What does the librarian at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. have in common with my dad?
It wouldn’t seem like much.
Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th librarian of the Library of Congress in September, 2016. She is the first woman to hold the job, as well as the first African American. After earning her graduate degrees from the University of Chicago, Hayden was a children’s librarian early in her career, then a librarian for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and later the chief librarian for Chicago Public Library and the Baltimore library.
My dad, on the other hand, was just my dad. Hard worker, chemical engineer and economist. Taught me how to bunt and get a good lead before I stole second base. Great dad, but what does he have in common with this librarian?
Carla Hayden and the late Henry Wallace have one very important thing in common: A fierce belief that knowledge from a public library can provide its citizens better information, teach them to find accurate information and give those library users a hand up to a better life.
“There is plenty of information out there, you have to be smart enough to know which information will help you the most,” my dad taught me about investing. This was long before “Fake News,” but I think dad knew fake, misguided or “out-of-your-ever-lovin’-mind” crazy news when he saw it.
It’s not like fake news was invented yesterday, dad would probably tell us today.
“The good thing about ‘fake news’ is that there is a discussion about what’s fake and what’s real,” Hayden said in a recent interview. “Librarians have been pounding on this issue in a different way for a while – that just having computer literacy is great, but as information professionals, we’re always looking at what’s the most authoritative source for the information and teaching information literacy.”
Yep, that’s what dad pounded into me. “Get the right data in order to make an informed decision,” he would say. Dad would have despised Wikkipedia.
Every Tuesday evening as a kid, I knew what was on the schedule: Finish dinner, gather up the books and head downtown to the library. We spent a couple of hours looking for books we liked to read as well as dad teaching us how to use the library and find accurate information.
“You have to be able to know the difference between good information and good information that can help you,” Dad once said.
“It’s great to have all this stuff, but you need to teach how to use the library in schools,” Hayden said. “They need to be teaching information literacy as soon as the kid can push a button.”
It’s through the library – with online or at a brick building location – you can get the best information available on topics ranging from real estate to auto repair to cooking and thousands of other topics.
The public library provides an essential freedom we should recognized this July 4th – access to quality information.