December 5 , 2005
Woody Woodworth is flesh, blood and bone, but on occasion
he refers to himself as a ghost. Why?
“I feel like I’ve spent a good part of my life here at Emory,” said
Woodworth, whose given name is Karl, although few on campus know him by it. “I’ve
been here in many different roles—as a student, an employee and now as
a parent. I feel like I’ve experienced Emory from many different sides,
and there is a good piece of me that remains here.”
Since 1998, Woodworth has served as librarian at the
Grady Hospital Branch Library, which is a part of the Woodruff Health
Center Library. But his Emory
professional career dates back to 1986 when Woodworth served as a programmer
for the Computing Center (forerunner to the Information Technology Division,
which is forerunner to Academic and Administration Information Technology). He
was responsible for maintaining DOBIS, the University’s first online library
catalog. EUCLID, the current library system, succeeded DOBIS, and Woodworth helped
lead the team responsible for the transition.
“We average about 200 visitors a day, so I like to call us the busiest
little library in Atlanta,” Woodworth said of the Grady Branch Library,
located on the first floor of the Grady campus’ Glenn Building. The library
serves not only Emory medical students and faculty but those of the Morehouse
School of Medicine, as well as Grady staff.
“People down there are wonderful to work with,” he continued. “We
support patient care because, while there are many prescribed procedures and
therapies, there are also some other things that are not clearly known or controversial,
so we help people find the literature in the medical journals that try and point
the way to take better care of patients.”
As he mentioned, Woodworth’s connection to Emory
doesn’t stop with
his job. Two of his three sons are students here: Andy, the oldest, is in
the Candler School of Theology; younger brother Michael is a senior
in Emory College
spending this semester abroad in Senegal. Youngest son Benjamin is a junior
at Decatur High School. Woodworth’s father-in-law graduated
from Candler. In fact, his wife’s family ties to Emory predate
its move to the Atlanta campus.
Woodworth’s sons are following in their father’s
footsteps; he graduated from Oxford in 1973, earned a B.S. degree
in biology the following year, and
in 1981 received a master’s of librarianship from Emory’s now-defunct
School of Library and Information Management. Even though Woodworth worked
for six years in the private sector, deep down he knew he wouldn’t
stay away from Emory too long.
“After I got my library degree was really the time when I felt Emory was
going to be one of the stopping places in my career,” Woodworth said.
I didn’t realize I would stay or what role I would play. I began on the
computer side of librarianship, but I expected eventually to have a more traditional
library post. But there is enough going on here that one can make a career out
of just working at Emory.”
And Woodworth does his part to be an engaged employee.
He is in the middle of his second year on the Employee Council and
The council takes the past seriously. Previous council
historian Cheryl Sroka compiled an in-depth chronicle of the council’s
30-plus-year history (Woodworth lugs the several-inches-thick binder
to every council meeting), and Woodworth’s
job is to augment it with further vignettes from the council’s
Woodworth does much of his research in Woodruff’s
Manuscript and Rare Books Library (MARBL)—as a librarian himself,
the job hardly qualifies as a chore. “It’s
pretty easy to lose three hours up there,” he said. The research
gives him a fresh outlook on his own past experiences on campus.
“As a student I didn’t feel really connected to a lot of the historical
things that were happening at the time,” said Woodworth, noting that the
council came into being just before he matriculated at the Atlanta campus. “I
begin to feel like a ghost again. I’m someone who was here during these
times, and now I’m looking at the history again.”
And history, he has found, keeps repeating itself.
Paging through council notes from decades past, Woodworth has found
as parking and
benefits) have been concerns of Emory staff at least since the time
he was a student.
Woodworth’s knowledge of the University’s
history gives him an interesting perspective on its present and a
strong desire to help plan its future. That’s
one of the reasons he volunteered to co-chair the council’s strategic
plan steering group.
Planning efforts are concentrated in four working groups—leadership,
community and work/life balance, benefits and compensation, and internal
and training—that emerged in late 2004 from conversations encouraged
by Provost Earl Lewis.
At the time, strategic planning in each of Emory’s
schools was well under way. The council took up the challenge to
apply those efforts to staff employees.
Then-council President Susie Lackey convened a small working group
to address “what
should the University do to attract, develop and retain excellent staff,” Woodworth
The final product, the “Strategic Plan for Staff
submitted to Lewis just before the new year (Woodworth wrote the plan’s
narrative, tying together the ideas of each of the planners), and an
impressed administration encouraged the council to move forward.
“The council is an advising body,” Woodworth said. “We aren’t
empowered to act. We need to use moral authority and create partnerships
to make things happen. With the strategic planning process, we don’t want
to get ahead of ourselves, but we also don’t want to move so slowly that
we lose steam.”
Losing steam doesn’t look like a concern. Each
working group is fully staffed (with four or five members), and those
volunteers are compiling “people
maps” to identify others on campus who are “owners” of
the various themes sketched out in the plan. (For example, who might
one talk with
about work/life balance?)
“We are trying to figure out who the people are first,” Woodworth
said. “From there, it will be a fairly easy process to make contact with
those folks, share the plan with them and get their ideas about how we can move
This partnership theme sprang from an Oct. 27 meeting
Woodworth and current council President Louis Burton had with Mike
and administration. Meetings with top administrators like Lewis and
Mandl show how much the University’s leadership has jumped
on board with the council’s
plans to transform Emory into a “destination employer.”
Woodworth’s work, family and history are only
a few aspects of his persona. Perhaps the most prominent one—as
well as the one he has to explain most often—is his name.
While nicknames are hardly uncommon at Emory, few are
as ingrained as Woodworth’s.
His e-mail address, for example, starts with a “w” (for “Woody”)
instead of the customary “k.” He is known professionally
on campus as Karl (Woody) Woodworth—with parentheses rather
than quotation marks. It’s a moniker that owes its origin to
his pre-Emory days.
“I was in the Navy for four years,” Woodworth said. He graduated
from communications school in 1969. “Everyone with a name beginning with ‘wood’ was ‘Woody,’” he
continued. “All Polish people were ‘Ski,’ and all Smiths were ‘Smitty.’” And
one part of the ghost story is solved.