Children’s librarian: I have the world’s greatest job

WILTON – Bettielou Hill took over as the children’s librarian at the Wilton Public-Gregg Free Library last year just as the pandemic was shutting down everything.

“It was quite a challenge,” she said recently as she is preparing to move back into the library’s lower level following repairs and renovations in the children’s area. “I had to do “take and make” craft project. A lot of things had to be virtual. By necessity, my computer skills increased, like doing Zoom story hour.”

But, she added, “There are some advantages. I plan to do a Zoom cooking class from my kitchen, make an ice cream grasshopper pie. The kids and adults will be in their own kitchens. That way the kids will get it to it on their own, with an adult watching. I can share tips and have a conversation.”

Hill lives in Brookline where she was the children’s librarian for eight years.

“I wasn’t quite ready to go back to work at that point,” she said. “A friend at the Brookline Public Library said they were looking for someone and I should apply. I took time off to raise my two kids, and was a volunteer in the school system. I did some substitute teaching in the school system and enjoyed that.”

Hill grew up in Atlanta and has her degree in English from the University of Georgia. Her first job was at the university in the rare books and manuscripts special collections. “It was great, in the Georgia room, everything about Georgia you could imagine.”

She moved to Tucson and worked for the Girl Scouts for some years, and “that was great.” She was at a Girl Scout Camp in Savannah. She has lived and worked in Colorado and Chapel Hill, N.C.

She also took courses in early childhood education.

In Brookline she wasn’t able to do what she now plans. “Libraries often suffer from lack of space. Librarians do so much more than just hand out books.”

Her mission, she said, “Is to put a book in a child’s hand they will love, to encourage them to read. There is something out there for everyone. There are so many good books to read. I love picture books. You get a blend of spare stories and beautiful art work. It’s different from chapter books you can get lost in, and non-fiction where you learn something.”

She added, “When I do story circle I’m not just reading to the children. I’m showing adults how to read to children. Books are a good place to have some cuddle time with the kids.”

There are a lot of places online where adults can learn about books and what their children are reading. She suggested Commonsensemedia, which offers reviews of children’s books, and the Ladybug Awards, a division of the N.H. State Library that selects outstanding books each year.

“There are a lot of New Hampshire specific books, voted on by school kids, books kids enjoy and adults can enjoy having their kids read. Books have a lot of value. When you finish (one you enjoy) you miss the characters.”

Now, with the library fully open again, she is planning summer projects and for when school opens this fall. “I hope to do a lot outside. I want to visit a lot of day cares and do story times.”

She is planning events during the school year such as how to find the book you want.

“I have the world’s greatest job,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”