By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After a 49-year association with the Lee County Library, director Jan Willis will be taking his love of books to Memphis.
Willis, 53, revealed his retirement plans to the library’s administrative board of directors on March 23. His last day will be June 30.
“I would never leave my library and my hometown except for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Willis, who first set foot in the Tupelo library when he was 4 years old. “But as boring as this sounds, I will be taking a job as a school librarian in Memphis, and will be directly working with students every day. And that’s my favorite thing to do. My idea of fun here is to go downstairs and find a mother and her kids and help them find good books to read.”
The library’s board of directors has appointed a search committee made up of Frances Williams, chairwoman of the board, along with Glenda Segars, Michael Gratz Jr. and Dan Brasfield, to find the library’s next director.
“We’re going to consider the kind of candidates we want to interview and get together a list of criteria,” Williams said. “Jan has done such a wonderful job here. We’re happy for him, but we’re really going to miss him. It will be a challenge to replace him.”
Williams said that if the board hasn’t found a suitable candidate by June 30, it will consider appointing an interim.
“We want time to research this,” she said. “We don’t want to rush into anything.”
Willis has worked as a librarian in the state’s library system for 30 years, and has been director of the Lee-Itawamba Library System since 2004.
“It’s the best job in the world for me,” he said. “But it’s really not a job. It’s a calling. I get to come in here and help people every day.”
Willis credits his co-workers for the library’s recent resurgence in patrons.
“The thing I’m most proud of here is the staff I get to work with every day,” he said. “They’re the reason we’ve been rediscovered by the community.”
Contact Ginna Parsons at (662) 678-1581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.