CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) — Rutgers-Camden’s commencement is Wednesday, and the keynote speaker controls one of the nation’s most important collections of books, and she’s cracking glass ceilings.
Since 1800, the Library of Congress has been run by men. That is, until July when Carla D. Hayden, an appointee of President Barack Obama, was sworn in by the US Senate.
Hayden is the first woman as well as the first African American to fill the post, which has a renewable 10-year term.
“As a descendant of people who were denied the right to read,” she says, “to have this opportunity to lead an institution, which is really a symbol for knowledge is really an historic moment.”
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It contains 162 million items, with more than 800 miles of shelving and more than 170 special collections.
The 200 year old institution is also at the forefront innovation, using technology to share the vast collection with the world.
“It’s a challenging position given the size of the collection,” says Hayden, “but our staff even those who have been here 30 or 40 years discover something new every day, so you never get bored.”
Hayden whose career began at universities and colleges in Chicago, rose to become president of the American Library Association.
Her most recent position, was the head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore, overseeing a four year, $112 million dollar renovation.
She attributes her success to assistance from others.
“My journey was filled with people who helped me from family to family friends to colleagues,” she says.
As for her favorite past time at no surprise involves books.
“I looove going to old quirky book stores,” she says.
Hayden says she’s likely read thousands of tomes.
“If you add the ones I’ve skimmed many more,” she says.
Haydon will share her wisdom Wednesday at at 6 p.m. the BB&T Pavillion.