Champion Spotlight: Carla Davis-Castro

Carlas, symbolism, and action

Photo of Carla Davis-Castro and Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla HaydenI had been here for a little over a year when I attended the swearing-in ceremony of Dr. Carla Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress. Around here she is simply “the Librarian” and you can hear the capital “L.” This special occasion was surpassed only by the moment of meeting her face-to-face. No employee received a stiff handshake. Everyone was greeted with two hands and two eyes focused on you the human being not you the worker bee. I was a 2011 Spectrum Scholar but little did I know that I had just met the inaugural Spectrum Steering Committee Chair.

What made her special? It was something other than being a Carla. She is the first woman and first person of color to head the United States de facto national library. This may be considered symbolic but I believe in the power of symbolism.

As librarians, we know that the power of literacy, whether digital or analog, is the power to understand symbols, to understand subtext, to make fresh connections, and to grasp the metaphor. Dr. Hayden symbolizes the pioneering spirit of ALA’s Spectrum Scholars and the changing American library profession in the twenty-first century.

We must use all the symbols at our disposal to create a positive image of our profession to attract diverse candidates so let’s consider: what library symbols do we have? How are you using our library symbols? What library symbols do we still need?

Actions are as important as symbols. Before coming to Washington, D.C. Dr. Hayden was director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. During the city’s riots in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray, she chose to keep the public library open. This is the kind of humanistic and democratic action our profession is capable of taking in service to our patrons. We must identify these champions of action, celebrate and promote them. Where are your champions? What actions are you highlighting and what does that say about our profession? What action do we still need?

We all need symbols and we need action. Dr. Hayden and our Spectrum Scholar family embody both, which is why the future of Spectrum matters.

These are the leaders that inspire me and the leaders that librarians everywhere can learn from. Diversity and inclusion are getting attention in the United States but this is a challenge for the whole world. With the right symbols, I am sure that information professionals around the globe will rally and respond to the call to action.

Carla Davis-Castro is a research librarian for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Art with minors in Women’s Studies and Native American Studies in 2008 and her dual Master in Public Administration and Library Science in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carla is a 2011 Spectrum Scholar, 2011-2012 ESOPI Fellow (Educating Stewards of the Public Information Infrastructure), Smithsonian James E. Webb Intern for Minority Students in Business and Public Administration, member of the District of Columbia Library Association, member of FEDLINK’s American Indian Library Initiative working group, and standing committee member of the Indigenous Matters Section of the International Federation of Library Associations. She is the daughter of a Salvadoran and an American who place a premium on public service.

Carla is a Spectrum Champion! Carla has graciously volunteered to serve as a Cohort Champion working on outreach to the 2011-2012 Class of Spectrum Scholars. If you are a Scholar from this year please consider emailing Carla to learn more about how you can help support Spectrum’s 20th Anniversary: A Celebration of Community. Cohort Champions have also committed to organizing a networking event in their region, activism, and fundraising efforts.