Category Archives: Spotlight

– announcements
– retrospectives on people
– special events

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.  



Farewell and Happy Retirement, Jane!

Our esteemed colleague Jane Bloemeke has worked with us here at Duke Libraries for 42 years, starting fresh out of high school in 1979.  She started her DUL career working with the Bindery before moving to Serials Receipts where she specialized in Periodicals, finally joining us here in Monograph Acquisitions where she placed and processed orders for librarians all over the libraries. Below are a few of the words of appreciation from co-workers past and present. 

Dear Jane, 

Congratulations on your retirement. 

I am very lucky to be able to work with you for 20 years. You have been a wonderful neighbor to sit next to all these many years, and every day I go to work I see that you are already working there. When I learned that you were going to retire, I was really sad.  The library is like a big family, and you are like members of my family. I will miss us working together and chatting together. I have prepared a gift for you, I hope you like it. When you see it in the future, you will remember the scene of us working together. Thank you for your help in my work. I hope you will enjoy your good life after retirement and you are safe and healthy. 

Yaoli Shi 


Due to a reorganization in Technical Services, I started working in the same unit with Jane in January of 1991.  This team processed the serials, periodicals, and set standing orders.  I became aware that Jane had many talents, such as, she has a great singing voice and she can write poems for any occasion.  She would give her poems to people at their birthday celebrations or for other occasions.  With her enthusiastic spirit, she enjoyed team parties and readily helped with the preparation for them.  Jane has always been a friendly and pleasant person to know and to work with throughout the years!  Upon her retirement, I wish her much joy and happiness as she begins this new chapter in her life. 



Orange and white kitten wearing a top hat with front paws in the airI had the good fortune to work with Jane when I was in Order Management, and then lucked out when she became my Order Specialist for music after I transitioned to the Music Library!  One quality of Jane’s I’ve enjoyed most over the years is her sense of humor—she has the *most* infectious laugh which always gets me giggling too, usually over crazy ordering snafus on my part, like the time I inadvertently cut off a couple of numbers when copying an OCLC # for her so that instead of a record for an incredibly staid Bach score that I had meant to send her, the number brought up this random and wacky title when she searched for it on OCLC: From artichokes to Zanesville: the story of trucks serving America.  I think this was also probably one of many instances where we exchanged some goofy icon with “jazz hands”—appropriate for music orders, but also for the many, many funny circumstances and the many good laughs we had during all of those great years working together.   I really appreciated what a fantastic colleague Jane has always been, always helpful, always cheerful, incredibly thorough and conscientious, and just a really caring person.   Thank you, Jane, and have a fantastic and fun retirement!  

Laura Williams 


Hi Jane. It was great working with you for so many years. I wish you a long and happy retirement. You deserve it.

Ken Wetherington 


Drawing of a gray cartoon cat wearing a Santa hat and green-and-red scarf

I had the privilege of working with Jane for several years in the former Receipts Management Section. In addition to her strong work ethic (and her knowledge of AV materials), I remember her fun sense of humor! We loved talking about Lucille Ball and our favorite “I Love Lucy” episodes.  We also looked forward to snow in the weather forecast, and had fun trading this cute cartoon back and forth via email on such occasions! I’ll miss Jane’s presence at Smith Warehouse, but wish her all the best in retirement!  

Lesley Looper 

Jane is a caring, funny, and most importantly CAT-LOVING colleague and wonderful friend with whom is has been my deep pleasure to work with over the years. Perhaps my favorite recollection from our ordering days together is that we spoke with each other over the phone almost daily – I miss those times, and I will greatly miss Jane’s presence at Smith. Congratulations on your retirement, Jane, and please, please, please keep in touch!!! 

