President Barack Obama announced on February 24, 2016, that he had decided to select and nominate Dr. Carla Hayden to serve as Librarian of the United States Congressional Library. If confirmed by the United States Senate, Dr. Hayden will be the first African American and the first female to serve in this intellectually important position with significant symbolic relevance for the nation and the world. One may wonder why it has taken so long for this achievement from an affirmative action perspective. Each former president could perhaps give a different reason for this failure or oversight but the important observation is worthy of celebration now that it has finally reached this level of action. Unlike some other nominations and confirmations, this one is not expected to encounter any opposition. Our celebration is not premature.
I welcomed this announcement and notification coming to me a few days ago from President Obama and applaud this another first coming from his pens of special announcements.
Another special appointment coming from this area of government is the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. This position serves as the nation’s official inspiration for the poetic taste of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to create or expand the national awareness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The position is filled annually by the Librarian of Congress. These actions have been implemented by acts of Congress. That says something about the importance of such to the nation’s wellbeing.
Our libraries should be to our minds what great restaurants, buffets, and grandmothers’ kitchens are to our bodies.
As a nation, we may give more attention to the appointment of a surgeon general but that does not detract from the appointment of the Librarian of Congress. Our boys and girls and adults need to utilize our library systems and exalt them for their intellectual contributions to the greatness of America. It does not get the attention our senators give to filling Supreme Court vacancies or even the selection of commanding generals of the military but any less attention given to the significance of the Library of Congress is more of an adverse reflection on Congress and the general public than on this institution of wisdom and knowledge.
Robert Hayden, the first African American Poet Laureate (The Negro Almanac, H. Plosky and R. Brown, Bellweather Publishing, 1967, p. 688), Maya Angelo, a recent appointee (Life’s Work, Alison Beard, Harvard Business Review, May 2013), and James Weldon Johnson, another historically recognized African American poet (The Negro Almanac, H. Plosky and R. Brown, Bellweather Publishing, New York, p. 688, 1967), made their artistic marks in American History through poetry.
America is a tad more gentle with a bigger heart because of the contributions of great writers, readers, and thinkers. Dr. Carla Hayden is an American librarian. She is the current CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, and was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004, (Baltimore Magazine, Dec. 2015). Our libraries should be to our minds what great restaurants, buffets, and grandmothers’ kitchens are to our bodies. It is most unfortunate to see boys and girls showing signs of under-nourishment, hunger, and malnutrition while surrounded by great cooks and eateries tossing good food into garbage cans. And so it is when we observe some of those same children coming from homes that have no books and no magazines while public libraries and home libraries are filled with books which require careful dusting on a weekly basis.
Remember to pray this or a similar prayer for Dr. Hayden: Creator and source of all things good, please bless Dr. Hayden and her team of associates with wisdom to see that all brains matter and that all citizens need good reading materials. Help every child to learn to read and then to read. And help every parent to discover there are solutions to all problems in books that are available to all. Bless that we will open our minds as we open our eyes and feast on books as we feast on healthy foods. Amen.