Carla Hayden Makes History as the New Librarian of Congress

Meet your new Librarian of Congress: Seven months after being nominated by the president, Carla Hayden was officially sworn in on Wednesday, September 14. She is both the first woman and the first African American to assume the title, The New York Times reports.

Another factor that makes Hayden a remarkable choice for Librarian of Congress is her experience as an actual librarian. The two men who held the job before her were historians, and before them many other Librarians of Congress had been scholars or writers.

Hayden has already racked up several impressive credentials over the course of her career, including chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library system, president of the American Library Association, and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Part of what qualified her for the role in the eyes of the president, he said in a statement earlier this year, was her devotion “to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture." She remarked after Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony that she'd liked to see more historical documents, like Rosa Parks's notes and letters, reach a wider audience through the power of the internet.

The previous Librarian of Congress, James Billington, ended his 28-year tenure in 2015 following criticism for his failure to properly adapt to evolving technology. Along with his nomination of Hayden, President Obama also signed a law reducing the office from a lifetime role to a 10-year term.

As Librarian of Congress, Hayden will be responsible for handling congressional relations, appointing staff members such as the national Poet Laureate, overseeing the Copyright Office, and many other duties that come with running the world’s largest library.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Your New York City Library Card Now Gets You Free Admission to 33 Museums and Cultural Sites
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Your New York City library card is good for more than checking out books and downloading music. Starting this summer, your card will get you free admission to 33 cultural institutions around the city, The New York Times reports.

New York's public library system is rolling out its Culture Pass program in an effort to make the city's world-renowned museums and cultural centers more accessible to residents. As long as you have a card from the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, or the Queens Library systems, you can visit Culturepass.nyc and use your card number to reserve a ticket. Participating organizations include the the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, Wave Hill, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum.

Some of the locations on the list are already free without the suggested donation, but others can get pricey. The Museum of Modern Art, for example, costs $25 for adults. Using Culture Pass does comes with a few catches: Passes are limited, so if you wait until the last minute you may not be able to reserve one for your preferred day. Cardholders also can only use Culture Pass once per year at each institution, but depending on where they go they can make the most of it: At some organizations like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a pass is good for entry for up to four guests.

New York isn't the only area that offers free museum tickets to anyone with a library card. Members of public library systems in SeattleNew Jersey, and Los Angeles County, and kids in Chicago, can take advantage of similar programs. And even if your library card can't get you into cultural institutions, it can likely get you other perks you may not be aware of.

[h/t The New York Times]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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