Nation’s First African American and Woman to Serve as Librarian of Congress to Receive Honorary Degree from Rutgers–Camden May 17

By Tom McLaughlin

Carla D. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to serve as the U.S. Librarian of Congress, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Rutgers University–Camden during the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 17, the Rutgers University Board of Governors announced at its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 8.

The 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Photo by Shawn Miller

She also will deliver the keynote address for the Class of 2017 at that ceremony.

“Rutgers–Camden is proud to present an honorary degree to Carla Hayden during commencement this year,” says Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon. “Throughout her career, Dr. Hayden has demonstrated her commitment to the idea of equity in access in myriad ways, particularly regarding the importance of equal access to information as a core element of our democracy.

“Dr. Hayden is the leader of the world’s largest library and one of the nation’s most passionate champions of equity in access to information.  She is the ideal role model to charge graduating students to take what they learned at Rutgers–Camden and work to improve their communities and world,” concludes Haddon.

Hayden is the 14th person to lead the Library of Congress in the nation’s history. One of only three trained librarians to ever hold the office, she was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama on Feb. 24, 2016, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13, and sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on Sept. 14.

“Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today’s digital culture,” said Obama when nominating her.

As head of the world’s largest library, Hayden manages the preservation of millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts; oversees compliance with copyright law, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; and directs research for both chambers of Congress. She also appoints the U.S. Poet Laureate and awards the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

In 2010, Hayden was nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board. She was also president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004.

Prior to her current position, Hayden served as the longtime head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the free public library system of Baltimore. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services for the library system, which included an after-school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling.

Hayden also previously served as deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993, an assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991, and a library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982 to 1987.

She began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the young adult services coordinator from 1979 to 1982 and as a library associate and children’s librarian from 1973 to 1979.

Hayden received a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University and a master’s degree and doctorate from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.

Rutgers University–Camden will confer the honorary degree to the Librarian of Congress during the ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, which is the largest academic unit at Rutgers–Camden, at the BB&T Pavilion on the Camden Waterfront at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 17.  Additional ceremonies will be held at the same location on Wednesday, May 17, and Thursday, May 18.  For more information about Commencement 2017 at Rutgers University–Camden, visit

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