Here are a few snippets from emails and PEPs that illustrate her dedication and good grace: 

“OMG, Jane, are you going to drop down in your tracks from all this extra ordering? Yikes!” – 8/10/2012 [Danette to Jane] 

“Ms. Bloemeke does an excellent job of communication. She is easy to work with, responsive, and professional in all she does. I feel very lucky to have Ms. Bloemeke on my team!”– 4/8/2013 [contribution to Jane’s PEP] 

“I’d like to share a recent excerpt from an email from a user, who benefited from Jane’s proactive work. When Ms. Bloemeke discovered that the DVD requested by [the patron] wouldn’t arrive until payment was received, she asked the filmmaker if a link could be sent to the student who wanted to include an analysis in her senior honors thesis; on Monday, April 4, 2016 [the patron] wrote: “[The filmmaker] just sent me the link to the film after Jane Bloemeke requested it from her. Thanks so much for your help securing it!” – 4/5/2016 [contribution to Jane’s PEP] 

“We already ordered this one; you requested it as a rush in January.  It has been in production, and just happened to arrive today!   Yay!” [Jane to Danette] 
“Wow, now that’s service! Thanks, Jane. 😎” [Danette to Jane] – 4/6/2016 

From: Jane Bloemeke 
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2016 4:57 AM
To: Danette Pachtner
Subject: RE: Rush book for Lilly Reserves; Fall2016 

It’ll be here tomorrow. [Jane to Danette] 

“Thanks, Jane!!! What time do you awaken… ?! J [Danette to Jane] 9-12-2016 

“I miss you SO MUCH!!!! :))))))  Thanks!!! Happy Friday!” 9/20/2019 [Danette to Jane] 

Danette Pachtner 


It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to work with Jane over my first few years at Smith and DUL. She was a good-natured and patient trainer as I learned the ropes of A/V materials and remained my go-to consultant for all such matters. I especially appreciate her laugh, which would always brighten my day. Jane, I know I made a lot of corny jokes, so thank you for laughing even if you were just humoring my attempts at humor. She was also always willing to help out with whatever questions or issues I or anyone else encountered, and consistently with nothing but upbeatness and cheer. Jane, I wish you nothing but the happiest of retirement. We’ll miss you! 

Stephen Conrad 


I remember so clearly when I first met Jane – during the interview session for my first (unsuccessful!) attempt to get a job in Order Management. Jane’s wit and friendliness did not fully mask her ability to look straight through me and see that I had little idea what I was talking about where library acquisitions were concerned! 

Luckily for me, Jane was welcoming and encouraging when I finally did manage to claw my way into the department. In what I came to understand as standard behavior, Jane helped situate me within the culture of Order Management and offered me guidance on GOBI, workflow management, and the expected responsiveness on the part of the Order Specialist. 

When I moved into a position of supervision within the department, it became clear that my experience of Jane was shared throughout DUL. Every year, come PEP time, I heard from librarians who were eager to offer praise and appreciation for Jane’s steady support. It was always such a relief to know that I could count on Jane to focus on her work with good cheer and reliability. 

Jane’s spirit and friendliness will be missed in MonoACQ, but we’re so happy for her that she’s able to start her much anticipated retirement! Best of luck, Jane, from a deeply grateful supervisor. 

Bill Verner 

Info Sessions for Head of Resource Description, Duke University Libraries

Arial Image of Perkins Library

Please join us to learn more about the position and ask questions.

We are offering two identical sessions over Zoom for interested candidates. We will share more information about the university, our library, and the Head, Resource Description position. We would also be happy to answer questions or put you in touch with staff to learn more about working at Duke or living in the Triangle region. No registration is needed – just click the link at the listed date and time.  All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Tuesday, March 9th, 4-5pm EST:

Monday, March 15th, Noon-1pm EST:

The Head of Resource Description provides strategic direction and operational management of bibliographic metadata and cataloging infrastructure, policies, and practices. The position reports to Dracine Hodges and is a member of the division’s leadership team. You will direct Resource Description production of MARC metadata at all levels, in all formats, and languages reflected in Duke University Libraries’ (DUL) collections strategy. You will lead change initiatives in response to emerging data models (RDF, BIBFRAME, Linked Data), to enhance user-centered resource discovery, and transitions driven by technological innovation (e.g. FOLIO, SHARE-VDE).

