Library Leaders

Virginia Proctor Powell Florence occupies a special place in the history of the African American population. She was particularly a big inspiration to the women of Africa descent in America being the first woman to pursue successfully a career in the library studies.

She was born on the first October 1903; she went to a local public school in Wilkinsburg Pennsylvania. Her parents died when she was still at her tender age. She was living with her aunt. In 1915, she cleared from high school and proceeded to join Oberlin College graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English. She secured a job in Minnesota working as a secretary as the persistent racial discrimination hampered, temporarily, her dreams to work in her former high school (Kinder, Sean, 2008)

She had a big dream of pursuing library science and she applied for a place in the Camegie library school, successfully completed her diploma studies in 1922. However, being a pioneer among blacks, she could not be awarded a diploma, this only happened after a number of years later. Her dream career commenced in the New York public library for a number of years before her appointment into Seward high school Brooklyn, as a librarian.

She got married to Charles, her fiancé who had greatly supported her in her career. She still pursued her career working at Cardoza High, Washington DC. She then moved to Maggie L. walker senior high still as a librarian.

A look at her life reveals a strong-charactered lady who was able to trend a path that had been shunned by many, winning admiration across the racial divide and no doubt propelling the importance of education in the community to higher level.

Even at the time of her death, in 1991, Virginia proctor Powell Florence, an educationist and a career librarian was an inspiration to many. Meeting this respected lady is truly humbling.

There are a number of renowned educators that I would like to see join Virginia Proctor Powell Florence and I for tea. Among the famous black American educators, I would most respectably like to meet Virginia lacy Jones and Joseph Henry Reason. There are prominent figures in library leadership, on top of Powell Florence, I admire greatly. So humble and yet so giving. They have contributed eminently to education (Dawson, 2000).

Doctor Joseph Henry Reason and Virginia Lacy Jones CVs’ run long, with academic qualifications, experience and personal accomplishments. They both have such inspiring profiles that cannot be matched by many in their generation. Overcoming so many odds to claim a place in the academic circles and history.

Dr. Joseph H. Reason lived a life committed to extending knowledge, at the time of his death; he had been the director of Howard university libraries for over twenty years, with strings of accomplishments and projects in the university.

Born in 1905, Joseph has many degrees to his name that only can dream of. He has been to New Orleans, Howard, and in the university of Pennsylvania, he took a Bachelor of Science degree specialising on library science then went ahead to get his PhD from the catholic university of America (Http://Www.Allctr.Edu/Documents/October2007oo1.Pdf).

He was also the director of number university libraries including A&M university libraries. He helped initiate a number of university projects and building sites. He was a trustee in the Eckerd College. He has also featured in a number of taskforces and under his tutelage, saw the approval of Howard university library as a member in to the association of research libraries. (ARL).

The list of his accomplishments run long, but is clearly inspiring. Meeting such a person would be a dream come true considering I don’t usually meet such high calibre persons in academics (Marcus Bruce Christian, 2007).

Virginia lacy Jones accomplishments are equally impressive. She was born in 1912 and died in 1984. She received her degree on library studies. She was brought up in West Virginia with Ohio being her birthplace. Her first job in the library was in the Louisville municipal college. She was later to return to the home of her former school, Hampton institute library to get her degree, which she did in social studies.

She went back to Louisville to her former workplace and helped found the Kentucky Negro Education Association in Louisville. In 1936, she was appointed to head a program that sought to initiate training to blacks for librarianship. Amidst much opposition from whites over her pay, as she was being paid similar amounts, she made it through and was promoted in to the position of head librarian back in the municipal college (Reinette F. Jones, 2002).

Immediately after this promotion, her friend and mentor, Florence Curtis helped secure a master scholarship in library science. She got the masters from the University of Chicago in 1938 and was to get a place in the Atlanta University as the cataloguing librarian. She was named a member of the faculty. She got her PhD in 1945 and at the same time married a French professor. She was the second woman among the blacks to get such high qualifications in academics. Her accomplishments after that run long and she was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on one of the library presidential advisory committees.

With such impressive résumés who would not want to meet these three distinguished figures.


Reinette F. Jones, 2002. Library Service To African Americans In Kentucky. Mc Far Land.

Top Shelf, October 2007. The Newsletter Of The Robert W. Woodruff Library Of The Atlanta University Centre. Vol 3 No 2 Retrieved On 07/03/2008

The African American Registry 2005. Florence Powell Loved Kids and Books Retrieved On 07/03/2008 from Http: www.aaregistry.Com

Arna Boztemps, Marcus Bruce Christian, 2007. A chronology of Event In Black Librarianship

Dawson, ALMA, 2000. Celebrating African- American Librarians and Librarianship. Retrieved On 07/03/2008 from

Kinder, Sean, Anticipated Spring 2008.“Virginia Proctor Powell Florence.” African American National Biography. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press (W.E.B. Du Bois Institute).


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