Josephine Gurira, reference services librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Karrmann Library, is being honored with the university’s 2020 Outstanding Woman of Color Award. The award recognizes female faculty, staff and students of color at UW-Platteville, as well as women of color in the Platteville community.
Born in the African country of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, Gurira has been in the library profession for nearly 50 years. She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University and later earned her Master of Education in social studies from Penn State University, and eventually a Master of Arts in library science from the University of Minnesota.
Her career has taken her to a number of places, worldwide. After earning her master’s in library science, she returned to Zimbabwe, where she worked in the University of Zimbabwe library for more than 23 years, holding positions that included reference, head of public services, information literacy instruction and deputy university librarian.
In 2012, Gurira joined the Karrmann Library staff at UW-Platteville, where she says one of the things she most enjoys is “engaging with all the library patrons, especially the international students and students of color, who remind me of my own days as a foreign and minority student during my college days.”
“I mostly enjoy the face-to-face conversational interactions that lead to eye-opening experiences,” said Gurira. “They sometimes lead to personal friendships and trust from students who come back to thank me or just to chat about the result of their search that I would have helped them with. Others send letters thanking me for being ‘the friendly librarian’ they felt free to come to and for opening their learning experience to better use of the library resources with the result of learning to meet their future information needs with confidence; not only here but also in past similar positions. It is also gratifying to get letters and emails of satisfied patrons for my work or help to their research or learning experience.”
Gurira said she also enjoys working with the variety of patrons at Karrmann Library – from students and faculty from all disciplines, to the public, including engaging online or by phone with people across the country.
“Being recognized as an outstanding woman of color is a very precious honor to me,” said Gurira, who added that she thanks the University Women’s Council and her colleagues, particularly John Berg, reference coordinator at Karrmann Library, who nominated her for the award. “I am most gratified to have had the honor of my name being among the many women of color who serve and have served at this institution.”