Meet the Library Board: Virginia G. Young

Virginia stands by a collection of small sculptures. (circa 70s)Virginia G. Young
Columbia Public Library/Daniel Boone Regional Library Board Member, 1951-2001*

You may have heard of the Virginia Young Room at the Columbia Public Library, or maybe you’re familiar with the bronze bust in that room bearing her name. This level of recognition is an indication of what an important role Virginia G. Young played in making the Daniel Boone Regional Library the place you enjoy today.

Virginia earned her Master of Library Science degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1940 and moved to Columbia that same year. She joined the Columbia Public Library board in 1951. During her time on the board, she played a role in the official adoption of
the trial bookmobile services in 1958 for Boone and Callaway Counties, the formation of the Daniel Boone Regional Library system in 1959, and the construction of both the 1971 and 2002 library buildings in Columbia.

She shared her fervor for public libraries on a national level. She was active in the American Library Association and the Missouri Library Association, and she authored the book “The Library Trustee,” first published in 1964 with the fifth edition appearing in 1995 and a digitized version in 2007. In 1989, she was quoted as saying:

“Our nation, which was founded on knowledge, can survive only if our people are constantly informed and seeking knowledge. Our libraries are the source of this knowledge and in the forefront in combating illiteracy. If I were to choose one word to describe American Civilization, it would not be freedom, liberty or equality, but access — access to books, information and knowledge so that we may develop our unequal abilities to the fullest. I will do anything I can do to enhance the awareness and importance of libraries to insure we remain a free people.”

Virginia also traveled the world with her insistent message about why public libraries were important. She traveled to Australia, Canada, China and France as a lecturer/author and served as a delegate to the worldwide International Federation of Library Associates.

We’re fortunate that she called Columbia home and directed much of her library advocacy to Mid- Missouri. Current and long-serving DBRL board member Pat Powell said, “Virginia knew everyone in a position to help the library on the national, statewide and local level. She was able to use those connections to help DBRL. Sometimes a phone call from Virginia made all of the difference.”

Melissa Carr, who worked at DBRL for 45 years and served as director from 1996-2018 knew Virginia well. “When I started going to national conferences early in my career, I quickly learned that she was well known nationally. As soon as I said I was from Daniel Boone Regional Library, people would often say ‘Oh, you’re from Virginia Young’s library,’” said Carr. “Mrs. Young served in many leadership positions when she was a DBRL trustee. She truly loved libraries and no matter where she traveled, she proudly talked about the importance of library services and specifically about her local library. She encouraged everyone to use their public library and to make sure local libraries received the funding needed to best serve their communities. In her final years on the board, she was instrumental in the formation of the DBRL Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds to exclusively support DBRL. She made a difference.”

* Virginia served multiple 9-year terms over the course of 50 years, rejoining as quickly as the bylaws allowed.

Virginia’s Honors

  • 1955
    Appointed to the Missouri State Library Commission by
    the governor
  • 1960s
    Served on the advisory committee to the U.S. Commissioner of Education’s library services branch
  • 1962
    Received the American Library Association Trustee Citation of Merit
  • 1979
    Appointed to the advisory committee to the White House Conference of Libraries
  • 1979
    Received the University of Oklahoma Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award
  • 1985
    Honored with an honorary life membership in the American Library Association
  • 1994
    Received the Missouri Library Association inaugural Outstanding Service Award (which was later named after her)
  • 2000
    Named to the American Library Association’s National Advocacy Honor Roll
  • 2021
    Inducted into the Missouri Public Library Hall of Fame