Former Librarian Shares Memories in New Book

Debbie Youngman, with her book Laughter in the Library.

By Cory L. Higgs

In her first book, Debbie Youngman shares a collection of stories and accounts from her career as a librarian in Virginia and North Carolina.

The Bristol Tennesseenative, who now lives in Henry County, spent a lifetime in the library.

Through that journey, Youngman said she interacted and met an array of unique children who created, as the book is titled, ‘Laughter in the Library.’

Even now, she laughs when recalling some of the comments from kids over the years.

Youngman said that her career in the library began in 1970, after she graduated from the University of Tennessee. Youngman was hired as an assistant librarian at Bluefield College in West Virginia.

Youngman said she met her first husband while in that post, and then moved around Virginia, landing in several different jobs before ultimately landing a job at an elementary school in Ashland, Virginia. That was when she got the idea of journaling about her experiences. Youngman said she jotted down the humorous interactions of her daily routine so that she wouldn’t forget the comments children made to her, often in passing. At the time, Youngman said she never thought of compiling those notes into a book.

Not all of the memories are as pleasant. Youngman recalled that she accepted a job at a library with more than 900 students, and described it as “a mess.” That position was a learning experience, she said, adding that it inspired her to attend graduate school the following year (1974) to attain her master’s degree in library sciences.

She moved her life back to Tennessee and stayed with her father until she completed her degree in 1975. She then found herself in a new job at Doswell Elementary School, a much smaller school that served an estimated 100 students. There, Youngman continued to build her journal, cataloging the precious moments the children shared with her.

After spending a year in that position, Youngman hit the road once again and moved to Henry County. She substituted for school librarians before accepting a full-time position in 1977 at Clearview Elementary School. She held that position for 29 years, until the school closed in 2006.

All totaled, Youngman said she spent 40 years as a librarian, including the 37 years she spent in elementary schools. She also served as a librarian for the First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville and joined the North Carolina Church and Synagogue Library Association, where she served as president for a few years.

Youngman said she was looking for paperwork in a drawer when she stumbled across the old journal she had maintained for so many years. After reading those old notes and laughing till her jaws hurt, Youngman said she decided to share the joys she encountered during her 40 years of service.

Even the artwork on the front of her books was drawn by a student in her library, Youngman said, adding it highlights just a small portion of the laughter that was in the library.

Youngman and her books will participate in the Basset High School Band’s Fall Craft Show, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 23 and 1 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 24. She said she hopes to see many friends – old and new- while there at the craft show. It will be held at Bassett High School, 85 Riverside Drive, Bassett.

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