Welcome to the 101st issue of CEE News!
“What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?” If you were a fan of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” hosted by the late James Lipton, you’ll recognize that as one of the ten questions taken from the Proust Questionnaire that Lipton asked his guests at the end of each show. Both Cate Blanchett and Dave Chappelle, “Architect.” Michael J. Fox and Eddie Murphy would have liked to have been teachers.
If I could choose any other vocation, I would want to be the Librarian of Congress. Reading, writing, and sharing stories have always been a large part of my personal and professional life. Some of my most treasured childhood memories were of loading my arms with piles of free books from our local library. I loved the adventures, marveled at the prose, and empathized with the protagonists – the antics of Pippi Longstocking, the determination of Francie Nolan’s, Jo March’s bravery.
Since September 2016, the role of Librarian of Congress has been held by Dr. Carla Hayden. Dr. Hayden is the 14th person to be named to the position, and notably the first woman and first African American to lead the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections.
Her remarkable journey was captured in this October 2023 interview at Mount Vernon. In it, Dr. Hayden shares how, as the Director of Baltimore’ Enoch Pratt Free Library in 2015, she made the decision to keep the library open following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Although the streets of Baltimore roiled in protest, the Pratt Library kept its doors open and served as a respite. While the streets burned and protestors marched, the library offered food distribution, restrooms, and internet service for all – with Dr. Hayden standing front and center.
In celebration of Black History Month, we’re recognizing notable Black Americans – both historic and contemporary. In addition to this story of one of my personal idols, Dr. Carla Hayden, we’re sharing an infographic about Black explorers, scientists, and activists like Pauli Murray and Matthew Henson.
I invite you to take the opportunity to be especially mindful of the lived experiences and influence that Black Americans have had in the world – this month and beyond. If there is a Black American who you especially admire, take a moment to share the impact they have made on American culture and the influence they have had on you personally.
Sheri Nasim | President & CEO