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.

Filed Under: carla hayden, hans von spakovsky, james billington, librarian of congress, librarians, scholars
Companies: heritage foundation


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 8:47am

    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.

    Ha! You took a rhetorical flourish and showed that it's not literally true. Epic tear down, Mike! You are so fucking awesome! And we all know that you never ever ever exaggerate anything. You are my hero!

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 8:53am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      Let the record show that Spakovsky is a racist, misogynist fuckwit who works for a racist, misogynist organization.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 8:55am

    If the Library of Congress has so many librarians that we can't have one be its chief, then Congress already has too many politicians, and therefore the Senate and House Leadership needs to not be politicians, and the Courts have so many lawyers, that maybe the Supreme Court shouldn't have lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 9:23am

    Just looked Hans Von Spakovsky, and guess what, he would fit into James Billington's shoes just fine, and be just as hated; as the justice department objected to his nomination to the FEC.

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  • icon
    streetlight (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 9:31am

    Must be a slow news day.

    NT

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 9:33am

    That's not really twisting anything

    It may be ridiculous to complain about a librarian running the Library of Congress, but I can't agree with this statement:

    "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."

    I don't think that's twisting it. The quote from Obama is:

    "If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position -- both of which are long overdue."

    By saying it's overdue, he's implying that it IS important to somehow get a woman and/or African American into the position, just for the sake of doing that.

    And the very first comment on the TechDirt article announcing her nomination said "And YES it's about damn time that someone other than a white middle-aged male ran the LoC." Clearly, some people do think this is important.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DCL, 1 Jul 2016 @ 10:58am

      Re: That's not really twisting anything

      I didn't know the original quote, but when I read it in your post I understood the ending "..both of which are long overdue" as a dig at the idea that being white and male were defacto job requirements for the position and did not read it as it being "new requirement'.

      A summary look at the history of the position shows that the white male requirement does not seem to be a critical qualification that guarantees a successful tenure in the role. That is unless the role is to schmooze and party with wealthy white guys, but other then the potential for (personal) money making I don't see how focusing on social events helps you run a education and research support institute that has lagged greatly in the new age of the internet.

      Personally I don't care that nominee is of any specific color or gender, race or religion... but I DO care and am excited to see that a well qualified person is not being EXCLUDED just because of those things.

      Sadly some people still want gender and color to matter in such things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 11:35am

      Re: That's not really twisting anything

      And the very first comment on the TechDirt article announcing her nomination said "And YES it's about damn time that someone other than a white middle-aged male ran the LoC." Clearly, some people do think this is important.

      That was my comment, IIRC.

      And I'm a white middle-aged male.

      And yes, I think it's important BUT I also think it's important that Carla Hayden is insanely qualified for this position. So not only would this replace the incumbent -- who's been essentially worthless for a quarter century -- with someone who has an excellent track record, it'd also help bring just a little bit more diversity to the upper levels of government...which are, despite the best efforts of a lot of people, still overwhelming dominated by middle-aged white men.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re: That's not really twisting anything

        The last guy wasn't middle-aged when he left, though, unless you have a very strange definition of middle-aged.

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      • icon
        Access Neutral (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re: That's not really twisting anything

        I am a librarian and have worked in public, academic, and special libraries. I am not qualified to be the Librarian of Congress. I have nothing against Carla Hayden. Don't know the woman; never worked in her system. But how is Carla Hayden "insanely qualified," or even any more qualified than any head of one of the over 9,000 public library administrative units in the country, to serve as Librarian of Congress?
        (source for numbers: http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet01)

        What is an "excellent track record"? I am not doubting that she has one. I am not arguing that Billington did what he needed to do. But what is the goal of crowning this particular nominee with such adulatory praise, when there are probably another 9,000+ equally worthy candidates -- if heading a public library system is a factor in choosing the Librarian of Congress?

        She stood up to Ashcroft. What president of ALA would not have done so?

