By G. Robert Frazier
LA VERGNE, TN — The new assistant librarian at La Vergne Library isn’t really a newcomer at all. Debbie McClendon has had a working relationship with Library Director Donna Bebout for more than a decade, making her a natural fit for the job.
The duo met at Smyrna Library in 2003 as the Children’s Department library team. From that point on, the pair have worked side by side or crossed paths numerous times, leading up to McClendon’s hiring last month. In addition to a four-year stint at Smyrna Public Library as youth services specialist, McClendon previously worked as a bookmobile clerk for the Highland Rim Regional/Stones River Regional Library and was library education assistant at Brown’s Chapel Elementary in Murfreesboro from 2009 to 2016.
McClendon completed her master’s in library science from MTSU just as longtime La Vergne Assistant Librarian Paula Donahue retired, making her a natural choice to fill the role.
“(Paula) was just wonderful and very dedicated to the library,” Bebout says. “The patrons loved her here and we were sad to see her go. But we’re happy to have Debbie step into that role. We’ve worked together for several years and she’s going to bring a lot of energy and a fresh way of thinking to the library.”
McClendon is equally excited about the opportunity.
“I finished my degree over 18 months and now here I am, back with this wonderful woman,” McClendon said of Bebout. “The timing couldn’t have been better. I graduated May 5th and started work June 20th. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been absolutely awesome.”
So, what does an assistant librarian do?
As McClendon explains it, she serves as a liaison of sorts between the rest of the staff and the director. She orders new books and materials. She keeps things going smoothly so that Bebout can concentrate on the many things she needs to do.
“I’m still learning how things go,” she said after just a week on the job. “I’m an out of box thinker. There are 10 ways to do whatever.”
By having served in numerous roles within the library, McClendon feels she understands the needs of both staff and management. “If you have an understanding of who you’re helping, you’re a better leader. Having a cohesive relationship, that’s what it’s all about.”
One of her goals is to “improve overall efficiency and serving this community. That’s our job.” She’s already helped to streamline the book ordering process for patrons looking for a specific book the library may not have in stock.
Community is something McClendon has in her blood. She was born and raised here.
“My husband and I are the fifth generation to own the land in La Vergne. We are rooted in La Vergne,” she says.
She also has a natural affinity to books and a love of literacy.
“I started in the ‘library biz’ while in high school and that is where my love for this line of work cultivated. I love books,” she says. “When I was with the bookmobile, we went from the border of Kentucky to the border of Alabama. We covered a wide expanse and brought books to so many people that didn’t have access to books. We taught them how to read. I loved that job.”
We had to ask: What do you like to read?
“I still love reading children’s books and biographies. I like to learn from other people’s experiences,” she says.