A Tribute to Our Colleague and Friend Betsy Park

Betsy3Betsy Park’s colleagues and friends are saddened to hear of her death on Sunday 18 January 2015 from complications of a bone marrow transplant.

Betsy’s distinguished 32-year tenure at the University Libraries at the University of Memphis was an inspiration to the faculty, staff, and students she served enthusiastically first as a reference librarian, then as Head of Reference, and finally as Assistant to the Dean for Planning and Assessment.

Betsy modeled the characteristics she expected in other Libraries faculty: Intellectual inquisitiveness, service to others, and the drive to contribute meaningfully to the profession. In addition to her oft-cited publication, “Status of the Profession: A 1989 National Survey of Tenure and Promotion for Policies for Academic Librarians” (College and Research Libraries, May 1991, 275-289), Betsy authored a book chapter and many journal articles, regularly presented her work at state and national conferences, and was active in a variety of professional organizations.

She was a respected colleague; Libraries faculty and staff actively sought her advice and counsel. Her door was always open, and she went out of her way to welcome and mentor junior faculty members. In her role as Head of Reference, Betsy was a strong and charismatic leader; she was always available, fair, and encouraging to members of the Department. She was a dedicated chair of the Libraries Tenure and Promotion Committee and created a writing group to facilitate and support the scholarship of Libraries faculty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABetsy lived to teach, and in addition to her innumerable presentations in classrooms, often invited students and faculty to her office to help with research-related questions. Colleagues nearby could often hear exclamations of delight as Betsy shared with her visitors new perspectives, research skills, and ways to use technology.

Betsy never shied away from challenges, whether professional or personal. She was an innovative, insightful, and reliable collaborator. She was among the first librarians at the University to present online instruction to distance learning students and to be embedded in online classes, and became the go-to person for questions about RefWorks, the citation management software.

Her adventurous spirit led her to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gossas, Senegal, from 1966-1968; more recently, she and her husband reveled in the cultures of South Korea, Japan, France, and Hawaii. A fabulous chef and hostess, Betsy was known for dishes inspired by the culinary experiences she had while traveling. She threw great dinner parties, made pots of homemade applesauce with her granddaughters (one of her favorite traditions), and amassed an impressive collection of cookbooks.

Betsy routinely shared produce from her bountiful garden, was often spotted at the Symphony and the Overton Shell, and was an avid golfer at one time. The songs of love birds filled her home, and she loved–and adopted–many dogs over the years (each a character, it seemed!).

Everyone who knew her has a favorite “Betsy story.” Won’t you share yours?

13 thoughts on “A Tribute to Our Colleague and Friend Betsy Park

  1. I remember Betsy Park for her straight forward demeanor… We traveled the same road to work and sometimes I would drive up or slow down to get her attention. Didn’t work… She kept focused on the road.

  2. This is a wonderful tribute to Betsy! Thank you for sharing it.

    I remember her as my supervisor and friend. I shared many conference experiences with her and Sharon Mader, as two roommates during the conferences. Therefore, I was able to see her as a professional and as a friend–she excelled in both categories. She never complained about physical problems; she just forged ahead.

    I learned from Betsy in many ways. She was always honest and trustworthy in leadership and friendship. I will miss her light in my life.

  3. I toured UTK’s library with Betsy and other U of M library staff a couple of years ago. I talked about the challenges I was having with the Distance Education MLIS program and she began to tell me about the advantages. She had a hearty laugh and I will never forget her encouragement. I wish I could tell her that I graduated…

  4. Betsy was recommended as a faculty mentor when I started at the University of Memphis. Without her encouragement, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to submit my first peer-reviewed article. Her matter-of-fact demeanor belayed a strong enthusiasm and support of her colleagues and their endeavors. She believed that librarians should be scholars and, as her record of scholarship shows, she led by example. She also helped me transition back to work after maternity leave; she was an excellent sounding board for working moms.

    I’ll remember Betsy as a determined, loyal, and wise mentor.

  5. So sorry that Betsy lost this battle..
    I loved our dinner club!.. Betsy was an amazing hostess and chef.. I was so impressed.. and shocked to see her weekly dinner menus that she had planned… literally going back 30 years!!
    She and her beautiful smile.. will be missed.

