Saying goodbye to 36 years of memories |

Saying goodbye to 36 years of memories

Christine Kuklica
Retiring librarian Joyce Betts, center, is flanked by co-works, Diane Wargo, left, and Brenda Owens.
Christine Kuklica / |

Not many people can say they’ve held the same position for 36 years, but Joyce Betts is one of the few who can.

Betts was born in Los Angeles. When she was three her parents moved her and her brother to neighboring Whittier. She and her then husband use to come visit her aunts and uncles that lived in town. After some consideration they decided to move the family to Fallon in 1977.

They felt that Fallon was a better place to raise their children, and six months after arriving here, she was hired as the children’s librarian. Betts, has two daughters, Andrea and Georgia, and two grandsons.

Betts, was the first children’s librarian in Churchill County. When she started at the library, she said the children’s section was very small with just a few shelves of books on three small racks.

Barbara Matthews, former co-worker and supervisor of Betts had only positive lighthearted things to say about her.

“Betts, was a breath of fresh air,” said Matthews who retired last year as the head librarian. “She possessed an openness and willingness to engage with the children. Her child-like quality really made the kids gravitate towards her.”

The library has grown significantly throughout the years, Betts said. Technology has changed, they started out with three computers for the public to use right next to the children’s section so everyone came and visited with me. They continued to expand with grants and started accumulating computers; they now have around 20 computers that they’re able to use and the public too.

Betts wanted to provide programs that would benefit the children, so she thought of a way to provide funding for the Summer Reading Programs. She started the Teddy Bear Tea in 1986, and still continues today. The fundraiser helps to engage not only the students and schools but the also the town locals.

The fundraiser allowed the creative side of the participants to be shown in the outfits they came up with for their bears. Since it is a fundraiser an entrance fee has been required, and prizes are given out for each winning category.

The Teddy Bear Tea is not the only contributor for the program. Betts said Independent Telephone Pioneers Association (ITPA) makes a generous contribution, as well as some of the community service clubs and local businesses. The money raised allows the library to purchase books for the Summer Reading Program, but it also allows Betts to give the children a book each week for participating in the program.

The fundraiser is held in April right around national library day. That way they can make sure they have all of the books they need before the program starts in June.

The program incorporates crafts as well as reading. “Dig into Reading” was the theme this year, and Betts said there were crafts that went along with the theme. There are three entertainment programs that are held throughout the summer. The program brings in a magician that is the highlight of the event for the children.

Betts said hundreds of children and parents come to see the magician, which they all get really excited for him. Betts said there were more than 500 children that were signed up for the Summer Reading Program this year.

The Pioneer Theatre Entertainment Group performs musicals based on books and Adam Miller contributes by playing the auto harp and folk music. The fundraiser and program will continue once the new children’s librarian takes over. Volunteers for either of these events are welcomed to come help.

“We love volunteers,” Betts said.

Not only did Betts participate in the creation and development of the Teddy Bear Tea but she also participated in a reading program at the JPO (Juvenile Probation Office). She would read books to the teens in the program and then discuss what they read. Betts was part of the original committee for the Nevada Young Readers Award.

“I’ve been honored by the Nevada Library Association several times, but the coolest award was for my 35 years,” she said. “Out of the blue I get a letter from the United States Senate; it was a letter from Harry Reid, congratulating me on my 35 years of public service.”

Over the span of her 36 years with the library, Betts created a lot of memories. Betts reminisced about her fondest and funniest memories since being there, and the first two went a little like this; while she was driving, she broke down on the side of the road. Luckily, she said, nice people decided to stop and help her out, and within a matter of minutes, she was asked if she worked at the library as the children’s librarian. When Betts answered yes, she was told that they thought she looked familiar and that their children go to her story time.

“In Super Walmart I ran into a little boy and his grandpa, and I remembered him saying, ‘Grandpa, grandpa, it’s Mrs. Betts. She lives in the library,’” Betts said, laughing.

The children in Betts programs seem to be fond of her and her reading capabilities. Diane Wargo, Adult Services librarian, said the kids really notice when Betts isn’t at story time reading to them. Wargo said that the kids will ask questions as to where Betts is and why she isn’t in today, and they even call out the substitute stating that they are in fact not Mrs. Betts.

With her retirement looming Betts has been ensured that in case she has withdrawls from her position and the children, she has worked out a deal with the schools to come read to the students at story time.

When Betts gets asked the hard question, “Why retire now?” she simply says, “Well it was a hard decision but it’s just time. You know how you suddenly know it’s time? It’s just time.”

Her family agrees and supports her decision on retiring.

“I love my job, I love the people of Churchill County… it’s just time. I don’t know what else to say.” Betts said.

With her newfound freedom Betts said she hopes to spend her time traveling and sewing.

Betts’ co-workers seemed excited for her but also sad since they are losing a valued employee and friend.

“She’s going to be missed, she’s been here forever, she knows the library so well, she knows the people very well, especially the children. I think she needs sometime to herself,” Wargo said.

Betts and Wargo have been working together for 18 years.

Brenda Owens, Technical Services librarian, has only been employed at the county library for a few months, but has noticed one remarkable thing.

“I just think it’s interesting when she talks about how she is on her third generation of doing story time.” Owens said. “I think that somebody who can do it for that long and still have that much passion and energy for it blows my mind. She’ll be missed for sure.”