Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, discussed the future of libraries in the digital age, stressing the importance of digitizing archives and providing the tools for research to as wide an audience as possible.
Hayden spoke in Copley Formal Lounge on Friday, Sept. 29. Artemis Kirk, Georgetown’s university librarian who retired on Friday after 16 years of working at Lauinger Library, was also in attendance, along with Frank and Kathleen Lauinger.
Hayden then moved on to talking about her position as Librarian of Congress, to which she was appointed in 2016 after an interview with President Obama. In terms of specific goals for the future of the Library of Congress in the digital age, Hayden said that she wants to digitize the vast archives the library holds to ensure that more content is made available while not compromising the integrity or losing any of the content. She said that she wants to try to make the Library of Congress’ database more accessible across the nation, which means more digitization and finding new avenues for expanding the library’s reach.
An audience member asked a question concerning whether or not book stacks would be moved out of the Library of Congress in the near future, following the example of the San Antonio Public Library. Hayden said that many public libraries are making towards maker spaces and learning labs, and that digitization is a priority moving forward.
University president John DeGioia delivered the opening remarks, in which he praised Hayden’s accomplishments as the first African-American and the first female Librarian of Congress.
Hayden discussed how she got started in the library profession. She described herself as an “accidental librarian,” as she recounted an interaction she had with a colleague before getting hired at her first library position in the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore. The colleague tipped her off about the position, and she ended up getting hired. “I was just trying to get a job,” she said.
Ari Goldstein (COL ‘18) said that he was impressed with Hayden’s story, and that there is no department that is more essential to Georgetown’s mission as a university. He commented that Hayden’s explanation of the changing mission of libraries is fascinating.
“She explained that, historically, libraries existed in order to store information. In the digital age, however, most information is stored on the internet, so the mission of libraries has shifted from storing information to facilitating access to information,” Ari wrote in an email to the Voice.
“This explanation makes me excited because I feel like it’s exactly the type of adjustment that’s needed in order to sustain libraries in the digital age and because it opens up so many opportunities for library innovation.”