  6. As one of Betsy’s younger siblings I’d like to share a few thoughts.
    From an early age, Betsy was always reading books. Wherever she went, she carried a book. During high school Betsy would, more often than not, study until 1-2 AM. It certainly was not due to lack of understanding. She was extremely thorough and curious. I’d often ask her to help me with my homework assignments and her response was consistently the same, “Look it up”. (Our father was not as WISE!).
    In Kansas City, MO, Betsy was Valedictorian of her high school class; she was known to many as a “Latin scholar” (which pleased our father immensely); she was team captain in field hockey and basketball; she was a whizz at tennis and Ping-Pong; during summers in Santa Fe, NM she accumulated more blue ribbons competing in gymkhanas (horseback riding) than the combined total of her other 4 siblings.
    You know, other than hair pulling fights with Ingrid (18 mo. younger), Elizabeth Cummings Haskell Park was just a WONDERFUL PERSON and anyone who knew her would realize just how lucky they were. With tremendous sadness, Tamme Haskell

  7. I just discovered of Betsy’ passing and am deeply saddened by her loss for her family and friends and for the University of Memphis community. Over the years, she has been a great support in developing library resources for specific classes, lately for online courses. From my all too few interactions with her, she was generous, smart, and a person could just tell–she was that rare good person.

    Now that I read of her many other interests and travels, I am REALLY sorry I didn’t get to know her better!

    My sympathies to her family and close friends.

    –Loel

  8. Betsy’s granddaughter was born around the same time I had my daughter. We often talked about how our babies were growing and developing, their first words and first steps. We would share stories and beautiful pictures of our babies with each other. Whenever we would see each other, Betsy would say, “How’s your daughter?”, and I would say, “She’s doing great! How’s your granddaughter?” From that point on, we would spend the rest of our time talking about our girls! Sharing stories and pictures of our babies made us smile, laugh and bond with each other! I’ll forever cherish that time I spent with Betsy!

  9. Betsy Park was a colleague of mine since 1972. I often talked with her and got wonderful advice about reference services, library instruction and other matters.

    She spoke her mind and spoke the truth. She was a true professional whom I admired. I will miss her greatly.

  10. I first met Betsy when the library of Memphis State University was located in the “new” part of the building (now the Wilder Tower at The University of Memphis). She and Sharon Mader were being advertised as the new IRS people. My initial reaction was “My goodness, what are income tax people doing in a university library?” It turned out that they were “information retrieval specialists,” librarians specially trained to ferret out information from computers (this was before there was even an Internet).

    When I inherited a graduate-level class, Introduction to Historical Research and Writing, Betsy was one of the members of the library staff to whom I turned to provide instruction in how to use computers for historical research. Over the years, she tirelessly lectured, demonstrated, and provided handouts for my class. Moreover, she and her Reference Room staff patiently endured the yearly onslaught of my students who during the examination period descended upon the library to search out answers to my arcane questions about history. For the entire week of exams they were asked to refrain from doing what comes naturally to librarians–leading students directly to the information that was being sought. Instead, the only assistance they could give was to tell students where a book or resource was physically located within the library and only if the students asked about a definite title.

    Betsy was a first-class librarian. To describe her, Chaucer’s description of the Oxford Clerk, the ideal scholar, would have to be amended to read: “Gladly would she learn, and gladly teach.” That was Betsy Park.

  11. Betsy was the best librarian I’ve ever known. She was always helpful to nursing faculty and students. She offered so many workshops for nursing faculty over the years. She was so patient with everyone because she loved helping anyone. She was always willing to be embedded in my RODP graduate courses and was a wonderful resource for students.

    I loved working with her and always appreciated her warm smile, patience, and willingness to help everyone. She will be so missed. I cannot imagine the library without Betsy. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and her colleagues.

  12. Mrs. Park was truly passionate about helping students. Last year when I made a random call to the University of Memphis’ library seeking resources to help high school seniors make the transition to college, Mrs. Park went beyond the call of duty. Not only did she provide answers to all my questions, she also visited our school to explore teachers’ needs and invited me to join her as a presenter at the Tennessee Library Association conference in Chattanooga. Her commitment to the profession left a lasting impression that I will cherish forever. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her. May her fond memories strengthen your family during this difficult time.

  13. I did not know about Betsy death until I tried to contact her this week. I am so sorry for the loss to her family and UM. Betsy was a great help to me since coming to UM in 2008. She taught me how to use Refworks and every August taught my new student so they could use Refworks for their thesis or project. She also helped me numerous times suggesting journals I might publish in, if I could not figure it out. She was always so smart and friendly. Always helpful, never acted like she was too busy to help me or a student. I will miss her greatly.

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