        If she becomes the Librarian of Congress, I wish her well in the post; but I am still not getting why she, in particular, is "insanely qualified."

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 2 Jul 2016 @ 9:02am

      Re: That's not really twisting anything

      "By saying it's overdue, he's implying that it IS important to somehow get a woman and/or African American into the position, just for the sake of doing that."

      No, he's not. He's simply saying that it's long overdue that gender and race are no longer considered to be qualifications as important as they used to be.

      Which is a good thing.

      I take his implication as the opposite of your interpretation.

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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 1 Jul 2016 @ 10:32am

    Pretty obvious

    Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation is a good-ol-boy. Can't have some uppity black woman in the ranks, no sir!

    Perhaps they should rename it the White Heritage Foundation.

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  • identicon
    Whoever, 1 Jul 2016 @ 11:23am

    "Think tank"

    They may call themselves a think tank, but there is very little thinking going in in that organization, beyond the question of how do they best promote the viewpoint of their paymasters.

    They think that the term "think tank" may lead naive people into thinking that they are in some way neutral, and perhaps some people are conned by this. Anyone who reads news with a critical mindset will recognize that this is an organization that is devoted to and promotes a far-right viewpoint.

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    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 12:37pm

      Re: "Think tank"

      They do think. They think about how to spin their agenda. And their target audience is the majority of people, you know, those who do NOT read news with a critical mindset.

      So, everything you said is true, but spun for critical thinkers, who are in the minority.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      michael, 1 Jul 2016 @ 6:56pm

      Re: "Think tank"

      Keep in mind that the Heritage Foundation actually created the individual mandate (which Democrats - particularly Hillary - were against at the time) which went on to become RomneyCare, and then ObamaCare.

      They actually do produce interesting work occasionally. This comment is not among them.

      /librarian, who thought Billington was a borderline imbecile

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 2 Jul 2016 @ 3:27pm

      Re: "Think tank"

      A tax dodge is when you dodge taxes, and a think tank is when you tank thinking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 11:33am

    Wow. Mike you are no longer even pretending to care about tech. You have become a partisan Democrat site. Way to go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Craig, 1 Jul 2016 @ 12:57pm

    No matter how President Obama pitched this nomination he would get political flack from the right. Emphasize her CEO experience they would say we need a librarian from thw lower ranks even though she is one. There is no win for him . He could nominate anyone and those that oppose him will blow out of proportion anything they think will hurt the President or the nominee.

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  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 7:49pm

    Is it just me, or does "Hans von Spakovsky" sound like a name created by a pulp hack who couldn't decide whether to make the villain a Nazi or a Commie?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2016 @ 3:41am

    Your defense of Obama's comments at the end really made me smile. You hit a target a mile wide -- in dead center!

    Mike, I understand that someone has to point out how venal and weak these people's arguments are. And you make it look easy. But in this case, I think it really WAS easy.

    Still, it has to be done!

    Critique that spam!

    And you make it so funny. 3244 employees, including countless librarians...!

    By the way, just for the record: you're not going to find a scholar who's going to object to a librarian running a library.

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  • identicon
    Theresa May, 4 Jul 2016 @ 6:00pm

    The internet has too many users. Spy them all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve Hayes, 5 Jul 2016 @ 12:14pm

    Librarian of Congress

    We all know that most everyone think THEY can run a library better that a librarian. It's been that way on campus, why should some people think anything different.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jacob Longshore, 5 Jul 2016 @ 10:04pm

    Generally right, but...

    "...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."

    This criticism has nothing to do with the point von Spakovsky's made. He's talking about Billington's credentials, his track record; yes, he did scholarly work before taking the post, Hayden not so much - that's the point. Masnick gets carried away.

    Yes, the argument is bogus, but not because he had a low reputation. It's a lane argument because the qualifications for Librarian of Congress probably don't necessitate scholarship. I say "probably" because I haven't read the job description. Billington wasn't despised for not doing scholarly work, it was because he didn't do his job at all. But that's beside the point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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