A Visit with “Miss” Betty Robertson
Our lives have gotten so busy and cluttered these days. We have let some very important activities go by the way side. Seeking out an old friend, sitting across from them and laughing, is an amazing cure, for whatever ails you. I have made a promise to myself that I am going to do more visiting with old friends. Some of my old friends might be some of your old friends too. We are going to laugh and remember and I hope to share some of those visits with you, over the next few weeks.
Sara L. Hope
If you are a first time visitor to our community, there are a few things you might notice about Lynchburg, as you come in to town. I’m sure you would notice the stately old homes that line the highway. You can’t miss the beautiful buildings and grounds of Jack Daniel Distillery. I hope you notice the white picket fence and gables on “Miss” Cobbles beautiful old home. You need to slow down, as you approach the only stop light, at Mechanic Street and Majors Blvd. If you are lucky enough to “get caught at the light”, you might notice the well maintained, long brick building with the high windows. That is the Moore County Library, and it is one of Lynchburg’s prized possessions.
The Moore County Library was a gift of Reagor and Jeannie Motlow. It was dedicated on December 15, 1963, and has sat up on that little hill and served generations of folks in our community, for so many years.
There have been a lot of changes in Lynchburg over the years. Some changes have come faster than others. The Library has kept up with the times but it has done so at a slow and steady pace.
There have only been 6 Librarians in the Moore County Library, since it was established in 1953. They were, #1 “Miss” Jim Osborne, #2 Mrs. Dona Barton, #3 “Miss” Betty Robertson, #4 Sara Hope, #5 “Miss” Peggy Gold and our newest Librarian, #6 Lisa Riggs.
Recently the #3 Librarian, “Miss” Betty Robertson, Director for 20 years and the #4, Librarian (Me) Sara Hope, who was Librarian for 13 years, met to reminisce about our time together at the Moore County Library.
“Miss”Betty worked for Quinn Hill Grocery before she became Librarian. I had been General Sessions Clerk, before I went to work as Betty’s assistant. Betty learned the basics of running a Library from Mrs. Barton (Librarian #2), and then, Betty taught me. We both took classes sponsored by the State to maintain our library at the same level as other Libraries in the State. All the guidelines and procedures looked great on paper, but “Miss” Betty’s strategy was to follow our heart and love the Library and everyone who came through its doors.
Betty and I both agreed that the personal touch was what was most important about running a small town Library. As we compared our experiences and memories, of our time together at the Library, we would both have similar memories and would finish each other’s sentences. We remembered helping kids with school projects and helping Moms who were trying to help their kids with last minute projects. At one time the Library would stay open until 8:00 in the evening on Tuesday nights. On those nights whole families would come to the Library. We knew all the kids names and all their interests. I will forever be indebted to a little boy, (Eason Syler) who was brought to the Library when he was 2 weeks old. His proud Mom and big sister were loyal patrons and friends. As Eason grew up in the Library, he taught me about dump trucks and heavy equipment. He requested a special book about articulating back hoes. When the book arrived, I will always remember him sitting in my lap and we looked at the pictures of those back hoes together. I wish, just once more, I could hear him say “articulating back hoe” with his 3 year old, southern accent voice
As Betty and I visited, so many hometown people came to mind. Herby Fanning was an avid reader of paperback Westerns. Janet Baxter loved Historical Romances. The whole Capizzi family was faithful patrons who helped keep our circulation numbers high. Sid Squires, Ruthie Daniel, and Kay Ventresca were extraordinary volunteers. They kept the books re-shelved and they were always there when we needed them most. There were so many who loved and supported the Library; Clayta Thomas and her family, The Gatto’s, The Fletcher’s, and Bobo’s. This whole community loved us and knew how important the Library was.
There were numerous times when I was working as the assistant to “Miss” Betty, and doing my best to accommodate special requests, at the desk. If my answers didn’t suit the patrons they would ask to speak to the “REAL” librarian. After that, I learned my place in the Library pecking order. “Miss” Betty will always be the “REAL” Librarian to everyone in Lynchburg.
As we chatted, a common thread kept running through our conversation. We both talked about how technology had changed the Library. So many advancements have made gathering information easier and quicker. We both agreed that easier and quicker is not always better. “Miss” Betty sat across the table from me, and her voice had an anxious, almost desperate tone to it. She wanted to make her point, and I sat up and listened. She said, “Children need to be taught to read from a BOOK! They need to sit in someone’s lap and listen to words that are printed on a page.” “They need to learn to LOVE books, touch them, smell them, and grow their imaginations.” She said “teach the children the basics so they will always have those skills, then show them the technology.” Those were such powerful words, coming from a very wise lady. We ended our visit on that note, but I promised her there would be more visits.
My visit with “Miss Betty” was wonderful and she is one of my hero’s. She is what I want to be, when I am 90 years young. I found a few quotes that fit her perfectly, “Never argue with a librarian, they know too much”, “Librarians save lives: by handing the right book, at the right time, to a kid in need.” And the best Librarian quote, ever, “Old Librarians never die, they just turn the page.