Beverly Murphy, MLS, AHIP, FMLA, is a woman of many hats: the Assistant Director of Communications & Web Management within the Duke Medical Center Library & Archives, Co-editor of a recently published book on Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries, and Immediate Past President of the Medical Library Association, a global, nonprofit educational organization, representing more than 3,000 professionals in the health information field. She's also a member of the General Body of the Inclusion Council in the Duke University School of Medicine. For our first in a series of "spotlight" interviews with these members, Murphy talks to us about her work in each of these roles. She also talks about how her library (and Duke as a whole) have changed in her 37 years at Duke, and what she likes to do when she’s not at work.
What are your current responsibilities within the Duke Medical Center Library? What does a typical day for you look like?
As Assistant Director, Communications & Web Content Management, I manage and maintain the Medical Center Library & Archives Website. I also serve as the Hospital Nursing Liaison for the Duke Health System, teaching and assisting nurses with their research needs for publication, quality improvement, performance evaluation, and graduate residency. I am also the Library Liaison for the students, faculty, and staff at the Watts College of Nursing. I don't think I really have typical days and especially during the recent months. On the one hand, I wish I did because I might have a more static schedule, but on the other hand, I like the variety of activities that are constantly engaging me. On any day, I could be updating our website, doing a literature search, working on an online exhibit, teaching, or meeting virtually with a group of nurses.
You were also previously elected as the first African American president of the Medical Library Association (MLA). What did that work entail? What were your top priorities as MLA president?
I viewed my role as MLA President (and member of the Board of Directors) as an engager and change agent, helping the association to achieve its strategic goals, which are rolling and vary in duration and focus. Some of our current initiatives have centered around strengthening MLA’s educational curriculum and offerings, as well as our MLA member communities which have transformed from Sections and Special Interest Groups to Caucuses. We are also looking at evaluating and improving MLA practices as they relate to diversity and inclusion and to our annual meeting, which will be fully virtual for the first time this year. Though we have moved away from the traditional presidential priorities, my personal message for my MLA colleagues and others was Open Hearts (remaining open to each other and celebrating our diversity) and Open Minds (being receptive to ongoing changes in our profession).
Above, Murphy lifts the gavel for the first time as MLA President; below, she holds a sign advocating for the 2018 theme of "Adapting."
You’ve now been at Duke for 37 years. What’s been the biggest change you’ve seen at Duke since you started here? How has our medical library system changed since you started working there?
I think the biggest change at Duke has been the landscape and all the physical and environmental changes that have occurred. The hospital and campus look vastly different from when I started and continues to grow and change. For the library, the massive amount of technological change is what stands out most to me. We have gone from having a printed card catalog with lots of books taking up lots of space - to very few books, more open spaces for collaboration, and the ability to access resources from devices that can travel with you. Though we still have a physical structure, we are truly a library without walls, having the ability to reach out to our users beyond the physical space.
How did you decide to join the School of Medicine’s Inclusion Council? What do you hope to accomplish as part of this council?
My first contact with the School of Medicine’s Inclusion Council was via Judy Seidenstein, who had met with me to talk about some of the diversity and inclusion initiatives I was involved in. It was after that meeting that I was invited to join the Council. As a member of the Council, I hope to offer my knowledge, skills, and expertise as a librarian, researcher, and informational resource in whatever capacity the Council needs.
What’s the biggest improvement toward inclusion or diversity that you’ve seen during your time here? Where would you most like to see additional improvement?
I don't think I've seen it yet! When it's no longer necessary to ask or answer this question, perhaps I will know I have reached it. As President Vincent Price stated in a previous message on Duke Chapel space, "We have also begun the process of respectfully and openly engaging with one another toward building a more inclusive future for our university, nation and the world." I also found the recent day-long symposium, Living While Black: Raw Discussions on Race at Duke and in America, to be particularly engaging. My hopes and desires are that we will continue to build on this foundation - a diverse community where everybody can survive and thrive.
What do you most like to do when you’re not at Duke?
Relax, relate, and release! I love spending time with my partner Jerome - grilling and chillaxing. Stretching out on the couch with some water and snacks and watching old movies and the Investigation Discovery channel ranks high too. This ultimately will lead to my next favorite past-time, sleeping.
Murphy and her partner Jerome relax during a (pre-pandemic) trip to Seattle.