The new director of the Valparaiso library turns the page | Community

Sam Crisler, The Waverly News

VALPARAISO — The new director of the Valparaiso Public Library had no intention of starting another chapter of her life, but so far she’s loving it.

Debi Woodburn, who moved to Valparaiso about two years ago to be closer to her family, took over as director of the library on February 1 after eight months of part-time work at the library.

Prior to that, Woodburn’s experience working with libraries was limited, but she is confident she can build on the library’s momentum since former director Deanna Priefert took over in May 2021.

The library director who preceded Priefert was Lori Springer, who was arrested in 2021 for allegedly using the library’s Amazon account to make personal purchases. His case is still pending in court.

“There’s been a lot of trauma, and I don’t know much or everything about it,” Woodburn said. “But I know people kind of walked away from the library, I think, because of that. But they’re really starting to come back, I feel.

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Woodburn’s strategy to continue to rebuild public trust in the library is to organize events that bring the community into the library to see what it has to offer.

In February, she hosted three events at the library — one for kids, one for teens, and one for adults — each themed around book cover art. She said attendance has already started to increase and she hopes it will stay that way as she makes the library more visible.

“It started slowly, and it’s really starting to pick up,” she said. “I work a lot on the website, just try to post new stuff at least once a week and try to do something to keep the library in front of the community.”

She’s learning on the job, though, and she’s up for the challenge. His new concert is one more adventure in a life full of it.

Woodburn grew up in the Tampa Bay area and attended Florida State University and Ringling College of Art and Design on a scholarship. Her resume includes two decades of work as a flight attendant, which eventually landed her the role of lead steward on the first nonstop flight from New York to Tokyo.

“So I’ve been pretty much everywhere,” Woodburn said.

She loved this job because she could save much of her monthly flight time in just a few days, allowing her to spend her free time with her family or work on her art.

Her dream was to one day own an art gallery, and after her husband’s job brought the family to the Kansas City area, she achieved her goal. In 2000, she opened the Community of Fine Art Gallery in the town square of Liberty, Missouri.

During this time, she was active in the Liberty arts community, serving as the County Art Commissioner and the City of Liberty Art Commissioner. She also started the nonprofit Northland Arts Coalition in 2004, which she said aimed to expose disadvantaged youth to arts education.

“But when you run a business, you’re kind of married to it,” she said. “When I walked into the dream, I thought, ‘Okay, do I want to run a gallery and teach classes, or is my heart just to do my art. “”

“So I was able to do both, which is pretty cool.”






SHARED LOVE: A painting by Debi Woodburn of her granddaughter Ariyah and her dog Prince. She said Ariyah loves to read. The painting serves as a profile picture on the Valparaiso Public Library’s Facebook page. (Courtesy picture)


After living a few years near Houston, she moved to Nebraska, where her daughter had gone to college.

She had planned to retire in Valparaiso, but when a part-time job at the Valparaiso Public Library opened up, she took it.

“I thought, ‘Well, I might get to know some people,'” she said. “I took this job and nearly fell over in this job (as a library director).”

She takes classes to learn the ins and outs of running a library, and she said she enjoyed the learning curve.

“I never thought I would do this, but it’s something that I really love,” Woodburn said.

His long-term goals for the library include some interior renovations – replacing the carpet, repainting the walls. And she hopes to receive a grant from History Nebraska to help restore the bank vault to the library building’s former life as Oak Creek Valley Bank.

Achieving these goals will require the support of the Valparaiso Public Library Board, but she said the board has supported her since she took office.

“They all seem to have a genuine passion to keep this going and don’t let anything that’s happened in the past rob the community of its library,” Woodburn said.

So even though Woodburn is new to Valparaiso, she hopes to become a familiar face to readers young and old. She believes that the support system in place will be strong enough to re-establish the library as a pillar of the community.

“I hope the whole community can kind of move past (the library drama) and just come to terms with the fact that this little town has a really neat library as a resource,” she said.

Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Waverly News. Contact him by email at [email protected].

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