Bright Young Librarians: Gabrielle Dudley

[Photo provided by Gabrielle Dudley]

Photo of Gabrielle Dudley

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Gabrielle Dudley, Instruction Archivist at the Rose Library at Emory University in Atlanta.

What is your role at your institution?

I am the Instruction Archivist at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. In this role I partner with faculty to incorporate Rose Library's collections into their courses and also help them to develop semester-long projects that make use of the collections. In addition to my work as a faculty coach, I am a student research advocate and coordinate a program that train undergraduate and graduate students on archives research methods. 

How did you get started in special collections?

In high school I thought that I would be a history teacher and attended college on a teaching scholarship. However, I soon realized that I disliked the state and federal mandates on history education and begin to look for alternative career options. After college I took a year of "soul searching" and then entered a dual MLIS/MA graduate school program where I became a research assistant for Dr. Bobby Donaldson and the African American Documentary History Initiative at the University of South Carolina. The project was based in the History department, but worked closely with the University Libraries to engage the city of Columbia's African American community. The two years that I assisted Professor Donaldson was a crash course in community organizing as I co-lead community workshops, conducted archival research, and attended collection development meetings in the library. The experience helped me to realize the unique position of special collection libraries to be a bridge between history educators and the community. Now, I very much see myself as an educator and also a bridge builder.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

The answer to this question probably changes each day so I will talk about a book that is really fun for teaching.

At Rose Library, we have the library of an Anglo-Indian writer and collector of Harlem Renaissance era works named Cedric Dover. He heavily annotated mostly all of the books in the library including a volume of poetry titled, Bronze by Georgia Douglas Johnson. Dover's copy has a lengthy annotation and he also pasted in an unpublished poem and photograph of Johnson. Through correspondence in Dover's papers he appears very supportive and encouraging of Johnson's work and she even connects him with key writers and artists for his book American Negro Art. However Dover's annotation in Bronze is a private annotation and review of Johnson and her work that is very critical and unlike his praise in the correspondence. This examples helps to underscore for undergraduate students, especially, the reason why scholars would travel across the world to do research in a special collections library. For many students, this is a great example of what they call "old-school shade." I love showing this book.

What do you personally collect?

I collect debut novels by Black women writers. I have about 150 titles in the collection and for many of them I have several editions of the same title. I think I have about 4 editions of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison though my favorite in the collection is the first edition of The Women of Brewster's Place by Gloria Naylor complete with it's dust jacket. Unfortunately, I do not have the budget to purchase only first editions, but I would love to get my hands on a first edition of The Street by Ann Petry or Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to do volunteer work! Most of my service is done with the Tau Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and for several years I led it's mentoring program for middle school girls. Now I am working on its Global Impact Committee to plan a community impact day focused on aiding immigrant and refugee families in the metro-Atlanta area.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

I am really excited about the opportunities to document and illuminate the stories of communities of color. I am a founding member of the Atlanta Black Archives Alliance (ABAA) which is an organization of Atlanta-based archivists focused on documenting and educating the city's Black communities about archives and preservation. It is so wonderful to see similar organizations popping up across the country to ensure that the voices of marginalized groups are documented and represented in archives and special collections libraries.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

Perhaps I have too many thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship, but accessible and inclusive spaces are always on my mind. It is one thing for libraries and archives to talk about being accessible and inclusive and it is another thing entirely to actually be those things. The concept of space is often seen as something that must be made for external audiences like researchers, students, faculty, etc. but I think the key is first making our "spaces" like our institutions or collections or  library schools or break rooms or leadership meetings accessible and inclusive.

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

The Rose Library has a wonderful and interesting collection of personal papers from Black women writers like Lucille Clifton, Pearl Cleage, Mari Evans, J.J. Philips, Natasha Trethewey, Alice Walker, and more. For so long institutions have ignored the perspectives of Black women though with these collections being together we can begin to see the connections between these writers. The collecting area has been cultivated over the last 15 years and continues to grow.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

"Building Emory's African American Collections: Highlights from the Curatorial Career of Randall K. Burkett" is on view until July.

Randall K. Burkett was hired in 1997 as Emory's first curator for African American collections. Over the past 21 years, he has led the university's effort to build collections of rare books, manuscripts, serials, photographs, and print ephemera in this field. He and his Rose Library colleagues have sought to ensure the African American voice is represented and have given priority to African American-authored and African American-published material. The exhibition highlights treasures in the collections and Burkett's stories of their discovery and acquisition.