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Obama Wants ‘Radical’ Who Fought for PORN in Public Libraries to Run Library of Congress

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This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published June 22, 2016 by The Daily Signal.

There is now a Republican-led effort for the Senate to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Carla Hayden to be the librarian of Congress. Her confirmation hearing proceeded without any serious review of her record, her views, or her qualifications.

The American people should be asking why any senator would be anxious to confirm a nominee who is not only unqualified, but whom The Nation magazine celebrated as a “radical librarian” who champions unrestricted access to pornography in public libraries.

Other members of Congress should be asking why there is such a hurry to put a non-scholarly political activist in charge of their research arm —- the Congressional Research Service, which is within the Library of Congress. The post of librarian of Congress has long been filled not by librarians, but by first-rank scholars and historians of national reputation.

The librarian of Congress is, in effect, the nation’s scholar-in-chief. Retired incumbent James H. Billington, who left the position in 2015, authored five books, dozens of scholarly articles, and was the former director of the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He also taught history at Harvard and Princeton.

His predecessor Daniel Boorstin was a prolific scholar of the American experience —- his book The Americans won the Pulitzer Prize.

As previously outlined by PJ Media, Dr. Hayden is neither a scholar nor a historian. She has edited, not written, only one book: a bibliography of culturally diverse materials.

She has headed the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore since 1993, and she may well have excelled at that job. There may be jobs within the Library of Congress for which she is qualified —- just not this job.

The post of librarian of Congress is of vital importance to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life. However, she seems to have been nominated, according to National Review, because of the Obama administration’s “yoke of identity politics.” Obama didn’t emphasize her qualifications as a scholar or historian when he nominated her because of “her meager scholarly credentials,” according to the Weekly Standard. Instead, Obama emphasized her gender and race:

[Carla Hayden] would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position —- both of which are long overdue.

The White House even released a four-minute promotional video touting Hayden, in which she embarrassingly doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the functions of the type of public library she heads and the Library of Congress. As the Weekly Standard pointed out, what she says has nothing “whatsoever to do with being librarian of Congress.”

Members of Congress should also be concerned over her involvement in a 2003 Supreme Court case: U.S. v. American Library Association.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which required public libraries that receive federal funding to use Internet filters that will prevent minors from being able to access obscene materials, including child pornography. The Act specifically allows a library to “disable” the filter “to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes” or “during use by an adult.”

Carla Hayden was the president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004. According to an interview she gave to “The History Makers,” she “spearheaded the ALA’s efforts to overturn” this legislation.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected the challenge filed by the American Library Association, concluding that it did not violate the First Amendment right of the libraries or their patrons.

As Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote:

[CIPA was] intended to help public libraries fulfill their traditional role of obtaining material of requisite and appropriate quality for education and information purposes …

[Congress could] certainly insist that these public funds be spent for the purposes for which they were authorized.

[Since public libraries have] traditionally excluded pornographic material from their other collections, Congress could reasonably impose a parallel limitation on its Internet assistance programs.

Apparently, a filtering program to prevent children from viewing pornography (which can be turned off by the library for an adult) was too much for Carla Hayden.

Members of Congress must also realize that the Library itself is a target for the Left, which wants to change our culture, impose politically correct restrictions, and erase any of our history they do not like.

Indeed, on May 19, 2016, four members of Congress —- Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. John Culberson, Sen. Jeff Sessions, and Sen. Ted Cruz —- wrote a letter to Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao, protesting his decision to “eliminate the terms ‘aliens’ and ‘illegal aliens’ from subject headings and search classifications.”

As the congressmen and senators point out, the word “alien” is one of the oldest headings used by the Library because it is found in countless historical materials. These “now-forbidden terms” are used in the United States Code, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and official government documents.

Wrote the congressmen:

[Rather than] engage in revisionist history, the Library should base its decision on sound judgment, taking actual history, present facts, and future research efforts into account.

Given her political leanings, isn’t it reasonable to assume that Carla Hayden would continue on, as the senators and representatives call it, “this Orwellian trajectory”?

This is of particular importance given the fact that the Congressional Research Service, which is supposed to provide members of Congress with nonpartisan, unbiased “policy and legal analysis,” is a branch of the Library of Congress.

As National Review points out, Hayden told Ms. magazine in 2003 that librarians are “fighters for freedom.” She emphasized the “social work aspect of librarianship.”

Hayden is nothing if not a Progressive activist of the first order. In addition to all of the other problems with her nomination, do members of Congress really want her directing the “policy and legal analysis” that they rely on?