Boosting Georgia Tech's Stellar Science Fiction Collection

Kathy Betty book donation

By Michael Pearson

Since 1998, Georgia Tech’s collection of science fiction books has been one of the largest and most important such compilations in the United States. Now, thanks to longtime Georgia Tech supporter Kathy Betty, that already renowned collection is even better.

Betty, a member of the Georgia Tech Athletics Association Board of Trustees, has donated 2,724 of her late husband Garry Betty’s science fiction novels to Georgia Tech. Many of the books are first editions, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.

“Garry always wanted the books to end up at Georgia Tech,” said Betty of her late husband, the former CEO of Earthlink, who graduated from the Institute in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

“I’m so excited these books will be shared with science fiction enthusiasts at Georgia Tech,” Betty said. “Garry used to refer to characters in these books as his friends, and I know that he would be so happy to see them at a place that meant so much to him.”

Georgia Tech’s science fiction collection is a unique resource frequently used by faculty and students in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC). Many of the books were donated in 1998 by Irving “Bud” Foote, who founded Georgia Tech’s science fiction studies program in 1971. The collection ranks as the third-largest in the United States.

Regents Professor Lisa Yaszek, a science fiction scholar in LMC, said the donation is an important addition.

“I often tell our engineering students that reading science fiction is an ideal way to learn what people living in specific historical moments think about the sciences and technologies of their times,” Yaszek said. “Getting a science fiction collection like this, owned by a Georgia Tech alumnus who helped shape the Internet as we know it, provides us with a unique opportunity to understand what science fiction can tell us about the dreams of engineers themselves.”

Jody Thompson, head of the Library’s archives and special collections department, said the donation fills some gaps in the existing collection and increases the number of award-winning titles.

“Garry Betty’s collection was almost exclusively first editions, which may not mean a lot to the average reader but is really something for those of us in library and science fiction worlds," Thompson said.

LMC Associate Professor Karen Head, who knows Betty through Georgia Tech’s athletics program, helped facilitate the donation.

“One night, we went to dinner, and I started telling her about the books,” Betty said. “She said, ‘You do understand what we have at Georgia Tech, don’t you?’” said Betty, who until then was unaware of the existing collection here.

Head said the two “became giddy and aminated about the possibilities.” She soon arranged a visit for Betty with LMC’s science fiction faculty. Soon after, Betty and her nephews Cameron Lane (BSBA, 2005) and Wesley Morris began organizing and archiving the collection and obtained an appraisal fixing the works’ value at $168,000.

The extensive work done by Betty, Morris, and Lane — who is a current student in the Online Master of Science in Computer Science program — to prepare for the donation will speed integration of the donation into the Library’s holdings, Thompson said.

Head, a poet, associate professor, associate chair in LMC, and director of the Naugle Communication Center, said she was happy to participate in such a meaningful donation.

“There are few gifts to a university that come with so much love,” she said. “I am so delighted that we were able to make Kathy’s dream of having Garry’s books at Georgia Tech come true.”