Carla Hayden, head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, was confirmed Wednesday as Librarian of Congress for a ten-year term.

The Senate vote was 74-18. This looks good—a real, live public librarian ending up as head of the largest and most powerful library in the U.S. Most LoC leaders have not been professional librarians. The last trained pro to be more than an acting librarian was Lawrence Quincy Mumford, who served from 1954 to 1974, when the appointment in effect was for life.

Not only that, Hayden is the first African-American and first woman to hold the job, and she is regarded as tech hip, a contrast to James Billington, trained as a historian rather than a librarian.

LoC’s long-time leader preferred fax over e-mail. Under him the library did make some progress  in the digital area. It’s just that it wasn’t enough. Government reports depicted LoC as a tech backwater.

Hayden, on the other hand, was “widely credited with advancing technology at the 22-branch Enoch Pratt system, itself a historic institution,” as reported in the Baltimore Sun. “She boosted the number of computers available to patrons and rapidly expanded the library’s electronic book collection when e-reader technology was still in its infancy.” Here’s the current e-collection.

Some possibilities here—with an ebook-friendly librarian running LoC

All kinds of possibilities arise with the Hayden appointment.

In her shoes, I would explore the idea of pushing for a national digital library endowment, a cause about which I’ve been writing about here and on the LibraryCity site.

None other than her local newspaper, the Sun, was the first mainstream publication to carry an op-ed in favor of the endowment concept, which has also been the topic of articles in Education Week, Library Journal and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Interestingly, Billington did undertake private fund raising for the library, but a full-fledged endowment, perhaps run in partnership with other organizations, could accomplish so much more.

Rather than just confining itself to support for tech and content, the proposed endowment also could help pay for education, hiring and professional-development of public and school librarians for the digital era, including qualified people from low-income families and members of minorities.

Ebooks, when offered with adequate support, including proper tech and connectivity, have been shown to be especially attractive for disadvantaged children—in particular, boys, who so often lag in reading ability and general academic achievement.

I’m also hoping for Hayden to put up a good fight to keep the copyright office within LoC, where it can better balance the public interest with the that of the copyright industries.

Below is Hayden’s opening statement at her confirmation hearing. Notice the interest she expresses in making LoC resources available everywhere in the U.S.? Terrific.

Even now, people can download countless items. The issue is to expand the range of these items to include more copyrighted materials—with fair compensation to creators!—and also train local librarians in areas ranging from the latest search techniques to ebook literacy (not the same as the traditional book kind).

Some related articles: TeleRead Tech Dirt, Washington Post, and The Atlantic, among others. Also see Infodocket wrap-up.