Sequatchie County librarian celebrates 50 years of service

photo Betty Worley celebrates 50 years with the Sequatchie County Public Library. Photo by Corinna Sisk-Casson

DUNLAP, Tenn. -- Fifty years ago, downtown Dunlap was the place to be in Sequatchie County.

All of the bustling businesses radiated from the intersection of Rankin Avenue and Cherry Street. Librarian Betty Worley recalls a bank, several luncheonettes, stores, the post office and the library all in walking distance of each other.

"You walked everywhere back then. In fact, I didn't start driving until my 30s because it was so convenient," Worley said. "And Saturday was our big day because everyone came to town on Saturday."

The Sequatchie County Public Library opened in 1959. At the time, Worley was a high school student who lived next door.

"I was just a lonely child who loved to read and came over to the library," she said. "When the library first opened, it was what we called a deposit station. It didn't have very many books."

She often helped the first librarian, Wanda Long, with shelving books and dusting. And on days when Long was gone, Worley left school to substitute. After graduating from high school, she was asked to become the librarian when Long decided to pursue other things. She started on April 4, 1962.

"This is all I've ever really known. It's been home to me all these years," Worley said of the past 50 years at the library.

When she started, the library was confined to one small room. It shared the building with human services personnel, the forestry office, the Federal Housing Administration, a dentist and others. Eventually, the library took over the entire two-story structure.

"It was not a big job then, it was only part time," Worley said. "And we didn't have a budget. Everything is so different now."

Among the changes over the past five decades, Worley recalls card catalogs going from drawers to computers and books on tape becoming books on CD and now downloads to electronic devices. She also remembers a time when bookmobiles were important, she said. They would make rounds on the mountain and in the valley to people who had no way to get to the library.

Librarian Linda Meck, who has been working with Worley since 2009, says Worley is service oriented. Her patrons come first, and she wants to serve them the best way she can, Meck said.

"She is always very pleasant. She is always very kind; always [uses] pleasant tones with you," Meck said. "And I think that means a lot to the people at the library."

Meck said the Sequatchie County Library is different from other small-town libraries. It has a lot to offer, ranging from story time with children, a summer reading program and computer classes to a genealogy department and the large selection of books, she said. She said the library has kept pace with the changing times, and she gives Worley the credit.

"For a small-town library, it's really good," Meck said. "Some people from other areas come back here. If you think back 50 years ago, she [Worley] has grown with the system. Some people think that they can't do it. But she has met that challenge, and she has done it well."

A luncheon is in the works to mark Worley's golden anniversary. But she's not ready to walk away from the job.

"I have no plans to retire," Worley said. "There is still a challenge here. ... I hope when I see that I cannot face change, then I think it will be time to go home."

Corrina Sisk-Casson is based in Dunlap. Contact her at