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'I’ve worked hard for this': Nelson library hires new branch manager

Yulita Ellis has been named the new branch manager for Nelson Memorial Library.

Ellis has worked for Nelson County since 1999, starting out as a cafeteria worker at Tye River Elementary School.

Ellis, who worked at Tye River for 17 years, later became a library assistant at the school where she worked with former Nelson library branch manager Susan Huffman.

“That experience at the elementary school was great. I was seeing those kids that came in at kindergarten graduating,” Ellis said.

Ellis said that, working in the Nelson Memorial Library now, sometimes those children will come in with their own children and she’ll recognize them.

Ellis got her bachelor’s degree later in life.

“I enrolled to get my bachelor’s degree in 2012, the same year my daughter started college,” Ellis said.

She said she was originally hoping to get her degree to become a classroom teacher but was on the fence because she was also interested in becoming a media specialist.

Ellis said she wanted a change from the librarian assistant job at the elementary school, and then a position at Nelson Memorial Library in Lovingston came up to work with teen programs.

“I wanted to do something different. I needed change. I had been doing that for a long, long time,” Ellis said.

Ellis said her options were to take the branch specialist position at the library or take more college classes to qualify for a different position. Ellis went with the former.

While working at Nelson Memorial, Ellis realized she wanted to be a librarian.

“Within JMRL [Jefferson-Madison Regional Library], there’s a structure; you can’t move into a librarian position without a master’s. Even though I had worked in the library for years and knew everything about working in the library, I couldn’t become a librarian without that degree,” Ellis said.

So in 2019, she enrolled at Old Dominion University to get her master’s degree online and started taking classes in 2020.

Ellis graduated in 2022 and got her librarian license right after that.

After Ellis got her master’s in library science and licensure, she had to wait for JMRL to either create a new librarian position or have something open up. Until then, she had to continue in her branch specialist position. She also had the option to apply at one of the eight libraries within JMRL.

Ellis contemplated on what she wanted to do and discussed it with her husband.

“I had to think if I really wanted to leave, and it was a no. I love Nelson, I love this library, and I don’t want to leave,” Ellis said.

The plan was to wait it out at Nelson Memorial for a second librarian position to open up or for Huffman to retire and apply for branch manager.

“I just said, ‘OK, I trust that the Lord brought me this far. We’ll figure the rest out,’” Ellis said.

When Ellis got the news that Huffman was retiring, she was surprised, expecting Huffman to be working for another few years.

Ellis planned to take management classes prior to Huffman’s retirement to make her a better candidate for the position but she didn’t get the chance.

“I was like OK she’s retiring, and they posted her job, it’s now or never,” Ellis said.

Ellis said her husband told her to go for it, that she’ll either get hired or not and they will deal with whatever happens.

Ellis got the job and still plans to take the management classes to help her with the responsibilities of the position.

JMRL Director David Plunkett said they’re excited for Ellis to be in this new role.

“JMRL is thrilled to be able to promote Yulita Ellis into this important new role as the leader of the Nelson Memorial Library,” Plunkett said.

Ellis has been in the position for three weeks, and she said she feels as though she’s in a great place for the job.

“I know the functions and purpose of this library, I know our patrons, and I have a good sense of what our community needs,” Ellis said.

“Yulita is already well known for her professional service as a librarian at Nelson Memorial and as a beloved member of the Nelson community. Yulita is going to do great things for the county in the years to come,” Plunkett said.

Ellis said that she has a plan for growth at the library and how the branch can keep moving forward in the future. She wants to do more community outreach and show what services the library provides to Nelson residents.

“There’s so many people that don’t know we have more space now, that we have meeting rooms, our makerspace and all these other things. We have so much more than books,” Ellis said.

Ellis said she wants to connect with more Nelson businesses and organizations to see how they can support each other.

She has reached out to Johnette Burdette, the executive director at Nelson Heritage Center, about creating a partnership with the group’s new child care center that is expected to open up around January 2025.

Ellis said she thinks the library could do storytimes with books and teach parents how to help their children become better readers.

There have been some challenges for Ellis since taking over as branch manager. She said the library is short-handed and her old position as branch specialist has yet to be filled.

“Right now, I’m wearing many hats because we’re short-staffed,” Ellis said.

The library’s summer reading kick-off has also kept her busy, but Ellis said there is a plan in place for the event.

Ellis said she has always carried words from Eddie Rockham, who hired her at the elementary school, with her:"There are so many great things in front of you.”

“I think about that with every new challenge that I face and overcome, when I went back to school, got my bachelor’s, then moved on to this job,” Ellis said.

She said it helps motivate her.

“I’ve worked really hard to get to this place,” Ellis said.


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