By David Simpson

DVDs arranged on a shelf

The Naro Video Collection contains more than 42,000 titles, many of which are not available from streaming services. Top image: The collection will occupy a 4,600-square-foot space in Perry Library (rendering courtesy of ODU Libraries).

Old Dominion University Libraries personnel are hard at work preparing for the 2024 opening of the Naro Video Collection, a 42,000-title trove that will become an asset for movie lovers and scholars within and outside of the University, said Dean of Libraries Timothy Hackman.

ODU received the collection in 2020 as a gift from Tim Cooper and Linda McGreevy, former owners of the Naro Expanded Video store on Norfolk’s Colley Avenue. The longtime business closed in 2019 after briefly converting to a nonprofit.

Hackman led a meeting Wednesday night at Perry Library for local people who had ties to the store – former employees, customers, volunteers, board members, donors and others.

“This collection means so much to so many people,” Hackman told the guests. It includes thousands of films not available from video streaming services.

Hackman and Naro Video Collection Curator Kris King updated the audience on progress and plans. Among them:

  • Library staffers are nearly finished cataloging the titles.
  • The collection will reside in a first-floor, 4,600-square-foot space on the east side of Perry Library. Renovation should be finished by the end of 2023.
  • The full collection is expected to open in the new space in the spring of 2024.

In the meantime, there are several ways to get a taste of what’s to come.

A small-scale version of the collection – the Naro Sneak Peek – opened in 2022. It stands just inside the main entrance to Perry Library, with videos available for checkout.

University personnel and ODU students may check out videos from the Sneak Peek, and eventually from the full collection, at no charge. Members of the public must first join the Friends of the ODU Libraries ($50 or $100 a year). Affordable parking for the public is available in the 43rd Street and Bluestone Garage next to the Perry Library; payment is by mobile app.

And free “Naro-Minded” screenings continue to be offered at the Michael and Kimthanh Lê Planetarium on campus and at the Naro Expanded Cinema, 1507 Colley Ave. See the website for times and locations.

The Naro collection has value beyond entertainment. It can also enrich academic study and spark community discussion, said Najmeh Moradiyan-Rizi, assistant professor of film studies. She told the audience the Naro library was a big reason she chose to come to ODU last year.

“During my interview, I was thinking about the possibilities that the collection can offer in terms of community building, in terms of raising film culture,” she said. At ODU, she screens a feature-length movie for every class topic, along with clips and stills from other films.

A native of Iran whose specialties include international film, documentary film and women’s cinema, she stressed the power of the medium to aid cross-cultural understanding.

“When we talk about the significance of the political divides that are getting deeper and deeper in our country, then what is better than film to combat that?” she asked.

Hackman said the collection offers an opportunity to push the educational and research missions of the University.

“One of the things that excites me is that pretty much any subject that we teach on this campus, we can probably find something in the Naro that is relevant somehow,” he said.

A major purpose of Wednesday’s event was to recruit members for a planned Naro Advisory Board. Once formed, the board will raise money, promote the collection, encourage gifts of audiovisual and film-related materials, recruit new board members and advise the dean on membership decisions.

Fundraising is crucial, Hackman said, to help pay for renovation, maintenance, wages, royalties, new videos and other things. Startup costs are expected to amount to $285,800; estimated ongoing costs are $95,000 a year. To help cover ongoing expenses, he hopes to raise enough money to create an endowment.

Anyone wishing to serve on the advisory board may fill out this form.  

Collection donors McGreevy and Cooper bought the Naro Video business in the mid-1990s. Cooper had been the film critic for PortFolio magazine, and McGreevy was an art history professor at ODU. The pair incorporated their own collection of videos into the store’s stock and built on it.

McGreevy, who retired from ODU in 2012 after 33 years, said in a 2020 interview about the donation that she wanted to give back to the university that had given so much to her.

The gift was gratefully accepted. As Hackman said Wednesday night, summing up the mood of the room: “We’re here because we believe in the power of the art form.”