Farewell, Kathy

Eric Ewen, Head of Cataloging, wrote the following piece on the recent retirement of Kathy Woo, Head of Acquisitions.

Kathy Woo, center, at the library table of a campus involvement fair.

Our beloved colleague Kathleen Ann Magri Woo joined the Gleeson Library as an assistant cataloger at precisely 9:00 A.M. on Tuesday, September 3, 1974.  On the ecclesiastical calendar it was the Feast of St. Gregory the Great, which portended the great things Kathy was to achieve during her long and illustrious career here.  Also, on that auspicious day, two other junior librarians became members of the Gleeson staff, namely, Eric Ewen (assistant cataloger) and the late Steven Corey (special collections librarian).  Never before or since has Gleeson hired three librarians on the same day.  It was a glorious moment for the late Dean Robert L. Gitler.

In those days technical services—cataloging and acquisitions—had no offices or cubicles.  It was a sea of desks.  [The poor reference librarians had it worse; they had  to share desks!]  Everyone had a typewriter.  There were no computers.  The only automation consisted of a photocopy machine.  Yet everyone was happy and productive.

The starting salary was $8,848 per annum.  We all thought that was a lot of money.  Believe it or not, technical service librarians, but not reference librarians, were allowed to smoke at their desks.  Catalogers, of course, knew better; only some of the acquisitions staff took advantage of this dubious privilege.

In 1974 the Catalog Department consisted of 4.5 FTE librarians and 4.0 FTE technical staff.  Nearly all incoming library materials were in print format.  Among her general duties, Kathy cataloged all non-book items, which were mainly music and spoken sound recordings.

After three years as a cataloger, Kathy transferred to the Reference Department in 1977.  She said her experience in cataloging helped her become a better reference librarian.  With due respect to the senior reference staff at the time, patrons found Kathy to be neither intimidating nor unapproachable.  Patrons, like her colleagues today, found her to be warm, friendly, personable, and helpful.

Kathy applied for and was selected as the Head Periodicals Librarian when that position became available in 1980.  Here she oversaw a print journal collection of more than 2,400 titles.  This work was to occupy her for the next twenty years.

In the meantime Kathy was busy outside of the library.  She married her husband Gordon, obtained a second master’s degree in modern European history from San Francisco State University, gave birth to and raised a “king’s family” (that is a girl, Lauren, and a boy, David).

Time passed.  In 2000 when Mrs. Hille Novak retired as Head Acquisitions Librarian, Kathy applied for that position and was selected.  This was her fourth position at Gleeson, all in different departments, two of which she headed.  It is a characteristic of Kathy that she was always looking for new challenges, new opportunities and new responsibilities.  This is perhaps what makes her not only the most complete librarian at Gleeson, but also the perfect librarian.  [“To improve is to change.  To be perfect is to change often.”—Churchill].

Now after fourteen years as Head Acquisitions Librarian, and more than thirty-nine years at Gleeson altogether, Kathy Woo is retiring from active duty, as it were.  She is leaving behind a rich and enviable legacy.  She will be highly respected for many accomplishments, perhaps the most significant of which is her work in acquisitions.  Here she built many fine relationships with faculty, oversaw the development and preservation of scholarly collections, and, most importantly, managed the intricate transition of library resources from the print world to the electronic world.  At all times she maintained the highest academic and ethical standards and used the financial and personnel assets at her command to provide maximum benefit to Gleeson’s clientele.  Kathy is a gifted librarian and is herself a gift to the library.  [“Life’s greatest gift is to work hard at work worth doing.”—T. Roosevelt.]

Even though she is leaving the library, Kathy’s future looks very bright as Librarian Emerita.  She will have postcards to write (from London, Paris, New York, and Maui), lots of sustained narrative reading to do, silent film festivals to attend, and grandchildren to spoil.  May she find as much happiness and success in retirement as she did when she moved easily and gracefully about the Gleeson Library.


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