Learn more here:



Betsy Sorrell Retires after 40 Years of Dedicated Service

Betsy Sorrell with her Firefigher Monkey in her Smith Warehouse cube
Betsy’s cube mate, Firefighter Monkey, reminds her of her firefighter husband. Sadly, Firefighter Monkey has not volunteered to stay after her retirement!

As Betsy Sorrell celebrates her 40th year at Duke University Libraries, she is also retiring on October 23! We’ll certainly miss her work in Shelf Preparation Section, as well as her kind spirit and wonderful sense of humor!  All of TS will miss hearing her signature statement, “It’s gonna be allllright!”

Betsy’s Career

Betsy started on December 22, 1980 in the Marking and Repair Unit in Technical Services. One of her early tasks was learning how to use (and clean) the pasting machine. She wasn’t very impressed with that pasting machine, and considered quitting! Well, thank goodness for us, she stuck with it. (Tenacity is one of Betsy’s strong points—she doesn’t give up easily, and has a great attitude about her work!) She started out as a part-time Library Clerk for the first year, then switched with a full-time colleague who wanted to work a part-time schedule.

Over the years, Betsy has gained responsibility on the job, as her position has been upgraded from Library Clerk to Library Assistant to Library Assistant Sr. Her duties have grown, as the name of her unit has changed over the years to better describe the work of Betsy and her colleagues. Betsy started her career in Marking and Repair, which later changed to Materials Processing Unit (or MPU), and last, but not least, Shelf Preparation Section. Betsy’s early duties included typing call number labels on a typewriter, in addition to using the pasting machine that almost sent her jobhunting again! Now Betsy processes a variety of materials, from monographs to DVDs, as well as prepping the YBP shelf-ready materials for delivery to circulation points across campus.

Betsy’s Personal Milestones

Since Betsy’s been at Duke Libraries, she’s gotten married, had two children, and now two darling grandsons who think their “Nana” is the best!

 What Betsy’s Liked the Most about Working at DUL

Betsy has enjoyed learning new things throughout her career, including keeping up with all the new technology over the 40-year span of her career. (No more pasting machines or typewriters!)

But most of all, though, Betsy’s enjoyed getting to know her DUL colleagues, and I have to say that the feeling’s mutual. We’ve really enjoyed knowing Betsy over the years, and we will miss her hard work ethic and fun sense of humor!

And last but not least, here are some comments about Betsy from last week’s DUL Career Service Awards ceremony, captured from the Zoom chat:

  • Thank you, thank you, Betsy! You’ve seen a lot and been an essential part of the Libraries. Thank you for staying with us for 40 years! All the best to you in retirement!
  • My heart is melting and I really want Betsy to stay! 🙂
  • Betsy is the best!
  • Congratulations, Betsy!
  • Wow, Betsy! Congratulations!
  • Congratulations, Betsy! I am going to miss you and the joy and happiness you bring to us in DULTS every day.
  • Congratulations Betsy! I wish you the best, enjoy your retirement! We will miss you lots!
  • I remember Betsy and I filing cards in the public catalog every week. She made a tedious job a lot more pleasurable. I’ll miss you.
  • Congrats, Betsy! Thanks so much for your work and your kindness. I was always happy to see you at Smith.
  • Congratulations, Betsy!! It’s a remarkable career, and I hope you have a wonderful retirement!
  • Congratulations Betsy!! Enjoy retirement!
  • WOW Congrats Betsy….great working with you …..her favorite words…..HEY SHUGG! Enjoy retirement.
  • Congratulations Betsy! We will miss your amazing spirit at DULTS!
  • Congrats Betsy, I will miss you more than you know!
  • You go girrl!
  • And for endearing nicknames when she says hello. “Hey, shug!”

