Churchill County librarian celebrates 30 years on the job

Christy Lattin/Nevada Appeal News Service Joyce Betts, the children's librarian at the Churchill County Public Library, reads a book to a small group of kids during story time. Enjoying the story, from left to right, are Brenton Baker, 3, Laura Smith, 4, and Lily Johnson, 5.

Christy Lattin/Nevada Appeal News Service Joyce Betts, the children's librarian at the Churchill County Public Library, reads a book to a small group of kids during story time. Enjoying the story, from left to right, are Brenton Baker, 3, Laura Smith, 4, and Lily Johnson, 5.

Joyce Betts sits in a comfortable easy chair tucked away in a corner of the library, reading a book about what snowmen do at night aloud to a small group of children who are totally enthralled.

This is what it's all about - and what it's been about for 30 years.

Thursday marked the 30th anniversary that Betts has worked at the Churchill County Public Library. A majority of that time has been as the children's librarian.

"Joyce is the best children's librarian in the state of Nevada," said Barbara Mathews, head librarian, bragging about her long-time co-worker and friend.

Betts said she was at the right place at the right time to land a job at the library and began as a contract worker under a state library program. She said she earned $3 an hour at the time, and baby-sitting cost $2 an hour.

Betts took the initiative and created the children's program at Churchill County Public Library and even held a preschool for a few years.

"If you lose the children, you lose everyone," Betts said.

She said the library's preschool used to hold monthly themes. One month featured careers, and a visit from local doctor Galen Reimer. He brought along a skeleton for a visual aid, however, one little girl convinced all the other kids that they would look like the skeleton once they were done.

"Mr. Bones never came again," Betts laughed.

After more local daycare centers expanded into preschools, Betts pulled back from the time consuming school preparation and focused on story time, which is still held on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. She said most of her audience is comprised of kids ages 3-5, but she welcomes any child from birth on up.

"If a child cries this week, just bring them back the next week," Betts said. "Kids love to be read to. The more you read to them, the better readers they will be."

She also drove the Bookmobile for a time and when it was discontinued, the books were divided up and sent to smaller libraries in Nevada.

"We always think of ourselves as a small library, but we're a medium-sized library," she said. "We have one of the better libraries in Nevada."

Betts grew up in California and attended college at Humboldt State. She confesses to being a "flower child" and that she "had to bum around Europe before she settled down," and met the "former Mr. Betts," who was from England.

She began working at the library when it was only 10 years old and has seen the way the building is used change over the years. She remembers when local groups would hold meetings there and artists would display their art for a month at a time.

"Then when we switched to computers, within two months half the library staff had glasses, myself included."

Mathews said Betts was instrumental in establishing the library's annual Teddy Bear Tea, a fundraiser for the summer reading program, which has also been through an evolution of its own.

Betts recalls having children bring plain T-shirts down to the library and the staff would silk screen images onto the shirts on the front sidewalk then hang them out to dry.

The best part of her job, Betts said, is that moment when she finally connects a child with a book that captures their interest.

"The parents will come back and say, 'You got my child to read,'" she said.

What's the worst part of job?

"Weeding books," she said. "I grew up when all books had value. We usually find good places for them to go. The perk is we get to read.

"It's like working in a candy store."

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