Champion of Change

Gloria Tibbs at White House panel discussion

Gloria Tibbs earns White House honor

Gloria Tibbs, a librarian for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has been named a White House “Champion of Change.” She is one of 12 museum and library professionals from across the country who participated in panel discussions at the White House Tuesday June 11.

The panel discussions focused on the topic of “Creating Lifelong Learners.” According to the White House announcement, “this Champions event will focus on libraries and museums who make a difference for their neighborhoods and for our nation.  The honorees are providing powerful learning experiences.  They are reaching young children and their families with early learning opportunities, offering exciting experiences for teens to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and math, helping immigrants learn English and pursue citizenship and providing services for hard-to-reach populations so that everyone can succeed in school and in life.

“The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.”

Tibbs is the second person with UMKC ties to be recognized as a Champion of Change. UMKC student Riddhiman Das was one of 12 immigrant entrepreneurs honored on May 29. Das’ White House blog commentary tells his story of becoming immersed in Kansas City’s technology entrepreneurship community as an undergrad, and how the combination of university study and real world experience helped him launch three companies. Das attends the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering, participated in the Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) certificate program at UMKC’s Bloch School of Management, and launched one of his companies, Galleon Labs, out of the UMKC Innovation Center.

Tibbs is a Teaching and Learning Services Librarian at UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library, where she has worked since 2001. She also serves as the Library’s Diversity Liaison, a role that enables her to diligently promote the principles of diversity, inclusiveness, and respect throughout the Libraries, the campus, the greater Kansas City community, and the profession.  

Library officials cited her work on two important initiatives that led to her nomination: the university’s annual Social Justice Lecture, sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Access and Equity; and the library’s participation in the annual African-American Read-In, a national Black History Month event sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.

On both projects, Tibbs led successful efforts to involve the broader Kansas City community in university programming.

For the Social Justice Lecture, she worked to expand the single-event lecture into a multi-segment, multi-media series with extensive community participation. That started in 2009, with a visit by scholar and author Michael Eric Dyson. Tibbs organized three library-based events prior to his speech: a showing and discussion of the documentary “Trouble the Water”, a discussion of Dyson’s book “Come Hell or High Water”, and a personal discussion of an evacuee’s experience led by a UMKC librarian who had lived in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina and evacuated to Alabama.

Tibbs spearheaded efforts to bring the African-American Read-In to UMKC, beginning in 2010.

“I wanted to do something for Black History Month that would bring the campus community and the greater Kansas City community together. I was doing internet research and came upon the concept of the African-American Read-In, and realized it was perfect,” Tibbs said. “You celebrate the works of African-American authors, and you also celebrate literacy, so I could use it as a vehicle to communicate the value of literacy.

She broadened the concept to include a variety of expressions beyond readings, to include musical performances and dramatic interpretations. “We stressed the total African-American cultural experience,” she said, which also included food – she made homemade peach cobbler and served it at the Read-In. “Sharing food is a vital part of the culture.”

Originally from Osawatomie, Kan., Tibbs worked for public library systems in El Paso, Tex., Memphis and Boston before coming to UMKC.

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