February 17, 2018

Susan Benz | Movers & Shakers 2007

Connecting Through Images


An artist herself, Susan Benz thinks it’s the visual aspect of digitization – ‘providing information through images’ – that appeals to her. As manager of the Brooklyn Public Library’s web site and digital collections, she’s done that by digitizing the Brooklyn Sheet Music collection, Brooklyn Playbills collection, and Fulton Street Trade Card (FSTC) collection and by maintaining The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Onlin (BDEO), a record of Brooklyn life from 1841 to 1902.

Since she is responsible for answering queries from users and adapting the sites to meet their needs, Benz has come to see the collections through their eyes. When genealogists were frustrated with BDEO, Benz created a Genealogy Information page to help them search obituaries and personal information. One grateful user said, ‘It beats hell out of poring over reels and reels of microprint. I kiss you all!’

Benz has discovered that once the content is online, users will mine it to make it their own. Researchers excitedly tell her all the different ways they’ve used BPL’s digital collections: to help students understand how the Civil War affected Brooklyn, to mount an exhibit on African American women’s history, or even to renovate a Brooklyn synagogue following the historic floor plan found in BDEO. Graphic designers are using the images from the FSTC collection.

Benz’s work goes beyond providing information. She helps her library draw an intimate connection with people’s lives.




CURRENT POSITION Manager of Web Content and Digital Collections, Brooklyn Public Library

DEGREES MLS, University of Maryland, 1998

PALETTE-ABLE INTERESTS Paints expressionist portraits and large abstract oil paintings