A Virtual Look Back with Shelia Webb

Shelia Webb on the occasion of her 45-year anniversary with Duke University
Shelia on the occasion of her 45-year anniversary with Duke University

On July 31, 2020, Duke University Libraries will say a heartfelt farewell to a Superstar of our Support Staff: Shelia Webb has decided to retire after over 46 years with Duke. Although she has spent the last few years in Business Services, the majority of Shelia’s career happened in Technical Services, and her physical office space remained with us in Smith. So, although the pandemic has robbed our go-to party planner of her own retirement party, we could not let this occasion go unmarked. Shelia has been a champion of Support Staff issues both within the Library and the University. A powerful personality with a sharp sense of humor and a strong work ethic, Shelia is impossible to summarize or encapsulate in a single blog post. She’s a loyal friend to many and a constant source of support, not only in the professional sphere, but in the personal realm of boosting another up and helping them through the days, months, and years of their lives. In that way she’s a good example of what makes the staff at DUL so much like an extended family. Shelia’s contributions to the Library and to our lives will stay with us as she moves into this next chapter of her life.

Here’s a look back with Shelia over her years with DUL, as told by the Star herself, in a socially-distanced, virtual interview. Take it away Shelia!

Getting started in the world of library technical services:

I transferred to the Library from Dietary Services at Duke South on July 26, 1976, which was my 1st wedding anniversary.  I was hired by Asta Smith, whose husband Eric Smith was a Reference Librarian.  It was a great group.  I was part of Serials records, which consisted of Daisy Whiteside, Debi Woody (Eason), Vera Roberts and Asta Smith (Head).  Later Dale Edgerton, Beverly Mills, Jeannie Beck, Jacqui Brown and Jane Bloemeke completed the section.

An evolving career in library acquisitions:

I began as a Clerk Typist and when Daisy Whiteside left, I was automatically promoted to her position as Library Clerk. I was later promoted to Library Assistant, and then a lateral move as the first Library Assistant to place periodical orders.  When the libraries did Recon (retrospective conversion of the physical catalog to an online one) they needed someone to coordinate that process and I was promoted to Library Assistant, Sr. in that role.  As time evolved, my duties changed and I was given the duties back that were removed when I got promoted.  We switched off duties by the week, so we all had to learn all the duties in the Section.  We merged with the Acquisitions/Accounting Department as Acquisitions Serials.  Then later we became the Acquisitions Department. After that, the serials and periodicals check-in merged with the Documents Department headed by Ann Miller.  After I received my bachelor’s degree in 2003, Ann recommended that I be placed in a position that I showed the most interest in and that was financial.  I had a meeting with Nancy Gibbs and Marty Berryman and in my new position, I became an Invoice Specialist, which was later changed to a Staff Assistant.  After Nancy retired and Teddy Gray departed, I was under Bill Verner who was Interim Head, and then Head of Acquisitions.  In December 2016, I became part of Business Services under Jameca Dupree.

Shelia in 1998, when computer monitors were the size of microwave ovens
Shelia in 1998, when computer monitors were the size of microwave ovens

A tireless advocate and booster for her colleagues and community:

I was on DULSA [Duke University Libraries Staff Association] and the Library Support Staff Council (elected representative) from 2001-2003.  I was the second Library representative on the Duke University Parking Advisory Committee (2001-2003).  We needed representation because Parking Services would oversell the parking lots and it was a mess each year when we renewed our stickers.  Some staff who came to work later could not find a parking space and they were being charged to park. I was a member of the first Perkins Library Diversity Working Group (2001-2003). We won the first Duke University Diversity Award, which was a $750 prize.  I was also on the Staff Development Committee (2004-2008). I was a tester for OLE [Open Library Environment] for a little over 6 years (2009-2015).  That was a challenging task!  I somehow became the party planner and loved doing end of the fiscal year and retirement parties.  My latest committee was the Smith Warehouse Social Committee, which I joined in 2009.  I represented the Library for three annual social events with this committee – Holiday Party, Pizza Party, and the Ice Cream Social.  On this committee, I met people from all over Smith.  These were morale builders!

