(Attn: Ill., Md.); (ART ADV: With photo XNYT124.); Kitty Bennett contributed research. WASHINGTON ? On the night in April 2015 that Baltimore went up in flames, Carla D. Hayden, the city's chief librarian, was under pressure to board up a neighborhood library branch and wait out the violence triggered by the death in a police van of Freddie Gray. But she had other ideas. "I thought, what would that show?" Hayden said. "That we're afraid?" Instead, as a CVS drugstore across the street was looted and burned, and as the governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency, Hayden and her staff decided they would open their doors the next morning, welcoming in the weary public. For Hayden, who was sworn in Wednesday as the 14th librarian of Congress, the unrest was the test that clarified her values: Libraries are about far more than books. "The people of that neighborhood protected that library," Hayden said during a recent interview in her new office overlooking Capitol Hill. "There were young men who stood outside. It was such a symbol." At 64, Hayden is the first African-American and the first woman to lead the 216-year-old library, one of the world's largest, and the nation's leading repository of knowledge and culture. "To be the head of an institution that's associated with knowledge and reading and scholarship when slaves were forbidden to learn how to read on punishment of losing limbs, that's kind of something," she said. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Hayden is the first new librarian of Congress since 1987, and brings with her another generation's ideas about accessibility, technology and the role that libraries play in society. Her goal is to open to more Americans the riches of the Library of Congress, which has always balanced mixed loyalties ? to members of Congress who look to it for impartial research, to scholars who live in its archives and, finally, to the public. "At this point in its history, the value of the library as a place for scholars will not diminish. In fact, we want it to grow," she said. "But more people will appreciate that they can be scholars, too, by positioning the library to look outward.'' That means increasing digital access to the library, Hayden said, and better tying the library's collections ? including Thomas Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and thousands of Abraham Lincoln's personal papers ? to school curricula around the country. She has also shown interest in greater collaboration with the nation's public and university libraries. In her remarks Wednesday after being sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Hayden said she wanted Americans to see more material like Rosa Parks' notes and letters, which the library has digitized and recently made accessible to anyone with internet access, from classrooms in Wisconsin to an American Indian reservation in New Mexico. "Anyone, anywhere can read her words in her own handwriting," Hayden said. "That is a real public service and a natural step for this nation's library." Early reviews are good so far, particularly in comparison to Hayden's predecessor, James H. Billington, a Russia scholar who, after nearly 30 years in the job, resigned amid criticism in 2015. Billington had presided over a series of library management and technology failures that were documented in more than a dozen reports by government watchdog agencies. "It's obviously too early to declare victory, but the signs are very encouraging," said John Palfrey, a founder of the Digital Public Library of America, and a supporter of Hayden who had frequently sparred with Billington. Much of the optimism felt by Palfrey and others is because Hayden is the first trained librarian (she holds a Ph.D. in library science from the University of Chicago) to lead the library since Lawrence Quincy Mumford retired in 1974. She has worked at almost every level, from children's librarian to president of the powerful American Library Association ? experiences that backers say make her uniquely prepared to lead a library that now has a collection of more than 162 million items, 3,100 employees and an annual budget of close to $650 million. "Why do we need a librarian to run the Library of Congress?" Palfrey said. "I think that answers itself." Still, Hayden's task will not be easy. The watchdog reports have identified decades of weaknesses at the library, including a backlog of millions of books and items piled up in warehouses that are in danger of being permanently damaged, while only a fraction of the library's books and other printed materials have been made available online. (BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.) Karl Schornagel, who wrote many of those reports while serving as the library's inspector general from 2001-2014, said that the library had suffered from having "no comprehensive information technology strategy" at a time when digitization was revolutionizing what, and how, libraries collect. "Looking at the big picture, the Library of Congress stands as an island," Schornagel said. "Everyone else in the world is communicating, coordinating and sharing resources." After Billington's departure last September, Congress enacted a law limiting the term of the librarian of Congress, which was previously considered a lifetime appointment, to 10 years. Bernard A. Barton Jr., the library's first permanent chief information officer in years, began addressing a backlog of information technology concerns. And David S. Mao, who had served as the acting librarian after Billington's departure, started an administrative reorganization. (END OPTIONAL TRIM.) Hayden, who said that much of her early effort will focus on building and retaining staff, has a reputation as a fierce advocate for her patrons and employees. In 2003 and 2004, while serving as president of the American Library Association, Hayden clashed frequently with Attorney General John Ashcroft over what she perceived as privacy overreaches in the USA Patriot Act. The spat, which raised her national profile, resurfaced as a minor point of contention as she was being confirmed by the Senate. In Baltimore, she overhauled what was widely considered a failing urban library system and became part of the city's leadership ranks. "Her voice is valued," said Rachel Garbow Monroe, the president and chief executive of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in Baltimore, who worked with Hayden for nearly two decades. Under Hayden, Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library was early to adopt new digital tools and expand programming as part of a wave of change that has transformed libraries across the country into community resource centers. Hayden, who plans to commute to Washington from Baltimore each day, said it is now time to transform the Library of Congress. "There were times when it needed to be seen as a place for scholars, and there was a time when it needed a little muscle politically to get its budget growing and build a new building," she said. "It's time in this library's life, with 162 million items, in all different formats, to take advantage of a librarian that has been through those type of changes."