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NIH Record Retirees

NIH Library's Clifford Retires After 31 Years

By Kathryn Dudley

NIH Library patrons may notice the absence of a stylish, smiling presence at the information desk; Catherine J. Clifford retired June 1 after 31 years of federal service. She took the lion's share of hours at the information desk in recent years. "Catherine set high standards for gracious customer service, which we all strive to live up to. Her indepth knowledge of NIH publications and programs will be sorely missed," said Susan Whitmore, chief of the information and education services section.

Clifford's enthusiasm was obvious to Dr. Gordon Guroff of NICHD, who commented, "I have always enjoyed my meetings with Ms. Clifford because of her calm presence, her winning smile, and her helpful attitude. There are some people with whom contact is a pleasure because you know that you will come away with the information you need and with a good feeling about the moments you spent getting it. Ms. Clifford is one of those people."

Catherine J. Clifford

It is not surprising that Clifford's credo is, "Find pleasure in your work." Working with NIH staff and investigators has been a special pleasure for her: "It's like detective work, helping people find the information they are looking for. It's fun!"

Clifford's entry into library work began when her daughter, Maria, volunteered her to work at the Walt Whitman High School library. Clifford enjoyed the work so much she decided to make it her career. She arrived at the NIH Library on Mar. 23, 1968, as a library technician working at the circulation desk. As her career advanced, two important opportunities served as stepping stones. The first was the NIH Library Counseling Program, which she began in March 1971. It was designed to enhance available and potential skills by offering on-the-job training. With the help of counselors, career ladders were established to develop opportunities and provide training. The second stepping stone was Clifford's enrollment in the Upward Mobility College Program. As a result of this program she received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1976 from Federal City College and was promoted to a technical information specialist.

Although she is a native Washingtonian, Clifford has traveled and lived all over the United States and Europe, including places like Alaska, Germany, Paris, Spain, Holland and Italy. Traveling is still something she loves to do and to share; she has taken her teenage grandson Marcus on a trip every summer since he was 4. When asked about a favorite destination, she says she's enjoyed every place she's visited or lived. "Look for the good things — my mother taught me that — and you will find them. That's true of people too."

Her fondest memories at NIH are of helping people. She also believes the help she's provided and the NIH Library are truly appreciated. Suzanne Grefsheim, NIH Library Branch chief, attests to this: "Over the years, I've received a number of fan letters from many of the readers Cathy has helped. They all admire her diligence in ferreting out information and comment on her warm and pleasant personality."

Clifford anticipates the leisure to participate in a variety of activities in her retirement, and plans to continue enjoying her family, friends and good health. She can be reached at

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