Windham retires from APL after 12 years, hopes to travel

Published 12:14 am Saturday, December 20, 2008

Betty Harrelson Windham has helped hundreds of children find a love of reading during her 12 years as the children’s librarian at Andalusia Public Library. Friday, she closed that chapter of her life, retiring from a job she has grown to love.

“I think my job is the best job in the world,” Windham said. “It’s so much fun to go places and there are kids who recognize you and give you a hug, or you can see them peeking around their parents and smiling or waving at you.”

Windham was honored for her service at the library’s open house Friday and received a special banner made by children who frequent the library. She said it will be hard to leave a job that brings her so much joy, but it is time to let somebody else take her place.

“I recently married again and I just think it’s time for me to go,” she said. “My husband and I would like to travel and I’m looking forward to working in my yard and getting some work done at the house.

“Plus, I’ll be able to get a lot more reading done, myself.”

Windham’s first husband, Ralph Harrelson, passed away Christmas Day in 1994. At the time, the couple owned and operated their own grocery store, service station and car lot. Windham said she “was really lost” following her husband’s death, until she noticed a newspaper ad seeking a new librarian.

“I got the job and a few months later, the children’s librarian at the time, Margaret Grissett, decided to retire,” said Windham, who started working at the library in June 1996. “Much to my delight, I was offered the job.”

Windham mentioned that one of the greatest rewards of her job has been the chance to watch children grow and mature through the years.

“We take photos of many of our programs and events here, so I’ve got the makings of a wonderful scrapbook,” she said. “It’s always wonderful to see the kids come in and be excited about reading.”

National trends have seen children moving away from reading and instead spending time with activities such as watching television, playing video games, or browsing the Internet. Windham said she has seen that happen sometimes, but overall, there are still many parents who instill the love of reading in their children.

“It’s sad when you see kids turning to television and those kinds of things too much,” she said. “But most of our parents love to bring their kids to the library and do a great job of helping build their children’s interest in books. Each school encourages the children to come here; we have the accelerated reading lists for all of the schools.”

She also thanked the city of Andalusia and her fellow librarians for helping to make her time a rewarding one.

“The city has been so good to me,” she said. “This is a job you can be proud of having. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them where I work and what position I’m in. You’re always respected for it; it’s a wonderful job.

“The ladies who I work with upstairs are like family now; we’ve been together so long and they’re dear to my heart.”

Windham married her second husband, Gene, in June of this year. She has two sons, Randy Harrelson and Ricky Harrelson of Andalusia, and one daughter, Rae McKathan of Laurel Hill, Fla. She has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

When asked what piece of advice she would give her successor, Windham had a simple answer.

“I would tell them to smile,” she said. “Make the people who visit the library feel welcome. Any way that you can positively touch a child, do it.”