By Liz Kirchner
Weaverville – Citizens and community leaders gathered at the Buncombe County Library System’s Weaverville Branch recently to celebrate and thank Jill Totman for 30 years as head librarian of the Weaverville Library.
“Oh!” Totman said, arriving to the party in the downstairs function room filled with well-wishers. “All the cool people are here!”
Weaverville’s wine and specialty shop Maggie B’s (10C S. Main Street) catered the event with a colorful repast and a book-shaped cake opened to a new chapter.
Guests lined up to speak to Totman. Children greeted her, putting toys in her pockets.
“Thanks for comin’ guys,” she said to some. “Have some food…I’ll still be around – volunteering and joining the Friends’ board,” she said, shaking hands and receiving hugs as more guests arrived.
At the door, people paused to write sentiments of thanks and memories including: “You and the Weaverville Library have meant the world to me all these years. I’ll miss you!” and “Congratulations on a spectacular career and an opportunity for an even better retirement” followed by exclamation points and a flurry of little hearts.
Guests brought gifts of flowers, books and keepsakes, mounding them on the table with the cake.
Jan Fisher, a writer, and Jim McDowell of the Black Potter in Black Mountain brought a pot. Jill’s husband is a potter who trained with McDowell.
People told stories of bringing their kids in for library cards in the 80s and 90s.
“I was here in 1986. She was the librarian. She hadn’t been the librarian long,” said Beverly Reitzel who is now the librarian page (the person who shelves the books). “I told a friend of mine, ‘Weaverville has a great library’ and she said, ‘It’s Jill. They have a great librarian.’”
Soon, the crowd shushed each other and quieted down.
Chair of the Friends of the Weaverville Public Library board, Gene Keil, introduced Weaverville Mayor Al Root.
“It’s a very happy day and a very sad day at the very same time,” Al Root said. “The Town of Weaverville has been blessed to have you as the librarian.”
He presented her with a proclamation stating “Whereas a generation of children have enjoyed a generation of story times…She has led book clubs, and enhanced the cultural intellectual life of Weaverville,” listing several community projects beyond the library that Totman has made possible over her career, including the Weaverville Tailgate Market and the Christmas Parade.
“Now therefore,” he proclaimed, “Dec. 31, 2019 is declared ‘Jill Totman Day’ as a small token of the deep gratitude of the citizens of Weaverville.” The crowd cheered.
The mayor pointed out that September 30, 2015 was also declared Jill Totman Day. “I strongly suspect this is the first time this has happened.” The crowd cheered.
Buncombe County Public Library Director, Jim Blanton, thanked her on behalf of the county and himself.
“One thing that’s been readily apparent to me is how valuable Jill has been to the community,” he said to her. “This roomful of folks is a testament to that and how your dedication and service have really made an impact to the community.”
Friends Chair Keil spoke last. “The Friends of the library haven’t known you for 35 years, but we’ve heard about your exploits,” he said to laughter, “and we want to thank you for being a friend to the Friends. I’m not sure how we could have done without you over the years.” Totman said she echoed that sentiment.
“Without the support of the Friends and the community effort of the Friends,” she said, “this library would not be what it is today. Everybody has just been so dedicated and supportive that it has been the thing that has made it possible for the staff to do as much as we have done. The Friends are going to continue and be here for the library and the community. And that’s the best thing. I certainly appreciate everything.”
Keil reminded the audience that, at the door, as they leave a note to Jill, pick up a flyer explaining how to support the Friends of the Weaverville Library.
“The good news is you’re retiring,” he continued, “but you’re not leaving. We really appreciate all you’ve done for us.”
To her surprise and delight, the Friends presented her with a ticket to the International Storytelling Festival at the National Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tenn, an event attended by library staff every year.
“That’s just wonderful,” she said.
Following the presentation, Keil, who has worked with Jill to support the library for six years, said her most important role has been to make the library a welcoming, friendly place.
“I think, it isn’t just Jill, it’s everyone she hires. Everyone she supervises. You walk in here, you get a friendly, welcoming greeting,” he said. “The other thing that’s special. Jill has been here long enough that people bring their kids to the Storytelling Hour (Tuesdays at 11), who used to go to the Storytelling Hour and she knows them all and she knows their names. And once a week, kids from the elementary school come in. That’s what’s going to be so hard to replace.”
Asked if anyone of the audience had anything to add, someone called out, “We love you, Jill,” and someone else, “Jill for President!”
Assistant Librarian Ryan Kampert said, “Her impact on Weaverville is colossal. They’re big shoes to fill.”
There is no word yet on who will fill those big shoes.
The Weaverville Public Library is located at 41 N. Main Street, Weaverville.
For information about the Friends of the Weaverville Library.