People gathering around man pointing to papers (Library of Congress/Kimberly Powell)
Members of the Library of Congress' 2020 Archives, History, and Heritage Advanced Internship Program visit the Manuscript Division on February 26, 2020. (Library of Congress/Kimberly Powell)

The Library of Congress is committed to being the “people’s library” and representing the full, diverse selection of American life in its collection.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden — the first woman and Black American to hold the position — is spearheading and launching “Of the People: Widening the Path,” a four-year initiative to connect more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, housing over 170 million items from almost every continent. Now, with a new grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the library plans to diversify and expand its collection of U.S. materials to tell the stories of those whose voices have traditionally been absent.

As the library’s website says, “Amazing things can be done at the library when we invite people to push the boundaries of technology to unlock new ways of seeing and experiencing the library’s collections.”

The $15 million grant will help the library offer more internships and fellowships to members of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and other underrepresented communities of color throughout the country.

The library will:

  • Invest in community-based documentarians.
  • Fund paid internships and fellowships to support the next generation of librarians and archivists.
  • Use its collection to create a range of digital engagements with underserved communities.
Man with legs in air propped on one hand (Library of Congress/Shawn Miller)
Brian Foo, the innovator in residence who created the Citizen DJ app for the Library of Congress, is shown February 27, 2020. (Library of Congress/Shawn Miller)

Last year, innovator in residence Brian Foo created an app, Citizen DJ, to help the public explore the Library of Congress’ music, oral histories and films. The project invited people to make their own hip-hop music using the library’s free collection of more than 3 million sound recordings without worrying about copyright restrictions.

“By inviting communities of color and other underrepresented groups to partner on a wider, more inclusive path for connection to the Library of Congress, we invest in an enduring legacy of the multifaceted American story that truly is ‘Of the People,’” Hayden said.