After 49 years, Betty Berry has left an indelible mark on Emory Libraries

Betty Berry.

When Betty Berry came to work at Emory, Nixon was in the White House, Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon, gas was 35-cents a gallon, and the Robert W. Woodruff Library was opening its doors. Betty’s career has literally spanned the life of the Woodruff Library, where she has worked for five decades.

Born in Birmingham, AL, but raised in Atlanta, Betty had just finished a degree in business education from the Atlanta Technical College when she met an Emory recruiter at career day. One of the selling points in coming to Emory was that the library was hiring but the building wasn’t yet open. Betty took the job of library clerk and started at Emory on September 2, 1969.

After a few initial meetings in the stacks in the Candler Library, which were being prepped to move into the Woodruff building when it opened, Betty decided to work for Peggy Kline in the cataloging department. Cataloging involved typing the cards for the card catalog. Although the card catalog work was extremely labor intensive, Betty benefitted from being able to use one of the first electric typewriters at Emory.

Betty at the LITS Holiday Party in 2017.

Over the years, Betty has held a variety of positions. After starting as a clerk and typist, Betty quickly moved into a library assistant II position in 1971, became office manager of the cataloging department in 1981, spent time as the secretary to the department head, then became manager of bibliographic management in 1995, a position she has held ever since.

“Being a minority, I always volunteered to be a representative on various committees,” said Betty. She served on the first President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities at Emory (now Race and Ethnicity,) which was started in 1979 after more than a decade of post-desegregation racial tensions on campus.

Said Betty, “If people ask you to volunteer, do not be afraid. Being on so many committees allowed me to meet and interact with a lot of people outside of my own area.”

Betty receives her 45-year service award from Rich Mendola in 2016.

Betty is widely respected and loved throughout Emory Libraries. Bev Turner, who has worked alongside Betty for over 40 years, said, “Betty has always understood the work and encouraged us in the right way. She has this perfect balance between being our manager and being our friend. This is a hard thing to achieve. She is the most thoughtful person I’ve ever worked with.”

According to co-worker Marian Kelley, “Betty has been a professional beyond all other professionals. I am forever grateful to her because she changed my life by hiring me in 1984. She was Miss Crosby in those days and she always dressed so professionally.”

(CW from top left) Betty Berry, Tracy Preyer, Bev Turner, and Pam Matthews.

“My first job at Emory was as a student in the library where I filed catalogue cards,” said recent retiree Rosemary Magee. “The library was at the center of my whole career. I’m deeply grateful to Betty (and so many others) for providing me with such meaningful opportunities at every step along the way.” Added Marie Hansen, who was also hired by Betty as a grad student, “She is always so pleasant and easy to get along with.”

Betty at the graduation of one of her daughters, Thomasinnia.

“I’ve always appreciated Betty’s thoughtful insights and candid advice about tech services policies and practices,” said Lars Meyer, Director of Access & Resource Services. “Betty has seen a lot of changes in library cataloging practices over the course of her career and she’s been instrumental in making sure that Emory kept up with the changes.”

In her retirement, Betty wants to travel to see her sisters and spend time with her daughters, Ashley and Thomasinnia, and her granddaughter Chloee, who is seven years old. “She is a handful!” exclaims Betty. One of her daughters lives in Douglasville so she plans to visit the library there and do volunteer work.

Betty’s advice to her Emory colleagues: “I think if you make a commitment to an organization and do your very best, you will be fine in any organization.” Betty added, “Emory has been very good to me and I have tried to be very good to Emory. My coworkers have always been generous and kind. I’ve had some bosses who gave me great opportunities and helped push me forward. Emory is truly a place you want to be and that’s why I stayed for 49 years.”

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  1. Linda Visk
    Posted August 3, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful article about you and your career at the library. You have indeed left your mark there. I am so glad we had the opportunity to work together. Wishing you all the best in your much deserved retirement.

  2. Sandra Franklin
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful story of Betty’s career and I wish her all the best in retirement.
    Sandra Franklin

  3. Brenda Gresham
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I can relate to all the beautiful kind words spoken about my friend, my boss and colleague. I am forever grateful you hired me in 1991 , You set great examples in the workplace, and I am forever grateful you had an mpact on my career.. Thank you, and I wish you the very best in your retirement ! Brenda Gresham

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