Cooperstown Symposium begins with keynote address from Librarian of Congress

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Bill Francis

The 30th Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and scheduled for May 30-June 1, has as its keynote speaker this year Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden.

Dr. Hayden’s talk is entitled, “Baseball Americana – Baseball in the Community”, will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. Past keynote speakers have included Ken Burns, Marvin Miller, Roger Kahn and George Plimpton.

Dr. Hayden, sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress in September 2016 after being nominated for the position by President Barack Obama, is a trailblazer as the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library. Prior to her current position, she had served since 1993 as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Hayden was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004.

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“Dr. Hayden is the latest in a long line of illustrious keynote speakers for the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture,” said Hall of Fame Librarian Jim Gates, a co-coordinator of the event. “For our staff, it is an honor to have her visit the Hall of Fame Library and to participate in this program. Dr. Hayden is a great baseball fan, and the researchers from across the country who attend this event will enjoy having the chance to hear her presentation.”

Opening June 29 at the Library of Congress will be the new yearlong exhibition, “Baseball Americana,” which will explore baseball’s past and present and how the game has forged a sense of community for players and fans across the country.

Recently, in a telephone interview from her Washington, D.C. office, Dr. Hayden talked about her love of baseball and why an appreciation of history is important.

Hall of Fame:

What are your thoughts on being asked to deliver the keynote address at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture?

Dr. Carla Hayden:

I’m honored and very overwhelmed in a way because in my childhood I wanted to be a shortstop. And you can see I’m a librarian now, so that didn’t work. I grew up spending summers with my grandparents in Springfield, Ill. My grandfather was a baseball fanatic. He would have two or three games going at the same time with the radios and one little black-and-white TV. And we would drive down, just the two of us, to see the St. Louis Cardinals. And when visiting teams would come that had notable black players like Willie Mays, that was a big deal because you were not only supporting your home team but you were seeing some of these legends. That was thrilling.

HOF:

Have you been to Cooperstown before?

CH:

I’ve never been to Cooperstown, so I’m really looking forward to that.

HOF:

Can you talk a little about the talk you are going to deliver at the Hall of Fame?

CH:

I think my love for baseball, the memories, and what it means in my own life. People from all walks of life have something in common with these memories and connections to baseball. There’s a unifying aspect.

MLB Network analyst Brian Kenny (pictured above) was the 2017 keynote speaker at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

HOF:

And could you talk a little about the baseball exhibit opening at the Library of Congress in June?

CH:

I’ll be talking quite a bit about that, too, because the theme of the exhibit is really baseball as community. The invisible connection among fans through the decades and what it is that ties people together. The fact that you spend time together. Baseball is that type of game. And we’re opening it right around the time of the All-Star Game here in Washington.

HOF:

Please give me a little thumbnail sketch about the Library of Congress.

CH:

The Library of Congress has millions of items that range from original manuscripts in Mozart’s hand, the largest collection of comic books in the world, and the archives of the NAACP. The collections span not only American history but also the culture of the world. It’s quite a unique, universal collection.

HOF:

How would describe your role with the Library of Congress?

CH:

I am the administrator of the organization. We have about 3,200 employees, three major buildings on Capitol Hill complex right across from the Capitol. And we have six overseas offices, so our mission is a worldwide collection. We collect in over 170 languages, so it’s quite extensive. It’s a national library for the country.

Keynote speaker Jane Leavy (pictured above) gave a speech entitled “Finding George: The Unique Challenge of Writing a Sports Biography" during the 2016 Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

HOF:

The job sounds overwhelming but gratifying.

CH:

History is alive and it never stops. We want people to have an appreciation for history, but also think about making history themselves.

HOF:

Back to baseball, I read you threw out a first pitch at an Orioles game last year.

CH:

Yes, and it actually made it close to home plate. It was a wonderful experience, in a game between two local teams – the O’s and the Nationals. And I practiced in the hallway outside my office. There’s one little nick in the hall now.

HOF:

But you’re a Cubs fan.

CH:

I think since 2016 everybody is a Cubs fan. It’s funny because one of the senior administrators here is from Cleveland so we had a bet of brownies. But even she was glad the Cubs won and baked the brownies for me the next day. I think everybody was rooting for the Cubs.

HOF:

One last question: As someone surrounded by history on a daily basis, why do you think baseball has endured for more than 150 years?

CH:

Because it unites people. That’s something that will be emphasized in our exhibit. On any given day, anywhere in the world, you might have people playing baseball. There’s all types of people that play baseball. And it has also been a major part of the American culture in terms of making people feel part of the country. It is America’s game.


Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series