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Carla Hayden poised for confirmation to lead Library of Congress

Carla Hayden appears likely to win confirmation to lead the Library of Congress after a Senate committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance her appointment and a key Republican lawmaker said he hoped the Baltimorean would receive a vote by the full Senate by next month.

Hayden, the 63-year-old CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, was nominated by President Barack Obama to the post in February.

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The Cross Keys woman has vowed to help modernize the 216-year-old institution. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post.

Hayden sailed through her confirmation hearing in mid-April, and the Committee on Rules and Administration approved her nomination on a voice vote Thursday.

Facing little opposition, Hayden is positioned to leapfrog more controversial nominees in the Senate's schedule.

Sen. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who chairs the Rules Committee, said in a brief interview that he believes Hayden may win confirmation before Congress leaves town in mid-July for the presidential nominating conventions.

"That would certainly be my hope, that we get this done before recess, and the sooner the better," Blunt said. "The library's going to benefit from her leadership."

Hayden would succeed James H. Billington, a Ronald Reagan appointee who retired last fall after 28 years in the job. She would be the 14th librarian of Congress.

Before the committee voted, Blunt noted that a 2015 law will limit future librarians to a 10-year term with an option for reappointment.

Critics say the Library of Congress has failed to keep pace with basic improvements in technology. The next librarian will also face thorny questions about the U.S. Copyright Office.

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Some, including the current leadership, have asked Congress to separate the office from the library.

The Library of Congress, which serves lawmakers, federal agencies and the public, has a collection of more than 162 million items and adds 12,000 more each day.

Hayden's confirmation "will be a loss for Baltimore and the Enoch Pratt Free Library," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement, but "it will be America's gain."

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