Kay Dillon has probably had to shush a lot of children in her 50 years as a librarian.

"It keeps me young being around the young people," said Dillon, whose 50-year anniversary date is Tuesday. "There were not many job opportunities for women in the early '60s."

Dillon, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees and her Rank I from Western Kentucky University, was an assistant librarian at Bowling Green High School, worked in the resource center at Eleventh Street Elementary School and served as librarian at Rockfield and Cumberland Trace elementary schools. She is currently at the Warren County Public Library.

"It took a while to get into it. College was tough," she said. "I had no doubt that was what I wanted to do when I got out of school."

The Logan County native came by reading naturally. Her father was an avid reader. However, the family lived out in the county and had no access to a library.

"I had access to the bookmobile in the town over when I was a child," she said. "My dad was a farmer."

When Dillon went to high school, she was excited about the library.

"I went to high school and the library was no bigger than this," she said, referring to a small Daily News conference room.

At the Warren County Public Library, Dillon checks all library applications for cards. She works 21 hours a week.

"The rest of the time is spent out front," she said.

Dillon has been through 10 managers since she's been at the library. She's had to learn three circulation programs.

"I don't remember it being that difficult," she said. "Once you get used to playing around with it, you get used to it."

Dillon's resourcefulness is one of the things library Branch Manager Jim Nelson likes about her. He called Dillon "a thorough professional."

"Having been in the profession for so long, she's a wealth of information for us. She knows how to find a particular thing for us," he said. "We do a lot of children's services. She knows how to suggest things and how to help people, particularly moms."

Nelson has been in Bowling Green since 1988 and has experienced Dillon as his librarian as well as his co-worker.

"I didn't know who she was. I just knew she was one of the staff people behind the service desk," he said. "I've gotten to know her. She's been a good resource for me to say, 'Hey, Kay, how do we do this?' Across the board she's a wonderful person to work with."

Nelson wants people to get good service at the library, and Dillon helps give that good service.

"Ninety percent of the impression people get of the library is at the service desk. There's so many interactions that go on at the service desk," he said. "You can have all the resources, but if they're not being treated right they won't want to come back. (Dillon) keeps things light at the circulation desk.

Everyone loves working with Dillon, Nelson said.

"If she ever retires, we're going to hate to see her go because she's well loved here," he said.

Warren County Coroner Kevin Kirby said Dillon was his librarian when he was a student at Eleventh Street Elementary School. He said she was always nice to him. The school had a small, one-room library.

"I became good friends with her for all my life. She was great to those kids at Eleventh Street, and we were rambunctious. It was a small school then. We were a very close-knit group," he said. "She has become friends with a lot of students throughout the years. We had some great mentors at Eleventh Street and she would rank high on the list."

Dillon remembers the Eleventh Street library.

"Eleventh Street Elementary just took a classroom and put shelves in there," she said. "They shared it with the art teacher."

A fond memory Dillon had of Cumberland Trace was with sixth-graders preparing to go to middle school and asking her to read them a story.

"I don't know if they talked about it before they came in," she said. "They didn't have chairs. When I did story time they sat on the floor and I sat on a little stool."

Dillon loved working with the younger children in the schools as well.

"The kindergarteners are scared when they first come in, but give them a month," she said.

However, Dillon knew when it was time to leave the school systems.

"I enjoyed the schools, but you know when it's time to go," she said. "I worked 29 years in the school system and have worked 21 years at the Warren County Public Library."

Dillon has been able to lean on her fellow librarians during hard times. She is a five-year survivor of breast cancer.

"In February, I will be cancer free. The library was good to me during radiation. They let me take my lunch break during that time," she said. "They were very understanding about that. That's one reason I'm still there. It's a caring staff."

She gets to know different people.

"Some people come in because they want somebody to talk to. They may come in and have questions and you can just tell," she said. "We have a lot of displaced people who come to stay in the cafe. We've gotten to be friends with some of them."

Dillon has worked with a population she didn't work with in the schools.

"You have a lot of adults," she said. "It's more like a community thing with all the stuff we offer."

There are some things that never get old for Dillon.

"It's gold when a child gets a library card for the first time," she said.

Dillon, 72, has no plans to retire any time soon. She plans to celebrate with friends and visitors arriving from out of town.

"I'm still thankful I'm on the right side of the dirt," she said. "It's been very rewarding."

— Follow features reporter Alyssa Harvey on Twitter @bgdnfeatures or visit bgdailynews.com.


Alyssa Harvey writes features stories for the Bowling Green Daily News. You can reach her at 270-783-3257 or on Twitter at twitter.com/bgdnfeatures.

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