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Erica Bruchko: Helping researchers in Emory Libraries' African American, history collections

Emory Libraries’ African American history collection is so vast that it can be hard to know where to begin. Luckily, Erica Bruchko, African American Studies and U.S. history librarian, is ready with guidance and recommendations for students and faculty.

Bruchko grew up in South Carolina, a state that became the focus of her undergraduate and graduate research. She received her BA from the University of South Carolina and her PhD from Emory, where her studies focused on U.S. history, comparative slavery studies and comparative women’s history. Through her dissertation research, which required her to identify rare books and other obscure sources, she developed a strong interest in history and African American Studies librarianship.

Her work in libraries began first as a student worker and then as a graduate fellow at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, where she assumed responsibility over history-related archival instruction. She later served as a graduate research assistant for several senior fellows at the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory. From there, Bruchko expanded her skills to include general library instruction, research consultation and collection development.

As the African American Studies and U.S. history librarian for the Emory Libraries, Bruchko meets one-on-one with students to help them find sources for their research projects. She has been crucial to the development of a variety of African American Studies projects ranging from the life of black tennis pioneer Althea Gibson, poet Langston Hughes’ travels to Russia, the history of affirmative action at Emory and the civil rights-era murder of James Brazier.

Bruchko also visits classes and teaches students how to use library resources.

“Helping students and scholars find and use relevant sources is what drew me to librarianship,” Bruchko explains. “Faculty and students can come to me at any stage of their research.”

Whether in class or by appointment, she makes herself available to teach these valuable skills.

“Erica is phenomenal,” says Carol Anderson, Emory professor and chair of African American Studies. “She is an integral partner with me in helping my students achieve the research skills that have helped them to write award-winning papers, gain admission into the top graduate and law schools in the nation, and publish their works in peer-reviewed journals.

"The outstanding research guides she creates, the insightful ‘how to conduct research in Woodruff Library’ workshops she leads for my classes, and her ready availability and expertise has my undergraduates flocking to the amazing array of primary sources – newspapers, government documents, databases with facsimiles of original records – for their projects," Anderson notes.

Bruchko builds and manages the collection in her subject areas, acquiring books, databases and materials in many other formats. Faculty often come to her seeking specific newspapers or periodicals that can be difficult to track down.

She has complied research guides such as Primary Sources on Nineteenth Century America and Primary Sources for Twentieth Century America. She also recommends databases such as ProQuest Historical Newspapers for back files of the New York Amsterdam News, the Atlanta Daily World and other prominent African American newspapers; and Readex’s African American Newspapers and African American Periodicals for rarer African American authored publications.

Recently purchased databases include ProQuest History Vault, which has a vast amount of material related to the Black Freedom Struggle and U.S. history more broadly, and HistoryMakers, a large database of African American oral histories.

Bruchko takes pride in the range of projects the collection has allowed Emory students and faculty to pursue.

“Emory has one of the best African American history collections at an academic library in the country,” Bruchko says. “I’ve seen a number of students doing great work using the collections in the Rose Library and databases such as the History Vault, our extensive black newspaper collections, and print and digital oral histories and autobiographies of civil rights leaders.”

“I think that asking the right questions makes a good librarian,” she adds. “I want to connect researchers with the best sources for their projects and help them do great work.”  

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