By Sandy Rodriguez, Associate Dean of Special Collections & Archives (Librarian III) and Provost Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow – UMKC Office of Faculty Affairs
& Tracey Hughes, Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Teaching & Learning Librarian

On January 24, almost exactly one year after her retirement, Gloria Tibbs passed away peacefully in her sleep, with her husband Gerald by her side. Gloria served in many roles over her 20 years with the UMKC University Libraries, most recently as the libraries’ Organizational Development Coordinator/Diversity Liaison, and she was awarded Librarian Emerita III status in recognition of her accomplished career. In her time at UMKC, Gloria actively promoted initiatives to make the Libraries a more diverse and inclusive environment for students, to support the development of many library workers, and to connect the Libraries to the university community and beyond.

Gloria received several grants to support programming, including a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant which funded the “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” film series at UMKC in 2014. Gloria’s commitment to quality programming earned her several awards, including the 2002 Staff Award for Diversity, Inclusiveness, & Respect, and the 2011 UMKC Chancellors Award for Excellence in Diversity.

Gloria cultivated many relationships within and beyond the university, including the International Students Celebration, the Social Justice Book Discussion, and the African American Read-In, which has drawn broad participation from the Kansas City community for over 10 years. Her commitment to social justice through quality library programming for students, faculty, and community earned her national recognition as one of twelve White House Champion of Change honorees in 2013, under the administration of then-President Barack Obama.

Finally, Gloria was a devoted mentor, assisting new librarians as well as supporting students in the Avanzando Mentorship Program. She was warm, outgoing, generous with her time, fiercely dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and a compassionate friend and colleague. We invite you to join us as we honor the memory and legacy of Gloria Tibbs.

Contact Lona Davenport at to post your favorite memories and gratitudes of Gloria, and she will post them here for all to cherish and remember.

Join us on Monday, February 21st, at 2pm for the 2022 African American Read-In.

Messages from friends of Gloria:

I first met Gloria when I started to attend the African American Read Ins and she was always a delight to be around and to be with. I never missed an AARI so I could always see Gloria and chat with her! – Natasha Ria El-Scari

Throughout the years, I enjoyed the privilege of working with Gloria on numerous programs hosted in our facilities.  She was a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with, and my memory will always recall her as a great human being. Prayers to her family and friends.  She will be missed but certainly not forgotten by those of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with her. –  Jody Jeffries

Gloria was one of the first people I met on campus, and she always made a person feel so welcome, and like they belonged here. She always was so kind and generous. She did a lot to move the needle towards justice in so many profound ways. ~ Lona Davenport

Gloria was a true advocate for racial justice and student success. I fondly recall working with her on library committees during my career at UMKC. Not only was she a consummate librarian at teaching and learning, she was a wonderful cook. At staff potlucks, her dishes were among the tastiest and the first to be gone. I am sad that she’s gone too soon. – Susan Sanders

Gloria was such a joy to be around. She and I served on many librarian search committees and worked closely together of various projects. Gloria had a way of making everyone feel valued as a person and as a contributor to a work project. She will be missed. – Mary Anderson

Gloria was my mentor, starting my sophomore year of college, in 2011 at UMKC. She was the sole influence in my career. It’s hard to summarize our memories and the experiences we shared over the years! She helped me find my path as a librarian. She took me to library conferences and we even appeared on TV together to talk about our mentorship. I was so glad to have Gloria as my mentor because she helped me to be brave in front of the TV camera! Gloria introduced me to the ALA Spectrum Scholars program. A scholarship program for future librarians of color. With her influence, I went to graduate school, received the Spectrum Scholarship, and earned my Master’s degree in Library Science. My most treasured time in my career was when I got to work across the hall from her at Miller Nichols. We always stayed in touch and she was always my cheerleader and confidante. I am going to miss her very much. She leaves an amazing legacy in librarianship and mentorship. She truly championed for change and raised others up. – Patricia Barra Peiffer 

I met Gloria when she reached out to my office about participating in the African American Read-In. She approached this project with so much passion and enthusiasm she convinced me and my co-workers to step out of our comfort zone. As an office we performed a re-enactment of an excerpt from Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. We had so much fun! From then on, we forged a collegial friendship and any ideas she dreamed up we were there to support her as needed. I will always remember the passion she brought to her work at the library but also as one of the most sweetest and genuine souls to walk this earth. I will miss her dearly. – Keichanda Dees-Burnett

Gloria was a spirit like no other. She was warm-hearted, she was fun (with her purple book cart and her love of Curious George), and she always had snacks. More than that, she was an exceptional “people person” which not only made her a librarian passionate about her public service work, but also a colleague unparalleled in her compassion, empathy, and commitment to the collective effort of the whole team. My first impression of her was that she was the type of librarian I should strive to be; ever professional, but never losing my heart for the work and for the people we work with and serve. Gloria used to put inspirational quotes at the bottom of her emails, and one in particular from Maya Angelou sums it up perfectly: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Gloria made me, and countless others, feel welcome and worthy every day. – Jen Salvo (she/her)

Honestly, I don’t know if I can come up with one or two favorite memories of Gloria, just because there are so many times with her that I treasure.  Maybe it was the world-class hugs she would provide; Gloria gave the kind of hugs where you just KNEW you were loved.  Maybe it was the support she offered when I went up for promotion, guiding and encouraging me to put together the strongest possible portfolio for a successful process.  Maybe it was the opportunity to give Gloria the same type of encouragement and availability when she went through her own promotion process.  Maybe it was knowing that her office and email “doors” were always open, whether I needed to talk about professional or personal issues.  Maybe it was the joy she displayed as she worked with students as an Avanzando mentor, or her tireless work ethic she showed while collaborating with Black Studies faculty as part of the “Created Equal” film series, or her delight during every offering of the African American Read-In, or the excitement that beamed from her as she talked about her experience as a Champion of Change.  Or maybe it was knowing that whenever you had a meeting with Gloria, you could be sure to receive a snack pack of goodies (because she didn’t want folks to go hungry on busy days with back-to-back meetings), and that she always set aside a few extra pieces of mini York peppermint patties whenever I met with her.  Truth be told, it was all of those things, and all surrounded by so much love.  Gloria was the truest, most sparkling jewel, and I know that my life was made much richer by having the chance to call her friend.  Good night, dear Gloria.  See you in the morning. – Tracey Hughes (she/her/hers; they/them/theirs)

I am extremely saddened to learn of the death of my high school friend, Gloria Floyd Tibbs. From the descriptions I have read, her personality had not changed at all from when I spent time with her in my high school years. She worked at our local library and I would help her there, organizing the card catalog, because I loved our library and I loved spending time with her. We would go on picnics to the local park and act silly together. She was in our girl’s sorority, the Sub Debs. When in high school, she was Kansas Safety Queen.  Gloria took the role seriously and always took the crosswalk or used the light when crossing the street. In her later years she moved back home to take care of her mother. She was the one of the most joyful, loving and positive people I have ever known. I always thought I would get to see her and spend time with her once more. Words cannot express how saddened I am upon hearing of her death. - Nancy Plummer Holloway