Kathleen E. Bethel was born in Washington, D. C. and attended Elmhurst College, receiving a B.A. in Political Science. She received a M.A.L.S. from Dominican University and a M.A. in African history from Northwestern University. She has worked at the Johnson Publishing Company library, the Newberry Library, and the Maywood and Wilmette Public Libraries. Currently serving on the Council, the governing body of the American Library Association, Kathleen is active with the African American Studies Librarianship Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Black Caucus of ALA. Kathleen is involved in library leadership, diversity, recruitment, and research activities.
A life member, Kathleen serves on the Executive Council of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc. A life member and bibliographer for the Toni Morrison Society, she is a member of several groups supporting Black research and collections. She is a member of the Caribbean Studies Association, the Steering Committee of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science Alumni Council, and, serves on the advisory boards for the Project on the History of Black Writing and the online Journal of Pan African Studies. She served as trustee of Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History, Inc., from 1993 to 2007.
Ms. Bethel has worked on various projects exploring and documenting Black life and culture. Kathleen served as an International Non-governmental Observer for the first national elections in South Africa, and 2 years later, as a Fulbright Library Fellow posted to the University of Durban-Westville, now the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She consulted on Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History's Africa Project. Kathleen has written biographical entries, book reviews, reports, and bibliographies on a variety of topics in Black Studies