Library Journal has named UNC archivist Chaitra Powell as one of 52 “Movers & Shakers” for 2017. Powell is the African American collections and outreach archivist in the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.
The Movers & Shakers award recognizes “top changemakers who are transforming what it means to be a librarian,” according to Library Journal.
“I believe that I am privileged to be an archivist, and I am [committed] to support[ing] people in the preservation of their stories,” she told Library Journal.Library Journal cited Powell for her work to expand the “relevance and scope” of the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) by building collections that document the lives of African Americans in the South and also by working with communities across the region to preserve their own history.
At UNC, Powell has done this through the SHC’s African American Families Initiative, which encourages families to document their own stories and supports efforts to bring these stories to the SHC, where they can be preserved and shared for learning and research.
She is also helping to raise $1.5 million so that the SHC can meet a challenge match from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant would permanently endow the outreach work that she is now doing.
Powell’s work has taken her to locations around the state, to the west coast, and to high school classrooms in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, among other locations.
Her supervisor, Bryan Giemza, director of the Southern Historical Collection, recalls a daylong charrette that Chaitra organized and led in order to help residents of San Antonio, Texas, conceptualize an African American history museum and archive in the city.
“Chaitra planned the event so that voices from every sector of the community would be heard,” he said. “She inspired those present to carry the work forward and to embrace a community-centered approach to building collections.”
“Chaitra is helping to draw the Southern Historical Collection forward with a broad and inclusive view of the historical record,” said Interim University Librarian Carol Hunter. “Her work fills gaps in our understanding of the past, and she is also helping to chart a new kind of future for archives everywhere.”
Powell is UNC’s fourth “Mover & Shaker.” She will be featured in the March 15 issue of Library Journal and on the magazine’s website. Movers & Shakers will be celebrated at a special reception in June during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Chicago, Illinois.