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Librarian of congress lectures at Dalhousie

Carla Hayden is the 14th librarian of Congress, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2016. Hayden is the first Black librarian of Congress and the first woman to serve in the position. 

She spoke at a digital lecture hosted by Dalhousie University on Feb. 1. 

The library is essentially the national library of the United States of America. It serves the Congress for research purposes and is the oldest cultural institution in the U.S. 

The lecture was open to all members of the Dalhousie community. It focused on library engagement in a pandemic and post-pandemic virtual world.  

Opening the door 

Hayden spoke about the importance of library engagement and some of the ways anyone, including students here at Dalhousie, can engage with the library of Congress’s historical material. The library includes novels, manuscripts, comic books, films, audio recordings, sheet music, newspapers, microfilm, government documents and more.  

“During the pandemic, we had to find different ways of opening the library door, of encouraging people to engage with all this learning and knowledge,” Hayden said during the lecture. “In the post-pandemic, we will continue these online access points to the library, we’ll keep all the library doors open.” 

Libraries in the digital age 

Hayden believes keeping these digital doors open to everyone encourages equity in accessing information. “This pandemic has been transformative to all of us, and we need to anticipate the emerging needs of students and researchers and communities and families.” 

One of the projects Hayden showcased was the citizen DJ experiment, which allows people to remix audio files from the library of Congress into hip-hop music. Old jazz and blues recordings, folk and soul music, speeches and other audio files can be explored and remixed on the site. 

“This was used so much during the pandemic … by embedding these materials in hip-hop, music listeners can discover materials in the library’s collection that they never knew existed,” said Hayden. 

“This became one of the most popular access points during the pandemic, and post-pandemic we’re going to expand it, maybe we’ll get some Grammy’s out of it.” 

The citizen DJ experiment was created by the library of Congress’s innovator in residence, Brian Foo.  

“Anyone can apply to be an innovator in residence, even people at Dalhousie. You don’t have to be an American.” 

The program supports creative and innovative uses of the library’s vast collection to create engaging products for Americans that enrich their lives or work.  

Another interesting online feature created during the pandemic was the speculative annotation tool, which invites people to annotate library materials in creative ways. People can use the tool to draw and write on historical materials. 

Messages for the future 

Hayden said she understands students are comfortable with technology and wants to see libraries adapt to that.  

But she also said students need to be patient and understanding of older generations as things move and develop online. 

The lecture took place as part of the Dalhousie-Horrocks National Leadership Fund in memory of Norman Horrocks, a Professor Emeritus of Dalhosuies’s School of Information Management. “Horrocks was somewhat of a mentor to me,” said Hayden. 

Hayden was the president of the American Library Association when Horrocks was awarded its highest honour, the title of Honourary Member, in 2004. He was the only person to have been named an honourary member of three national library associations: British, Canadian and American.  

Horrocks joined Dalhousie in 1971, he worked in the School of Library Service and later became the dean of the Faculty of Administrative Studies (now the Faculty of Management). A British spy during World War II, he would never forget a face or name, according to the university’s website. Horrocks passed in 2010 in Halifax.  

The event was chaired by Sandra Toze, director of Dalhousie’s School of Management. “It’s an honour to have Carla here with us, and to recognize this connection with Dalhousie,” said Toze. 


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