5 minute read

Carla D. Hayden Biography


Library director

Carla D. Hayden served as president of the American Library Association for a one-year term beginning in 2003. A veteran of the Chicago and Baltimore public library systems, Hayden won praise for taking a tough stance against the Patriot Act of 2001, a federal law which forced public libraries to comply with Federal Bureau of Investigation requests about patrons' records.

Born on August 10, 1952, in Tallahassee, Florida, Hayden grew up in Chicago and earned her undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University in the city. She went on to earn two advanced degrees, including a Ph.D., from the University of Chicago's Graduate Library School. She began her career with the Chicago Public Library in 1973 as a library associate and children's librarian. Six years later, she became young adult services coordinator with the Chicago system, one of the largest in the United States.

Between 1982 and 1987, Hayden served as library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Chicago's leading cultural institutions. She moved on to the University of Pittsburgh, where she became an associate professor at its School of Library and Information Science, but returned to her native city in 1991 when she was offered a second-in-command post at the Chicago Public Library as deputy commissioner and chief librarian. Two years later, she accepted an offer to become executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. The Pratt had been a pioneering free library, open to all, and had served the city admirably for nearly a century. Named after the wealthy merchant who established it, the Pratt was anchored by a central branch with four other locations, and its charter stipulated that it should be run by a self-perpetuating board of trustees and remain free of the political fray or city budget constraints. It had its own endowment, and its services served as a model for scores of other urban American library systems over the next several decades.

By the time Hayden arrived, however, the Pratt had fallen on hard times, beset by budget woes and aging buildings. Hayden helped revitalize the system, working with both the board and the city. She updated its technology and had an annex for the central library built thanks to a private fundraising campaign. She also improved its outreach services to the neighborhoods it served, especially with an after-school center open to teens that offered homework assistance as well as college and career counseling. For her work Hayden was honored with the Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal magazine in 1995, becoming the first African American to win the professional accolade.

Hayden's high profile, thanks to her work at Pratt, made her a natural for the candidacy of the American Library Association (ALA) presidency. In 2002, she stood for election for the 2003-2004 year, which would include a 2002 stint as vice president. She was the third African-American librarian to win election to the oldest and largest professional organization of librarians in the world. Headquartered in Chicago, the ALA has 64,000 members from 16,000 public libraries in the United States. Its president sets an agenda for the year that helps public librarians in America focus on the needs of the communities they serve.

Upon winning the election, Hayden announced that "equity of access" was one of her primary goals for the year. As she explained in the ALA journal American Libraries, "equity of access can be defined as people having the right to unlimited library services and materials—no matter their age, ethnicity, physical ability, income, language, geographic location, or the type of library they are using," and urged her colleagues to "rededicate ourselves to maintaining that seamless web that helps our customers reach their dreams. Libraries and librarians are truly lifelines for so many."

Hayden rose to her greatest challenge when she openly challenged the Patriot Act, which had been passed by Congress just weeks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Some of its more controversial measures, designed to improve domestic security in the United States and safeguard against further attack, were viewed as violations of protections guaranteed to American citizens under the Constitution. These dealt with the powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its interest in monitoring citizens without their knowledge. One section of the Patriot Act allowed the FBI to access library records to look for the names of borrowers who checked out books the Bureau thought could be linked to terrorism. Another section of that law specified that if a librarian informs a patron about the FBI surveillance, they faced punishment that could include jail. "With this act, the government doesn't have to show cause that a crime has been committed to spy on people," Essence writer Barbara Reynolds quoted Hayden as saying. "In fighting the war on terrorism, we must ensure that our civil liberties are not the greatest casualty."

Hayden was so vocal in her fight against this part of the Patriot Act that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft personally telephoned her and promised to declassify reports related to FBI surveillance. Undaunted, Hayden was instrumental in leading the ALA to team with the American Booksellers Association for a signature drive and petition to Congress to revise this section of the Patriot Act. For this effort, Ms. Magazine named her one of its ten Women of the Year for 2003. She remains director of the Pratt Library system.

At a Glance …

Born Carla Diane Hayden on August 10, 1952, in Tallahassee, FL. Education: Roosevelt University, BA, 1973; University of Chicago, MA, 1977, PhD, 1987.

Career: Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL, associate librarian and children's librarian, 1973-79, young-adult services coordinator, 1979-82, deputy commissioner and chief librarian, 1991-93; Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, library services coordinator, 1982-87; School of Library and Information Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, associate professor, 1987-91; Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD, executive director, 1993–.

Memberships: American Library Association, vice president, 2002, president, 2003-2004.

Awards: Librarian of the Year, Library Journal, 1995; Loyola College, Andrew White Medal, 1995; Johns Hopkins University, President's Medal, 1998; Ms. magazine, Woman of the Year, 2003; Maryland Daily Record, Maryland's Top 100 Women, 2003.

Addresses: Office—Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD 21201-4484.



Notable Black American Women, Book 3, Gale, 2002.


American Libraries, June-July 2002, p. 10; August 2003, p. 5; January 2004, p. 8; June-July 2004, p. 46.

Essence, July 2004, p. 34.

Jet, March 4, 1996, p. 22.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, p. 44.

Time for Kids, September 12, 2003, p. 7.

—Carol Brennan

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to Sew