Outside the library, I am on the Executive Board of my church and also the Hospitality Committee.  I am part of several organizations, like The Order of the Eastern Star (Drucilla #19), Zafa Court #41 and the Golden Circle.  I am on one of my high school reunion Committees that we formed in the early 1990’s, NHSBAA (Northern High School Black Alumni Association).  I have been a part of planning three very successful reunions with this Association.  I am also my family’s official family reunion planner. I just turned that task over to my nieces this year.  They did a great job, but the pandemic put that to a halt.

And, DUL was just her day job:

I worked as a staff assistant (night Page Supervisor) at the Durham County Library for 20 years from December 1997 to June 2007.  I did a variety of duties there, such as working the circulation desk, new patron registration, assisting patrons at other service points, and collecting fines and fees.  I had a staff of three at night who were responsible for re-shelving the books.  I continued to work this position after I enrolled in Shaw University’s CAPE (Center for Alternative Programs of Education) program in 1999.  While at Shaw, I was crowned Miss Durham CAPE from 2002-2003. I was a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society.  To help with my tuition, I wrote an essay for a scholarship offered by Glaxo-Smith-Kline about overcoming adversity and going on to attend college and succeeding.  I was one of seven candidates who received an award and the amount awarded to me was $13,000. I graduated summa cum laude in May 2003.  I always wanted a college degree and that was my motivation.  I worked for the Durham County Agriculture as a contractor while I pursued my MBA from Pfeiffer University.  I attended online from January 2016 to December 2017.

What do you wish more people knew about your work in the library?

How hard I worked on the OLE Project.  It was a full-time job in itself.  When it was terminated, I felt that all that hard work was in vain.  I had to document procedures as a tester with no instructions, and there was no one in any of the other libraries working on the financial part of the system in the beginning.

What have been your biggest challenges in your career?

Trying to adapt to all the new systems over the years and not getting them mixed up with each other.  And also, remembering all the passwords for each of them!!!

What is the most fun you’ve had at work in DUL?

When the library staff did the entertainment for library parties, we used to have plays and singing programs.  The Plays were written and directed by library staff.  One I remember was the “The Wizard of Ros”, of course based on who else – Ros Raeford! We used to have designated days like, “Hat Day”, when all staff wore different type hats. We once hired a “Mourner” for a staff member’s birthday who was turning 40.  It was hilarious as her youth was mourned away with information about her they received from us. When Staff Appreciation Week came, Duke gave us prizes all week and a big luncheon on the quad.  To top off the week, there was a big carnival and lots of catered food and we invited our families on that weekend! We used to get bonuses in addition to our raises if you met exceeded expectations on your evaluation. There was never a dull moment back then!

What thoughts or advice would you like to leave us with, as you move into retirement?

Keep a positive attitude!  When you are thrown lemons, make lemonade.  Goodbye tension—hello pension!!!!

A Mad Hatter Party, with Antha Marshall, Debra Taylor, Marvin Tillman, Beverly Mills, and Gail Sewell
A Mad Hatter Party, with Antha Marshall, Debra Taylor, Marvin Tillman, Beverly Mills, and Gail Sewell

My Journey from Print to Electronic and Back Again: a Librarian’s Tale

Beverly Dowdy

Long before I became a librarian I had a fascination with libraries.  They were always magical places for me, and the stacks in particular were magical.  The organization of knowledge on the shelves pulled me in, and all of it was available to anyone.  So as an undergraduate at Appalachian State University, I majored in Educational Media.  The major was created to supply librarians for the public schools.  But I quickly discovered my first year that working in a public school system did not suit me.

I found my niche in an academic library – at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  I was hired in the Acquisitions department to order and receive all titles.  All those new titles bound for the stacks had to pass across my desk!  It was the height of the paper library era – all financial transactions, the card catalog, the books – everything was on paper.  A glimmer of the online world to come was a single OCLC terminal that provided the most recent cataloging information which we printed out.  The staff fought over time slots.  I still remember mine:  1:00-3:00 every afternoon.

