After receiving a second master's degree, this time in library studies, she carried her specialization in black studies to the international and area studies department at Duke University Libraries, where she has worked for the past 15 years. Just as she found identity in black scholarship, KJ saw an opportunity to help African students at Duke understand their place in a broader African history, and to teach American students more about the past and present social realities of African-Americans.
“The majority of the students will say, ‘I never learned [black history] in school.’”
Having built up a community of librarians from Africa to the Caribbean, KJ shares with students the knowledge and resource material she has collected from all over the world. To build closer relationships with Duke faculty and staff, she decided to join the introductory African and African-American courses and get to know students throughout the semester, helping them select documents to support their course papers and offering advice and context for students traveling to Africa through Duke Engage, Global Education for Undergraduates and other global programs.
Now, she affectionately refers to Duke students as “her babies”—an apt term of endearment considering her own story began in a library.
KJ will retire in January after 15 years at Duke. Retire is a relative term; she plans to re-join the Peace Corps to serve in Armenia starting in March. Another journey, another stamp on her passport. “I have no idea what life is going to be like this time next year. It’s bizarre," she said. "The adventures of KJ continue.”