Carla Hayden speaking at podium (© AP Images)
Carla Hayden is the new Librarian of Congress. She oversees the largest library in the world. (© AP Images)

The United States has a new chief librarian.

Carla Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to lead the Library of Congress since its inception in 1800.

Hayden told the Baltimore Sun that she couldn’t wait to open up “the ultimate treasure chest” that is the Library of Congress.

The library, which serves Congress and the American public, includes millions of items including books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts.

She noted that the library has the pocketbook of Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon known as “the first lady of civil rights” who became famous for refusing to give her seat to a white man on a segregated Alabama bus in 1955. The library also has the contents of President Abraham Lincoln’s pocket on the night he was assassinated in 1865. “I’m looking forward to sharing my discoveries with the public,” she told the Sun.

Many people got to know Hayden from her years as the chief of the library system in Baltimore. She is credited with keeping the library open in 2015 after the city was rocked by violence following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American who had died from a spinal-cord injury while in police custody. The Baltimore library became a place of comfort and healing.

Hayden is just the third professional librarian to get the job. She was sworn in as the 14th librarian of Congress on September 14.

President Obama signed a law last year establishing a 10-year term for the librarian of Congress. It was previously considered a lifetime appointment. Hayden’s predecessor was James Billington, who held the job for 28 years.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office in a ceremony at the library’s Great Hall.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.