After my husband and I moved from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, I worked briefly in the private sector.  I became a company librarian at Engineering Enterprises in Norman, Oklahoma.  They employed geologists and engineers to provide environmental remediation for contaminated groundwater.  I was hired to not only keep the company library but provide research on request.  Automated searching was now available, and I provided DIALOG searches for the geologists and their clients.  Utilizing the citations from those searches, I would drive across town to the University of Oklahoma Library to find the full-text printed articles and books.   I straddled this print/electronic divide many years before full-text online became a reality.  In that role I functioned as a sort of information detective, and I was Google before Google.

My cumulative experiences led me to think I should make librarianship my professional career.  I finished my MLS in 2000.   Another world opened at the same time as eJournals made their first appearance.  I jumped back into the academic world at the University of Central Oklahoma to order, process, and make available their eJournals and databases.   Electronic full text was another universe compared to print world and a true paradigm shift.  I remember many librarians with decades of experience were overwhelmed by it.  Perhaps because I was young and foolish, I jumped in and took on anything the Library Director threw at me.  I’m glad I did because it gave me a thorough grounding in this new format, and I could see how improved discoverability for patrons.

It also led me to a new job at Duke.  I came on board as the Head of Electronic Resources and Serials Management in 2008.  By that time full-text online had exploded.  It was imperative to decide on best practices, tools, and workflow for managing the fire hose of electronic text coming at us.  On top of this, print world didn’t die.  In fact, it still grew – just not at the same pace.  Over time ERSM became SRM (Serials and Retention Management) when the electronic pieces were shifted to other departments.  My own department focused on projects for older print (Papyrology collection) and something new:  collaborative print retention.  This was a new paradigm administered by multiple libraries to insure that aging print texts would always be available to patrons within a geographic area.

Last year I stepped out of the department head role and into my final position at Duke:  government documents.  Collaborative print retention took hold in government documents through ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries).  We began a project to resize our own documents collection in light of other TRLN document collections.  We also committed to acquire and retain all publications from six government agencies.  So I came full circle, from print to electronic and back to print with a different twist.  In July 2020 I will retire from Duke Libraries and am ever appreciative my experiences and learning.  I picked up a Master’s Degree in Graduate Liberal Studies along the way.  That also opened new worlds for me.  Keep growing, keep learning, and don’t be surprised in your career if you shift back to something you knew in an earlier time and see it with new eyes.

Getting To Know Your Colleagues: Holiday Tree

Interview by Christina Manzella


Detail from Lunar New Year. Photo by Will Hanley.

Most of us who work in the library bays at Smith Warehouse have not set foot on campus since March 20. One of our colleagues, however, has been there 24/7, keeping watch over the place. Below is an interview with this Bay 10 mainstay, conducted just before working from home began. Holiday Tree, we miss you!

CM: What is your role here at Duke?
HT: I play the very important role of seasonal décor for Technical Services. I really love my job. You talk to most “artificial” trees out there, and they’ll tell you they’re stuck in an attic 10.5-11 months out of the year. Not me. I’m on display year round, bringing continued joy to all the residents and visitors of Bays 9 and 10.

CM: What is your favorite part of working at Duke?
HT: It’s got to be the people. I can always count on Antha Marshall (and her candy bowl) when I need a pick me up. Will Hanley always makes me look dashing in his photos. I’m also very close with Leeda Adkins. She leads the team of folks who change out my decorations each season. I’ve witnessed some very creative problem solving when it comes to tree toppers. And, obviously, Squirrel and I are inseparable.

A close up of Squirrel. Photo by Will Hanley.


CM: Do you have a favorite season?
HT: That’s a tough one. I might have to say summer. Not a lot of conifers can say they’ve seen the beach. Oh, to be clear, I haven’t either, but I really think I have a good sense of what it’s like based on my decorations. I’ve often contemplated what SPF I would need.

CM: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
HT: I bleed blue, but I live green! Please recycle.

Autumn decorations. Photo by Christina Manzella.

Antiracism Resources at Duke University Libraries and Beyond

Over the past few weeks, there have been many resources shared on race, racism, and antiracism. Libraries have been working to find solutions to the meet the demand for antiracism books.

