, doing the things you are talking about, the community stuff, trying to -- movie night. there's a fund-raiser i guess you had black-and-white every year. >> guest: young people dancing and connecting books and all of that. it's quite something. c-span: so when you worked in baltimore 23 years ago enoch pratt library, what is it, how many different branches, what did you do there that you were the most proud of? >> guest: in library school we studied the enoch pratt free library. it was an innovative library for your starting with mr. pratt when he established it. he was a philanthropist business person in baltimore at a time
when the city was growing and he picked the free library to fund. he said my libraries will be for all, rich or poor without distinction of race or color and that was in 1886 in a city that had racial challenges. so when i had the opportunity to go to the pratt library i didn't know with as much about all the more that i knew the pratt library. there are now 21 branches and everywhere i would go in baltimore people would have a pratt library story. people from all walks of life. they would name the branch and so what i'm most pleased pleased about is that over the time i've been there we have revitalized those branch libraries and we actually constructed the first
new library in that city in 35 years. that's a lifetime and we even had all of the senior staff members bring in a photograph of themselves at either five to 10 years old and we made a poster so that when we meet we would say what would a child now say 35 years now about what progress are remaking? that's why i'm staying in baltimore. c-span: how did you get a pulse in there that normally wouldn't go to library? >> guest: by making it relevant to their lives. there are lots of people in the city that have basic life challenges. they need health information. they need to get to computers to file for jobs. some require you to file on line and they don't have the access to computers to do that. flu shots, all types of things that ring people in and to make the library less intimidating
especially for people who have challenges with literacy. the last place you want to go if you can't. well is a library. so bringing in authors, bringing in popular programs was a way to start getting of 12 and letting them know it's a safe place for you whatever level you are coming from. c-span: as you came into library of congress 3200 employees, 600 some million dollar budget. >> guest: yes. c-span: what's the first thing you said i want to change in this? >> guest: it wasn't so much changing but keep it moving forward and there is a wonderful book, management book that i think about often about change and when you are changing or helping something move with
momentum is called teaching the elephant to dance. you have to be careful but how do you get it to move or to be nimble and things like that. so i really am excited about working with the staff members in the library of congress. they are really crackerjack, dedicated and helping the part of that because this library has changed in so many ways with the times. c-span: you came here and at the came here to the new law this is the librarian can only serve for 10 years. the last librarian serves almost 30 years. a good idea but they sure get? >> guest: there have been other librarians that have served even longer, 48 years i
think was one and so different times in the library of history. but 10 years have been longer or shorter. we have had lawyers, politicians, scholars, historians, authors along the way and i think at this point when there are so many opportunities but also challenges for technology and things are moving so rapidly to give an opportunity to step back and say where are we in 10 years and asks what do you hope to have accomplished in 10 years? if you can digitize at 162 million items that would be something so i think it's healthy to look at an institution at different periods of time. c-span: how much is digitize today? >> guest: i'm not sure and
that's come even though i have just been sworn in and i'm still investigating, i want to really get into the weeds with that and look at also i know that there are a number of collections for instance the rosa parks collection was just digitize and i have to see that and see the artifacts to work with the staff to say how many things are available on line, how many things are in the queue and i'm. sure there are a number of things and the number of whole collections that are ready. and to see if we can match some of those collections with potential donors who would help with the process. c-span: this is a question from someone who's never been to the library of congress and doesn't have a clue as to what they can see or do.
one of the fun things when i got my first library of congress card -- >> guest: people don't know that. c-span: what would you suggest to someone who's intimidated by the three big buildings? >> guest: and when you think about this temple of knowledge and information, it looks like a massive palace of information. we encourage people to come in. that's something i'm going to be working on quite soon is to make sure the public knows that not only can they come in to one of the only three copies of it gutenberg bible, they can see thomas jefferson's original library that helps start the library of congress at a certain time to really reach out to the public to let them know. it's difficult to put it in one type of thing so we will be
really working to say when you walk into the library what can you do? there's a young reader center. you can go into that and do things that you've never done before and you can go into the music department and see sheet music from decades and hundreds of years ago so that's a challenge. i think we need to. more about it. i want the american public in particular to know more about it, to know more. it's congress's library but it's also america's library. c-span: let's say somebody is watching and i want them to be able to walk in somewhere in this library system and say.your there carla hayden told me to come here and ask you how to see what i want to see. where would you send them? >> guest: the first thing a person should do is to go up to the wonderful information desk and talk to the person that is fair and there will be a person
there. c-span: the jefferson building? >> guest: the jefferson building. they can also go in the madison building and there's an addison building so you know there's a theme with the president. they can say, i'm interested in jerry lewis films. i'm interested in bob hope. i'm interested in the information you have about rosa parks. i'm interested in finding out something about my family's history. i'm visiting from iowa and i understand that you have newspapers that trying to find my great-grandfather. when they go for that information that's where you go, that's your first of contact and that person will tease out of you what you need and make that connection to this resource that is here and even in other places.
