Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, PhD, was honored with the 2020 Excellence in Public Service Award from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. She is the 14th Librarian of Congress and is the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library. Hayden was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2016 and received Senate confirmation that same year. She was the first professional librarian appointed to the position in more than 60 years.
Hayden began her library career at the Chicago Public Library from 1973 to 1979 where she worked as an associate children's librarian, and from 1979 to 1982 as the young adult services coordinator. From 1982 to 1987, Hayden worked as a library services coordinator at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. She then moved to Pittsburgh, where she was an associate professor, teaching at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences from 1987 to 1991. Hayden then returned to Chicago and became deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library posts she held from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 to 2016, Hayden was the executive director of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services at the Pratt Library, which included an after-school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling.
During the 2015 protests of the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody, Hayden kept Baltimore's libraries open, an act for which she received extensive praise. When asked about the incident in a 2016 Time Magazine interview she stated that the library became a command center of sorts as many stores in the community closed, and that "we knew that [people] would look for that place of refuge and relief and opportunity." Also, Hayden continually championed the cause of civil liberties and freedom of information. She was president of the American Library Association (ALA) from 2003 to 2004. During her presidency, she was the leading voice of the ALA in speaking out against the newly passed United States Patriot Act. During her term, she succeeded, with the help of several civil liberties organizations, in getting Attorney General Ashcroft to declassify reports on the Act’s provisions. The section of the Act that allowed the FBI to demand private individuals’ library records was rescinded.
Hayden received a BA from Roosevelt University and an MA and PhD from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.
For more than 30 years, the Excellence in Public Service Award has been presented each summer during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and honors individuals who have a distinguished history of public service that led to more effective public administration. Drawing on the vision and achievements of Senator John Glenn, honorees reflect the ideals of their mission and inspire others to serve. The late Senator John Glenn was a decorated U.S. Marine aviator, a legendary NASA astronaut, and a tireless public servant.
This year’s ceremony was done virtually due to COVID restrictions.