Today, the US Senate confirmed Carla Hayden as the next librarian of Congress, making her the first African-American woman to hold the position, which oversees the Library of Congress and which has responsibilities over copyright and the DCMA law.
Hayden is certainly qualified for the position. As Publishers Weekly noted in its endorsement, her confirmation both reflects the need to modernize the Library of Congress and sends an important message about inclusiveness. They write:
With her broad experience (she has worked as a children’s and young adult librarian in Chicago, and has managed a great urban library system in Baltimore), Hayden is well equipped to naturally reposition LC as not just a research library, but a library in service to the American people, extending our complex cultural heritage beyond the walls of the Jefferson Building. And the fact that Hayden would be both the first African-American and the first woman to serve as librarian of Congress signals inclusiveness and makes it clear who belongs in the library as user, library worker, and leader. The importance of that message cannot be overstated.
Hayden was also endorsed by the American Library Association and other library groups, who specifically praised her work, suggesting that her “understanding of digital technology [would] make the Library of Congress the pre-eminent national library in the world.”
Even the free market think tank R Street endorsed Hayden, arguing that blocking Hayden would have hurt public access and the Library:
For the Library of Congress to be maximally useful to scholars, and to Congress, it needs to be managed by an experienced administrator with a deep understanding of information management and a track record of modernizing collections and managing the deployment of information technology. Efforts to obstruct Hayden’s confirmation and replace her with God-knows-what will only perpetuate the library’s lack of effective leadership and, by extension, weaken Congress’ ability to constrain executive power.
Easy call, right? Apparently not for some Senate Republicans, including our Senator Steve Daines. One Senator put a hold on her nomination for over five weeks, and today when the vote finally happened, Daines was one of eighteen Republican members of the body to vote against this qualified, endorsed candidate for the job.
While no Republicans in the Senate have had the courage to explain their opposition to Ms. Hayden, her nomination was probably blocked, according the insiders, because she opposed the Patriot Act and laws that mandated intrusive filters on library computers. Back in 2003, Hayden took the right stand on the Patriot Act:
As president of the ALA, Hayden in 2003 railed against the “possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration,” which she said “undermines a democratic society.”
It only seems fitting, then, that her nomination for this position was held up by the least democratic traditions of the Senate. And it would seem fitting for Senator Daines to explain why he voted against such a qualified candidate. Daines, it seems was more interested in representing the interests of bigots at The Weekly Standard and National Review, who seem incapable of believing that an African-American woman can lead an organization like the Library of Congress.
Somehow, I suspect he will follow one library rule, and just stay quiet about his vote. And that’s hardly representing us.