A man holding a newspaper in the Marysville Library barely glanced up when Carla Hayden walked past. Heeding a sign in the library’s quiet zone, she gave a little wave. He went back to his reading.
Several minutes later, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen thanked library patrons whose time there Thursday may have been interrupted. “It’s not often the top librarian in the world” comes to visit, said Larsen, a Democrat who represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District.
Hayden is the Librarian of Congress. Her trip from the other Washington included visits last week to Sno-Isle’s Marysville Library, the Everett Public Library, and libraries in Seattle, Camas and Yakima.
Nominated to head the Library of Congress by former President Barack Obama in 2016, she represents a trio of firsts: she’s the first woman and first African-American named to the post, and the first professional librarian to oversee the world’s largest library in more than 60 years.
“The cool thing visiting local libraries is the community focus,” said Hayden, 66. “Libraries are always the safe place.”
She joined Larsen, Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson and staff for a Marysville Library tour. The highlight was story time, when dozens of children heard from two readers of distinction.
In keeping with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, Hayden read “It’s Only Stanley.” Kids giggled as she shared the tale of a family dog’s nighttime invention of a rocket ship to the moon. Larsen captivated kids with his animated reading of “Penguinaut!”
Hayden pointed out a self-checkout machine and said “libraries had them before grocery stores.” She talked with Eric Spencer, the Marysville Library’s manager, about public access to printing services and online job applications.
The 14th Librarian of Congress, Hayden was nominated to a 10-year term that future presidents could renew.
Established in 1880, the Library of Congress boasts more than 155 million items in its collection. They include Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, a map Meriwether Lewis and William Clark likely carried while exploring the American West, and a huge stash of comic books.
Because of Hayden’s visit, the library in Washington, D.C., will have five books with a Northwest spin presented by Sno-Isle Libraries: “Urban Trails: Everett,” “Final Deception: A Whidbey Island Mystery,” “Contemporary Coast Salish Art,” “Tulalip: From My Heart” and “Whidbey Island: Reflections on People and the Land.”
Before heading the Library of Congress, Hayden was CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library, the public library system in Baltimore. At the Everett Public Library on Thursday, she reconnected with a onetime colleague.
“She’s my former boss. I started my professional career at the Enoch Pratt Free Library,” said Abby Cooley, who became the Everett Public Library’s director in 2018. “Here, we have a wonderful library to show her. It brought my career full circle.”
Cooley described Hayden as “a true advocate for libraries, and accessibility for people.” A former president of the American Library Association, Hayden is leading the effort to make Library of Congress materials available online.
The Librarian of Congress gifted several books to the Everett Library: “Lillian’s Right to Vote,” “Missy, the Mister: One Chick’s Journey to Living a Marvelous Life,” “The Dependents,” “Making the Elephant Man,” “Candide” and “The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures,” compiled by the Library of Congress with a foreword by Hayden.
In interviews with The New York Times and other publications, Hayden has mentioned books she loves — Pat Conroy’s “My Reading Life” and James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” among them — but hasn’t picked one favorite. As a child, it was “Bright April,” about an African-American girl with pigtails.
“I thought I looked like her,” Hayden told Time magazine’s Sarah Begley in 2016. “What’s so important about kids’ books, they can be windows to introduce them to the world, but they also need to see a reflection.”
Larsen talked about his boyhood visits to the Arlington Library. “Every Wednesday night, we’d pile into the station wagon and bring home books,” he said, adding that he’s a big fan of Hayden and the Library of Congress.
“She runs the library of the world,” he told kids gathered for story time.