This post is by Teresa St. Angelo, the 2016-2017 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
Earlier this month, I spoke with Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, about a wide variety of topics. As I kicked off our conversation, I was thinking about the first activity I do with my new kindergartners each fall. We engage in a show and tell of items in the students’ backpacks. This one activity gives me an awareness and understanding of the boys and girls unlike any other.
As a way to get to know Dr. Hayden, I asked her what the first thing she brought to her new office after being sworn in on September 14th and explain why. She immediately took a box off her shelf, and spoke about the value of the item inside it, a children’s book titled Bright April. She explained that this had been her favorite book as a child and this particular copy had been a gift to her. Inside the book, Dr. Hayden had placed two photographs of herself as a young girl, and she admitted to reading the story over and over, loving it even more each time.
Hayden’s ongoing passion for books and reading began with her connection to a character in that story. Her zeal for reading clearly grew through the years. When I asked her to complete the sentence: I cannot live without ____ , her response was “Reading. I cannot live without reading.”
Dr. Hayden’s affection and concern for young children was obvious when I told her I had questions from curious kindergarten students. She took the questions very seriously and eagerly answered each one.
Following are the questions and Dr. Hayden’s answers.
- How many books are in the Library? The Library has 38 million books and other printed material.
- Why do people go to the Library? To find information and to see one of a kind items that they cannot see anywhere else, such as the items found in President Lincoln’s pockets.
- Do you have to do homework? Yes, I have to read a great deal and get ready for meetings.
- Do you read all day? I wish I could.
- Did you read all the books in the Library? Not yet.
- What makes you happy? Being with my family and reading a book that I choose.
Dr. Hayden’s love of reading and her empathy, joy, and understanding of children seem equal to her concern and attention to the needs of teachers. Even before we sat down for the interview, she asked me, “What more can we do to help teachers?”
We just began to focus our discussion on teaching practices when our interview approached its ending. I asked Dr. Hayden to use three adjectives to describe the library. When I asked Dr. Hayden to describe the Library of Congress in three words, she responded. “Exciting, impressive, and boundless,” and I realized her vision for teachers and children can be described with those three words as well.
Stay tuned for future posts to learn more about Dr. Carla Hayden as she continues to lead the Library. In the meantime, I’ll ask you Dr. Hayden’s question: What more would you like to see the Library of Congress do for teachers?