Library director retires, begins new chapter in life

Published 11:00 am Saturday, July 2, 2022

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NATCHEZ — A year after Judge George W. Armstrong Library Director Pamela Plummer planned to retire, she is finally doing it.

First a pandemic and then a personal fight with cancer put off Plummer’s retirement plans a bit, she said. She wanted to leave things in a good place for the next director and has worked tirelessly to do so.  While her last official day has passed, Plummer said she still plans to return over the next couple of weeks to get things ready for Michael Strawberry, who will soon be filling her director’s seat.

“It is bittersweet to end this chapter of my life and to start a new one,” she said. “I’m just grateful. After 51 years, I can hang up my hat and enjoy the view, enjoy my books and enjoy the time with my husband and my family.”

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Plummer started her librarian career at Alcorn State University. She worked there in the library for 20 years, starting as a secretary, and pursued her master’s degree in Library and Informational Science in online classes through the University of Southern Mississippi. Just before finishing her degree, she started her first library director job and became the first African American Library Director in Port Gibson. In 2013, she also became the first African American library director in Natchez at Armstrong Library.

Plummer said reading was the passion that prompted her to become a librarian. Ironically, the position didn’t leave her much time to read, she said. Post-retirement, Plummer said she looks forward to reading, traveling with her husband Robert and spending more time with family.

“I’m grateful that the Lord put me on this path and that I was able to complete this journey. I’m looking forward to many years in this new chapter in my life,” she said. “Yes, I’ll be back. I will stop in every now and then, check out a book or two and just see how things are going.”

One thing Plummer said she is proud of in her nine years at Armstrong Library was having the opportunity to renovate it.

Dr. John Neil Varnell, a psychologist, died in March of 2019 and divided his estate among local nonprofits, including the Judge George W. Armstrong Library.

“When Dr. Varnell left his endowment to the library, it was a welcome relief that the library would have some money to do some things that we could not do with regular funds because of state laws,” she said.

The donation allowed her to fulfill her dream of opening up the way to the front staircase that leads to the children’s books and creating a back exit that leads to a beautiful garden, she said.

“When I was little, I would come in here and run up those steps. I’d be stopped by the librarian because I had to quiet down,” she said. “I just wanted to open up the front entrance again. I also wanted to open up the back entrance again. Until we put it in motion, I didn’t realize what a beautiful area it is. I think Dr. Varnell would be pleased because I understand he was an outdoors person.”

Plummer said she held a staff meeting outside one month when the weather was sunny and cool and suggested Strawberry continue that tradition.

“It’s a beautiful garden,” she said.