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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 She remarked after Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony that she'd liked to see more historical documents, like Rosa Parks's notes and letters, reach a wider audience through the power of the internet.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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Animals
These Mobile Libraries Roaming Zimbabwe Are Pulled By Donkeys
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The people behind the Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program (RLRDP) believe you shouldn’t have to travel far to access good reading material. That’s why they have donkeys do a lot of the traveling for the people they help. According to inhabitat, RLRDP manages 15 donkey-powered library carts that deliver books to communities without libraries of their own.

The organization was founded in 1990 with the mission of bringing libraries to rural parts of Zimbabwe. Five years later, they started hitching up donkeys to carts packed with books. Each mobile library can hold about 1200 titles, and 12 of the 15 carts are filled exclusively with books for kids. The donkeys can transport more than just paperbacks: Each two-wheeled cart has space for a few riders, and three of them are outfitted with solar panels that power onboard computers. While browsing the internet or printing documents, visitors to the library can use the solar energy to charge their phones.

Donkeys pulling a cart

Carts usually spend a day in the villages they serve, and that short amount of time is enough to make a lasting impact. RLRDP founder Dr. Obadiah Moyo wrote in a blog post, “The children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.”

Kids getting books from a cart.

About 1600 individuals benefit from each cart, and Moyo says schools in the areas they visit see improvement in students. The donkey-pulled libraries are only part of what RLRDP does: The organization also trains rural librarians, installs computers in places without them, and delivers books around Zimbabwe via bicycle—but the pack animals are hard to top. Moyo writes, “When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it.”

[h/t inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program

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26 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Libraries
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Before he became a bestselling author, John Green worked for the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine for six years. Now, the novelist and Mental Floss YouTube host is returning to the stacks once more, delivering bibliophiles over two dozen trivia bits about the free repositories of knowledge.

Since Clearchus—the ancient Greek ruler and student of the philosopher Plato—founded the first-known public library around 364 BCE, readers from around the world have rifled through sacred Buddhist manuscripts in Bhutan’s unique temple library; felt equal parts awed and overwhelmed upon entering the Library of Congress; and paid homage to Morocco’s gatekeepers of knowledge by visiting the world’s oldest still-operating library in Fez, which was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE [PDF].

Learn more about these fascinating libraries—along with which famous children’s author was once a librarian, which president was guilty of having a library book that was 221 years overdue, which Francis Ford Coppola film may never have been made without a school librarian’s petition, and more—by watching the video above, or by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

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