c-span: okay let's say they can travel here but you have all this digitize already on line. how do you figure out what's there? >> guest: that's where the power of technology really helps because the library's web site should be able to direct you almost in the same way so you are going to search and you are going to type in what you were looking for and you will get a response right on the screens to print. it's another getting into the weeds aspect that i'm excited about, making sure that web site is just as responsive almost as you talking to a person. people want be in the technology wilderness. bright director confirmation hearing this subject to the congressional research hearing came up and there seems to be a quiet movement afoot that the
public ought to see the product, what is it, 700 people in the research service produced from members of congress. what do you think in every study that anymore since her confirmation? >> guest: as the library and we all know that the congressional research service, and if the library of congress is like the special forces of the library. there are analysts and librarians and specialists in different areas that prepare research, nonpartisan research and analysis for the members of congress to inform their work and the reports are available by request from your particular member. if you know someone is working on something, and i think that i have heard different aspects of how much of the information and when the information should be
ready or available to the public so that's an area that is still being looked at because there's quite a bit of research that goes into forming a report. c-span: with a member if congress calls up the congressional research services and they say i need a report on the b-52 bomber. what is your personal instinct once there report was supplied to the member should have that be in the public domain? >> guest: i am not sure and i'm going to really be in the weeds for some of these aspects. that is a complex issue in terms of what was it prepared for, what is it informing and i think working with congress on it because it's going to be
congressional decision to find out how the members are really looking at what the congressional research service provides to them and i have already been in contact with some members about how do we look at this issue and really look at it in a way that will benefit congress and the people they serve. c-span: what is your sense of having talked to members of congress about the future of the budget for a place like this? >> guest: i must tell you that one of the most pleasant parts of the entire confirmation and nomination process has been meeting with members and really getting a sense of their sincere proof -- appreciation for the library of congress. a lot of them are adjusted in history. they read. they can borrow books and they
do. they are interested in the workings of the library and i think there is a lot of support for the library. c-span: there is enough support in this fiscal timelier and? >> guest: i am hoping that it will translate in that's why i'm really excited about working with the members and already i have gotten indications that they see the value of the library and appreciated. so that's a very good decision to be in as you are in an environment where there are physical checks and balances and things like that. there seems to be in much of the dispute about the value of the library. c-span: i have a political question. you are proved overwhelmingly however my memory is that 14
republicans voted against her confirmation? >> guest: i think that might be the tally. c-span: what was their recent? >> guest: from what i understand, there might have been concerned about some of my professional affiliations and not even affiliations that the stance of librarians that the group had taken. specifically in that segment because i was heading up a professional organization. i was representing 55,000 members and when you agree to be their representative, you are the spokesperson for the group and i'm a card-carrying member of the american library association, so that was an honor for me. it's also puts you in a different arena in terms of
being the spokesperson for particular views and i think there was some concern that in a role that is not representing a profession that i might still have strong views that i express about certain things. c-span: you are talking about the patriot act? >> guest: the patriot act and making sure people who get information freely without interference and things like that. c-span: are you comfortable the way the law is now in the patriot act? >> guest: yes in the profession is comfortable. basically their concerns were heard and there is a consciousness that in the balance of security you have to have that balance with personal liberty and it was it. difficult time when the act was
enacted. c-span: i want to give your time back in just a second but before we close that want to ask you to define what a librarian is beyond the obvious and why do people our librarians feel so strongly about their profession? guest:we like to say that librarians are the original search engines, that librarians are people who help other people with the information, their resources, even the entertainment that they need for their lives or they may want and that can help them distinguish for instance helpful information but they can also tell them what the latest novel is by a favorite author or if that particular thing is unfair.
librarians are people who help people in an information rich world. c-span: a question i didn't follow up on, by the way is your dad still live? >> guest: no. c-span: your mom is still with us. an only child. >> guest: an only child and it's interesting when you say is your dad still living, some of his music, he likes jazz and he was also a studio musician. he still taught music and everything but he was also a studio musician so sometimes i'm in a mall and i can or my dad playing in the background on a song and that's quite a feeling. c-span: who is your favorite jazz musician? >> guest: miles davis. i think it's because i actually met him and he was pretty cool
back then and i always felt that there was something about him and is in eight or 9-year-old, i didn't know how cool he was then but he was nice to me. c-span: you are probably not old enough to have been to mr. mr. kelly's in chicago. >> guest: i knew about the london house. my dad played at the london house but that was a group that took things and it was a quartet state can still hear their music or they knew about the london house. c-span: i saw earl hines. >> guest: that was something. chicago was something for music and still is a little bit. c-span: dr. carla hayden the new library of congress, thank you so much for your time. >> guest: thank you.