The powers of the head of the Library of Congress were recently curtailed by the U.S. House of Representatives, with Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) reportedly among those voting to limit the first Black and first female to lead the agency.
Dr. Carla Hayden was appointed as Librarian of the Library of Congress by President Obama last year, making history as the first person of color and first woman to direct the massive agency. However, the House on April 26 passed The Register of Copyrights and Accountability Act of 2017, under which the appointment of the director of the Register of Copyrights, an important position within the Library of Congress, would be made by the president instead of the Librarian of Congress.
Dr. Carla Hayden is the Librarian of the Library of Congress. (Courtesy Photo)
The bill passed the House in a 378-48 vote, and now heads to the U.S. Senate. It is not clear when the Senate will take up the bill.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 38 million books and other printed materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 70 million manuscripts. It works within the legislative branch of the U.S. government and is housed in three buildings near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Hayden was the CEO of the Enoch Free Library in Baltimore since 1993 and was appointed by President Obama to the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010.
There are some who see the legislation as a move to insult Hayden.
“The Library of Congress, through the Register of Copyrights, plays a referee or umpire role in this complex new game; librarians, because they curate and compile content, have traditionally been protectors of copyright and works of authors and artists and balanced public and cultural interests in the free flow and use of that content,” Christopher Chambers, a professor of media studies at Georgetown University, told NBC News.
“It is no secret that the industry lobbies and donates hard, regarding Democrats and Republicans alike,” he added. “And many of them are African American lawmakers, like Rep. Conyers. This basically surrenders congressional power over intellectual property right there in the U.S. Constitution, to the Executive Branch, hence President Trump,” said Chambers.
However, Shadawn Reddick-Smith, a spokeswoman for Conyers, told the AFRO that the bill isn’t about Hayden.
“Congressman Conyers has been working on this issue since 2013,” Reddick-Smith said. “This was long before Hayden was appointed to her position. This bill is about giving the Registers of Copyright more authority and Hayden will have the chance to help select who occupies that office, even though it a presidential appointment.”
Brown voted for the legislation alongside 12 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Brown was not available to the AFRO for comment.