The American Association of Geographers invites attendees of the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., to join in celebration of Carla Hayden at the AAG Atlas Award Ceremony. Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, will deliver a keynote address at noon on Friday, April 5, after being presented with the 2019 AAG Atlas Award, the association’s highest honor.

Sworn in as the current Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016, Hayden is both the first woman and the first African American to serve in the position. She is also the first professional librarian to hold the office in more than 60 years. Hayden was recommended to serve as the librarian by former president Barack Obama in February 2016. Following an extensive social media campaign organized by the American Library Association (#Hayden4LOC) urging thousands of library advocates to contact their senators and appeal for the confirmation of Hayden as the new librarian, Hayden was appointed on July 13, 2016.

Hayden has long been an outspoken advocate for the role of librarians as activists, championing equal access to libraries and information. Prior to her position as the Librarian of Congress, Hayden was the CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md. (1993-2016) where she started an outreach program for teens that included homework assistance, as well as college and career counseling. For these efforts, Hayden was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in 1995. She also made the 2016 list of Fortune magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and won the 2018 Newberry Library Award for Service to the Humanities.

Hayden has practiced her belief that librarians serve as activists: during the 2015 Baltimore protests as a result of the killing of Freddie Gray, she kept the library open as a refuge and opportunity center while many other businesses and public areas were closed down. While serving as the President of the American Library Association from 2003-2004, she vocally opposed the Patriot Act in support of the privacy of library users. In her new role as the Librarian of Congress she plans to modernize and digitize the vast collections in the Library of Congress to make them more accessible to all Americans while also preserving and respecting their historic structure and significance.

Hayden holds Bachelors of Arts degrees in history and political science from Roosevelt University and both a Master of Arts and Doctorate in library science from the Graduate Library School of University of Chicago. Prior to joining the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore she was the deputy commissioner and chief librarian of Chicago Public Library from 1991-1993, an assistant professor for library and information science at University of Pittsburgh from 1987-1991, and the library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982-1987. She began her career as a children’s librarian and then young adult services coordinator with the Chicago Public Library.

The AAG Atlas Award, bestowed every other year, recognizes and celebrates outstanding, internationally-recognized leaders who advance world understanding in exceptional ways. The image of Atlas bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders is a powerful metaphor for this award program, as our nominees are those who have taken the weight of the world on their shoulders and moved it forward, whether in science, politics, scholarship, the arts, or in war and peace. Previous Atlas Awardees include primatologist Jane Goodall, international human rights and political leader Mary Robinson, civil rights icon Julian Bond, and public intellectual Noam Chomsky.