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Academics

Thoughtful Thursday: Nikki Giovanni and Carla Hayden Love Libraries

Don’t you just love a good public library? Those of us born in the pre-internet world fondly remember wandering up and down the isles of the local public library, looking for the next great read or the critical info for that paper due too soon. Public libraries today have adapted to the new digital world and are still going strong. Today’s Thoughtful Thursday pays tribute to Carla Hayden, the African-American woman who leads the Library of Congress, and our beloved poet Nikki Giovanni.

Carla Hayden was nominated to become the 14th Librarian of Congress by President Barack Obama. She was sworn into this position in September 2016, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to lead the national library. Prior to this post she served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. Before leading the Pratt Library she was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library, where she had earlier launched her career as a library associate and children’s librarian. She has a longstanding interest and expertise in children’s literature and in children’s use of libraries. Hayden was the first African-American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in 1995, and she received the 2018 Newberry Library Award earlier this year. You can learn more about this impressive and delightful woman here.

Nikki Giovanni, who has been the focus of several Thoughtful Thursdays, is an award-winning author of numerous poetry collections and children books. Hayden and Giovanni were together a few nights ago at a wonderful evening presented by The HistoryMakers, a Chicago based organization that has created the nation’s largest African-American video oral history collection, which is now housed at the Library of Congress. They both spoke of the importance of collecting our stories and memorabilia and having it preserved for future generations.

Giovanni’s poem, “My First Memory (of Librarians)”, captures the magic and wonder of a a child’s first library visit. Share with your children and enjoy.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

Nikki Giovanni

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