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Josephine “Josie” O. Campos Librarian Leads in Mining Community

May 09, 2014
Josephine “Josie” O. Campos

Mining town history runs deep for Josephine “Josie” O. Campos. Her mother, Belen Cuaron, was raised in Jerome, Ariz., where she met Jose Jesus Ortega, whose father worked in the Jerome mines. They married in 1946 after Jose returned from World War II. Josie was born in 1948 in Jerome, Arizona, and was followed by her brother and sister.

With a larger family, Jose searched for a better paying job and chose Superior, Ariz., where they moved in 1957. Josie recalls that the town in the 1950s, with a population of 8,000, appeared much different than today with its present population of only 3,000 residents. Josie grew up in Superior, attending Roosevelt Elementary and Superior High School.

Josie graduated from high school in 1966 and married Ruben Campos, her high school sweetheart. They lived near Kearny, Arizona, before Ruben moved into a mining job in Superior. Josie worked for a short period and then remained at home to care for her son Ruben Jr., born in 1967. Josie had her second child, Lorraine, in 1982.

It was through her daughter that she became familiar with the Superior Public Library. Josie enjoyed taking Lorraine to the library to read books, and it wasn’t long before library staff asked her to volunteer to help the preschool program. In the mid-1980s Josie began assisting with morning and afternoon preschool classes, which were the only classes of this type available in Superior.

In 1988, Josie began working as a part-time evening librarian. When the children’s librarian stepped down, Josie then moved into this role where she oversaw the preschool, after school, and reading programs. She served as children’s librarian until 1993, when city staff promoted her to library director.

Josie became the first Latina library director in Superior and in Pinal County. As director, Josie struggled through continuous budget cuts as the town’s economy dropped sharply. The Superior mine closed in 1989 and many people left the town to seek other work. Eventually, the library only survived financially because the county library district began funding some of the operations and acquisitions.

She has overcome many obstacles and challenges in her 21 years as library director. Josie faced the challenge of finding funding to automate the library, as mandated through Pinal County. She wrote successful grants to switch from manual to computerized library processes, which also meant learning how to use the computers and the programs needed to complete this task.

Josie has also played a key role in building programs that provide services to the community. She developed the Summer Reading Program, partnered with the historical society to collect oral histories, and brought in traveling exhibits and speakers from the Arizona Humanities Council. Her programs helped young people develop a love of reading and engaged them in finding information through technology. She has also brought in grant money to provide computer-training classes, which have helped residents write resumes, find jobs, and develop skills, as well as raised grant money for facility repairs and ADA accessibility. 

Her long tenure with the city and the library has put Josie into the role of community leader. As a long-time resident of Superior, and a family with mining roots, she can understand the experiences of others in town. As a Latina, Josie maintains a close connection to the residents, since many users of the library are Hispanic. She speaks Spanish and can provide help to those who are not proficient in English.

Josie has received numerous recognitions over the years on behalf of her service to the Town of Superior, from a 1993 Superior Education Association award for her leadership in the preschool and Head Start programs, to honors for her dedication to the community in the areas of recreation and library services. Although she retired in 2012, she still works at the library part-time to ensure its continuing success.