Photo: Josefina del Toro, reading and annotating El Mundo newspaper. April 8, 1973 from the Puerto Rican Digital Library Collection
Submitted by Sujei Lugo, doctoral student at GSLIS Simmons College and former librarian at the University of Puerto Rico.
Josefina del Toro Fulladosa (1901-1975) was the first Puerto Rican woman to obtain a library degree, the first female library school professor in Puerto Rico and the first female director of the University of Puerto Rico General Library. Her accomplishments during a 44-year career place her as one of the most important figures in Puerto Rican librarianship.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, del Toro Fulladosa received her bachelor degree in Library Science from Simmons College in 1925, becoming their first Puerto Rican graduate. She returned to Puerto Rico and started working as an Assistant Librarian at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Río Piedras (the oldest campus of the public higher education system in Puerto Rico). Del Toro Fulladosa wanted to pursue graduate studies, a reason that drove her to apply for a work leave to continue her studies abroad. In 1938 she received a Master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, New York, where she wrote her thesis: Spanish American Biography.
Interview conducted by Wendy Lamb
Can you please tell me something of your background, and your work in children’s books?
After graduating from high school in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, I attended the University of Florida where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education. One of my professors at the University of Florida, Dr. Linda Leonard Lamme, really turned me on to children’s books. She introduced me to authors and illustrators like James E. Ransome, Eloise Greenfield, and Floyd Cooper. I remember her sharing books such as Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell with our class.
After graduation, I kept in touch with Dr. Lamme while I was teaching elementary school in Macon and she encouraged me to pursue a doctoral degree in children’s literature at The Ohio State University. She knew about its exceptional program in children’s literature. After five years of teaching students in kindergarten, first, and second grade, I resigned from my position and moved to Columbus, Ohio to attend graduate school. It was there that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a leading scholar of African American children’s books. These two women have had a profound impact on my career and life.
Currently I am an associate professor of Literacy Education at Clemson University in South Carolina and I teach reading methods and children’s literature courses for early childhood, elementary, and special education majors. I mainly teach undergraduates but I occasionally teach graduate students working on their master’s and doctoral degrees in literacy education.