Happy Retirement, Deb Fields!

On May 21st Duke University Libraries will bid a fond farewell to our amazing Technical Services colleague Deb Fields. After 42 years working for the library, Deb has helped so many people with her seemingly infinite expertise and thoughtful approach to work. We asked Deb and some of her longtime colleagues to share some DUL memories on the occasion of her retirement.  

Deb Fields 

Tell us something interesting about yourself most people probably don’t know. 

I’m a pretty open book, but those of you who work closely with me know that I like quilting and canning. My grandmother taught me how to do simple block quilting when I was younger, and that’s something I want to share with my granddaughter. Some folks reap the rewards of my gardening and canning; I like to bring stuff in whether folks want it or not! I also have a second job with my sweetie’s trucking business. I’ve done his bookkeeping work for the last 15 years. Also, not everyone knows I have a wicked sense of humor.  

Tell us about some of your memorable moments working at Duke over time 

I told Virginia the other day I didn’t like all of these questions, because what I find memorable is also sad in a way. A memorable moment for me was meeting my soulmate Larry years ago, and having a fine life with him until he passed. We both worked at Perkins. I can talk about this now without crying, so that’s a good sign.  

Another memorable moment for me is I met my best friend of 38 years, Penny. She’s been much more than a colleague; she’s seen me through the good and the bad, and I absolutely treasure her. 

On top of all of this, my primary memorable moment was my first day at Duke University. My son Chris was 11-weeks old, and I was trying to hold back the tears all day. I was missing my baby, and I wanted to quit. Back then you had to walk to Perkins to get your benefits, and I fell! We’d had a huge snowstorm that weekend, and it was snowy and icy. But a nice young man helped me up and helped me get to the door of the library. Thankfully I didn’t quit. 

How did you know you wanted to work at Duke? 

It wasn’t so much that I wanted to work at Duke; Duke was the first job after having Chris that I applied for. Fortunately, I was hired, so you could say Duke chose me. I’ve had five or six different jobs. They’ve always been in Technical Services, the majority in Acquisitions. I’ve enjoyed the work, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had supervisors who encourage me and support me learning new things. 

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve experienced throughout your career at Duke? 

Personally, I was divorced, I was married, I was widowed. Professionally, I had to learn different ILSs and adjust to a variety of supervisors over the years. Technology has changed a lot in my forty-something years. When you look in Aleph you might wonder, who the heck is CRM? Only people who have been here for a while know that’s my son’s initials. 

I should send you a list of jobs I’ve had over the years. I was departmental secretary for Acquisitions a while. I started out as a clerk typist making $3.23 an hour. One of the first desktop PCs in the department landed on the secretary’s desk. It had Lotus 12-3, which we now call Excel. I also did typing on the side for a few professors’ manuscripts for books for publication. 

What’s the first thing you want to do for fun when you retire?  


I actually want to take a trip to the beach. I love the Outer Banks. I love to fish. We’re thinking late September or early October because the fish like to run around and get caught that time of year. This summer I’ll also be watching my granddaughter, and I want to resume birthday lunches with fellow DUL “life timers.” I’ve also never made a quilt for myself, so I hope to work on my bookshelf quilt and a dragon quilt for my granddaughter. 

Deb's bookshelf quilt in progress

Any other parting thoughts? 

I hope my colleagues feel that I’ve been a thoughtful, kind, and respectful colleague to them. I hope they feel I’ve helped them. I think my colleagues here in Technical Services are the best on the planet.   

Antha Marshall 

I met Deb when she was hired to work in the Acquisitions Department.  We realized then that we had attended junior high school together and knew some of the same people. Two of my favorite things about Deb are her friendliness and sense of humor.  We have had many laughs through the years.  I will miss her wealth of knowledge of serials and periodicals.  Also, Deb would contribute to keeping the Candy Bowl filled up by bringing bags of candy! 

Shelia Webb 

I met Deb when she came to Duke as part of the Acquisitions Dept. under Rick Keyworth and Mary Plowden.  I was working in the Serials Records Dept. and I placed the serial and periodical orders.  Her department handled the monograph orders.  We shared a database to print orders and claims. We had scheduled times to print and this was my first interaction with Deb. 

