Carla Hayden was just an 8-year-old school girl growing up in Queens, NY when she first saw herself reflected in a book, but that invauable encounter with representation was one that would ultimately change her life.
“I don’t remember who put that book in my hand, but somebody knew that a little girl who was brown and had pigtails needed a book that reflected her,” Hayden told TIME magazine. I saw myself in a book and that will never leave me. I love that book to this day.”
That bright-eyed young scholar would grow up to make significant strides on the Public Library circuit, including rising in the ranks to become Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library, before later becoming Executive Director of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library. In 2016, the Tallahassee, Florida native made history when she was confirmed as the first woman and first African-American to be appointed Librarian of Congress following a nomination from President Barack Obama.
“In terms of being the Librarian of Congress, it’s important that a woman is in the position,” Hayden says. “Librarianship is one of the four “feminized professions.” Eighty-five percent of the workforce is female but men are in most of the directorships and management positions. So to have a woman Librarian of Congress is just as significant as race in terms of diversity.”
Watch the video above to hear more from Carla Hayden about her remarkable career journey.
Carla Hayden’s interview is part of TIME Firsts, a multimedia project featuring 46 groundbreaking women. Watch the rest of the videos at Time.com/Firsts.