Think Tank: The Library Of Congress Has Too Many Librarians, So We Should Reject New Nominee To Run It
from the are-you-fucking-crazy? dept
We were both surprised and happy when President Obama nominated the obviously well qualified Carla Hayden to be the new Librarian of Congress to succeed James Billington, whose tenure was considered such a disaster that staffers literally celebrated when he left:
The reaction inside the library was almost gleeful, as one employee joked that some workers were thinking of organizing a conga line down Pennsylvania Avenue. Another said it felt like someone opened a window.
?There is a general sense of relief, hope and renewal, all rolled into one feeling,? said one staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. ?Like a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.?
Maureen Moore, who retired in 2005 but volunteers at the library, said she and her friends were thrilled.
?It?s a great day for the library. The man has had 27 years to do good things, and he hasn?t,? she said.
When you get quotes like that — especially on the record — for someone retiring from a longstanding job, you know things were bad. And Hayden appears by almost any measure to be perfect for the job. She’s run large libraries, showing that she has the knowledge and administrative skills to run the Library of Congress. She’s also got experience dealing with a variety of policy issues, including ones around surveillance and access to information. I’ve spoken to many people who either know or have worked with Hayden, and I can’t recall ever hearing such levels of praise about anyone.
But, of course, some are unhappy about this. But with such a supremely qualified nominee, the attacks have been weird and getting weirder. We recently wrote about a laughable complaint that Hayden was “pro-obscenity” because she fought against mandatory porn filters on all computers in libraries. And now someone has pointed out a complaint from Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation, claiming that Hayden is unqualified for the position… because she’s a librarian. Really.
But the library?s enormous staff (3,244) already numbers countless credentialed librarians — the institution is hardly in need of another. That?s why the post of librarian of Congress has long been filled not by librarians, but by first-rank scholars and historians of national reputation. The librarian of Congress is in effect the nation?s ?scholar-in-chief.?
First of all, for someone advocating for a “scholar in chief” — it seems rather ironic that they insist the number of librarians in the Library of Congress is “countless” when he’s already given us the upper bound of employees at the Library (3,244). Now I’m no math expert, but surely this means that the number of librarians must be somewhat less than 3,244? And, last I checked, a number less than 3,244 remains… well… countable.
But, more to the point: WTF? To argue that a librarian shouldn’t lead the Library of Congress seems… ridiculous. And it’s not as if Hayden is being shifted from the checkout desk of a small regional library to the Librarian of Congress position. She’s been running the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore as its CEO and helped modernize and totally refresh that library. Meanwhile, von Spakovsky goes on to praise Billington as a scholar, despite the fact that basically everyone at the library despised him, and multiple reports had found that he basically ignored his job to focus on hobnobbing with the rich and famous. The Government Accountability Office put out a report noting that there was a massive leadership vacuum at the Library of Congress under Billington. And this is the guy that von Spakovsky praises as “a scholar”? If that’s what a scholar does, give me the librarian with actual administrative experience any day.
Of course, the real whining from von Spakovsky is what’s pretty blatantly stated in his post: he’s upset that President Obama pointed out the fact that Hayden would be the first woman or first African American to hold the post of Librarian of Congress. From that, he twists that statement into pretending it means those details are a part of her qualifications, or perhaps, her only qualifications.
Yet according to the president, among the chief qualifications for the office of Librarian of Congress — the chief administrator of the world?s largest library — are color and gender.
Except that’s bullshit. Nowhere did the President suggest any such thing. This is blatant dog whistle politics where the Heritage Foundation wants to pretend that this nomination is somehow an act of “affirmative action,” rather than an eminently qualified individual, who also happens to be female and black. The fact that the President pointed this out was not because it spoke to her qualifications, but because it’s a fact that the Librarian has always been a white male. It’s a noteworthy point, not a qualification.
Really, if these are the best “attacks” that anyone can come up with regarding Hayden, I’m fairly confident that she’s clearly ready for the job. No one can find anything legitimate against her, so they go with this kind of crap.