When Baltimore was ablaze last year following the funeral of Freddie Gray, many establishments, schools and even churches shut down for days fearing the violence outside.
A local library, sitting at the epicenter of the riots over the death of a black man in police custody, stayed open so residents would have safe haven from the chaos. The library's director, Carla Hayden, made the call to throw open the library doors when so many others closed.
"We knew the people would count on the library being open," Hayden said in an exclusive interview with NBC News. "There were people waiting to get in, to use the computers, to apply for jobs. There were children that couldn't go to school. There were people that needed to find resources that just needed a place to be and there was this oasis right in the middle of all of that unrest."
On Wednesday, Hayden was sworn-in to take the reins of the illustrious Library of Congress — the 216-year-old repository harboring the country's most sacred and revered historical works.
Hayden becomes the first woman to hold the position, which dates back to the origin of the nation, and the first African-American in the role.
She is one of only 14 people to ever hold the position. The U.S Senate confirmed Hayden as librarian of Congress earlier this year.
Hayden said she profoundly felt the historic significance of the moment and spoke of how African Americans were once "punished with lashes and worse for learning to read."
"As a descendant of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is the national symbol of knowledge, is a historic moment," Hayden told those gathered at the Library of Congress for the swearing-in ceremony.
She placed her hand on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln, which President Barack Obama also used during his inauguration, and was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Her mother looked proudly on.