More often than not, the thought of a beloved library conjures up the image of old tomes, page-worn books, and reading between the lions. That’s changing as of late as the city pivots to honor the classic library while catering more to a digital age. New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Digitization Coordinator Gina Murrell is doing the work.
“I really wanted to work at the Schomburg for a while,” said Murrell. “It’s just a phenomenal institution, highly respected for its role in preserving, sharing, and educating on Black culture. Not just in the U.S., but across the African diaspora. The history is just amazing. And it feels amazing just to be a part of it.”
Hired just this January, Murrell is largely responsible for managing digitization projects at the Schomburg for its exhibitions, publications, and public programs. She also handles copyright and permissions questions. Murrell’s goal is to increase the digital presence and the accessibility of Schomburg’s historical collections. The library features stories, books, archival materials, video, and audio about prominent Black figures, like founder Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, and Paul Robeson.
Murrell is a Washington, D.C., native. She earned a degree in English language and literature and went into the publishing industry for about 20 years. In 1997, she made the move to New York City for an internship in journalism. She’s worked at Out magazine, Gruner + Jahr publishing, the Village Voice, National Enquirer, Penthouse magazine, and Condé Nast among other places.
“During that time, I was wondering did I want to work in publishing for the rest of my life,” said Murrell, “and I remembered that in undergrad, I worked in campus libraries.”
Murrell enjoyed the small staff and libraries she worked in, prompting her to switch careers. In 2011, she went to school to get her master’s in library science from Queens College. Her first position as a digital librarian was in Oregon at the public university. Now she’s bringing her years of experience to the Schomburg.
Her favorite part of the Schomburg collection is a Stormé DeLarverie photograph collection. DeLarverie was a Black lesbian activist from New Orleans who was pivotal in the LGBTQIA+ movement in the U.S. before the Stonewall uprising occurred in 1969.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.
GREAT ARTICLE! I enjoyed reading it.
WOW! What an amazing career! Is there any way for citizens with digitalization experience to get involved preserving the rich history held at the Schomburg?
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