One of the favorite things Deb used to say to me was “You are breathing my air”! When I joined the Acquisitions Accounting Dept. in 2009, Deb trained me in all the processes, and the one we did not care for was invoice reversals.  When she is in a good mood, she is “Deb”, but when she is in a bad mood, she is “Debra”.  I loved the looks she gave me when I was getting on her nerves with my silly antics.  I told her if I don’t get on your nerves, who will!!  I learned a lot from Deb and she never got tired of helping me get what I needed to do my job. She tried her best to keep me in line, but that was a hard job! I miss our morning walks and talks when we were onsite.  I just miss her! 

I don’t think most people know that Deb grew up in a military family or how talented Deb is outside of work.  She makes beautiful quilts and is a very crafty person.  She is a “Jack of All Trades” and a master of them all!! 

Whenever we had luncheons or meetings offsite, Deb always offered the transportation.  We always went in her car, but she did not want to drive—that was Penny’s job!  She made sure we all went together and came back together. Deb loves to do for others and wants nothing back in return.  I wish her the best retirement, she has definitely paid her dues!! 

Penny Brown 

I first met Debra when I came to work for the library in July 1982.  She was the departmental secretary type person.  I’m not sure what her title was but she was surely a jack of all trades (and still is)!  If anyone needed anything she knew where to find it or was able to do it.   She was always kind, friendly, and helpful.  She made me feel at ease which wasn’t a simple task as this was my first full time job.  She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known.  When she was supervisor, she wouldn’t ask us to do anything she wouldn’t do herself.  She was always right there to open a box or type and order.   We became fast friends.  She isn’t just a coworker or colleague.  She is family.  We have shared lots of laughter and more than a few tears over the 39 years we’ve worked together.   

Debra is one of the kindest people I have ever met.   She has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  Always the giver.   She’s always willing to help whether its work related or something personal.  At work she is always to first one to volunteer for the job nobody else wants.   One of Debra’s hobbies is making quilts.  When my children were little, she made several quilts and Halloween costumes for them.  Everything from pumpkins to princesses.   She is one of the few people I know who still does things that have become a lost art, things like sewing, gardening, canning, freezing, pickling things.  You don’t see much of that any more.   I am hoping that working from home will make her retirement a little less painful for me.  It will be a big loss for me personally.   I will miss having a confidant and supporter, a sounding board, and someone on whom I can always depend at work!!!  Fortunately for me, our friendship doesn’t end with retirement; but the office will certainly be missing something big. 

Virginia Martin 

I believe I first met Deb before I started working at Duke because she was on the search committee that hired me! We’ve worked together since I started at Duke in October 2014, and she really was my touchstone during my first few months at the library, showing me the ropes in Aleph and teaching me about how we handle orders and invoices for subscriptions. I think she was the one who blew my mind about how we treat periodicals and serials differently at DUL, which is something I had never heard of before. Deb was – and still is – always generous with her time and support. I had a pretty rough onboarding process and I don’t think I would have made it through without Deb’s help.  

I will miss everything about Deb when she retires! She’s the only person in the department who is comfortable teasing me and giving me a hard time, which is maybe what I will miss the most. Pre-pandemic, she was the frequent victim of my “drop-bys,” and would listen to me talk about what I had been cooking or patiently explain to me the history of why we do some of the weird things we do around Technical Services. I’ll miss hearing about what is going on with her sweetie, Mr. King, and her granddaughter, Maya. I’ll also miss all of the expertise and knowledge she has about our work; losing that will be big hit to the department, but fortunately she has put in a lot of time training all of us so that we’re ready to handle things ourselves when she’s gone. She’s just so dependable, helpful, and kind – lots to miss there! 

Many of Deb’s hidden qualities have already been revealed by others earlier in this blog post, but one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is her evil twin, “Margaret.” When Deb isn’t having a good day, Margaret appears, and takes the blame for any surliness. The funny thing about Margaret is that she is just as helpful and dependable as Deb is!  

I want to thank Deb for all that she has done for the library over her 43 years of service, and for me personally over the past six and a half years. With Deb, I grew our little baby department that was just the two of us in December 2016 into what is now, five years later, a much larger department of ten. She and I have learned and grown so much together over the years, and have really supported one another. I am so grateful to Deb for being there for me and being such an awesome colleague and friend. I hope that her retirement is amazing, because she really deserves it.