This list below is just a start. There are many resources to be found, in Duke University Libraries and beyond, to educate, inspire, and call to action. Please feel free to email Jacquie Samples ( with any additional resources you find helpful, and I will add them to the list.

Statement from Duke University Libraries


5 Tips for Being an Ally

Back to Natural

Exploring the Emotions of White Racism and Antiracism

Taking a Stance Against Racism and Discrimination

TED Talks to Help You Understand Racism in America

The Thirteenth Amendment and Civil Rights

White Like Me: Race, Racism & White Privilege in America



75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies by Courtney Ariel

Here’s how to teach Black Lives Matter

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 1 “Centering the Privileged”

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 2 “He-peat, Re-white, and Amplification”

How NOT to be an Ally – Part 3 “Spoken-Language Microaggressions”

How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

Understanding Our New Racial Reality Starts with the Unconscious

White Anti-Racism: Living the Legacy



Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel E. Joseph

West Indian Immigrants: A Black Success Story? by Suzanne Model

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White Men Challenging Racism: 35 Personal Stories


On the Occasion of Ros Raeford’s Retirement

May 29th will mark the last day of Rosalyn Raeford’s forty-three-year career at the Duke University Libraries (DUL).  Ros is the Head of the Resource Description Department. The department is responsible for creating and stewarding the metadata that make discovery of library resources possible, as well as shelf preparation of physical materials. When Ros joined the Duke library staff in the late 1970s automation of library cataloging existed, but it was deep in the background.  Its tangible output was the card catalog, local access points were added manually in aid of user discovery and access.  As time and Ros’s career went on, the interplay between the technological and the manual trended more and more toward automation.  Yet, a lot of manual work was still involved in cataloging, as catalogers worked on printouts that were then converted to computer format through data input.  During these years of change, Ros was there not only to witness, but to shape the trajectory of DUL’s approach to resource description.

Photo from the Duke University Archives,

Ros began her career as a clerk-typist responsible for typing local access points, such as call numbers, on printed cards.  This regularly entailed typing unique access points per title on multiple cards.  Though critical to the user experience, it was not the most enlivening work. Ros always found ways to make it fun, for herself and her colleagues.

Next for Ros was working with the Demand Cataloging team.  This group managed a huge backlog of books by boxing them for storage, creating a paper trail on boxes and on catalog cards, and retrieving titles for cataloging when library users requested (or demanded) a title.  Think a very low-tech Library Service Center.  Ros really began enjoying her job when she became a copy cataloger, working directly with materials to assign call numbers, and then moving onto subject heading work.  Ros remembers that the more complicated an item was, the more she enjoyed it.

Ros circa 1980, top row 5th from the left. Photo from the personal collection of Amy Turner, retired Library Original Cataloger.

About eight years after Ros joined the library staff, at around the time computers first became part of cataloging, Ros became the supervisor of the Pre-Cataloging team.  It was in supervisory work that she found her “true love.”  This true love encompassed both people and process, and that is where the magic happened.  Ros saw opportunities for workflow efficiencies that leveraged both available technology and the skills of her colleagues.  An early efficiency that Ros envisioned and worked with colleagues to realize was automation of call number creation for copy cataloging.  Cataloging work was done exclusively in a DOS environment with command prompts.  Another efficiency that Ros conceived of was cataloging in a Windows environment.  She and a colleague designed a Windows-based system that a third colleague programmed.  Thus, the Cat Editor was born.

Automation, efficiency, and process saved time and created an environment that freed up resources to tackle bigger things.  Remember that the more complicated something was, the more Ros enjoyed it?  Ros has led many large projects over the years, but the project to reclass DUL’s collection from the Dewey Decimal Classification system to the Library of Congress (LC) Classification system stands out because it enabled efficiency on a massive scale.  Until late 2004, DUL was one of a very small number of large academic libraries that used Dewey.  At various times over the years, the library had looked at switching to LC Classification.  Arguments for the benefits of switching were never compelling enough to effect the change.  Switching to LC was always deemed too expensive, too undoable.  Ros made it happen!  She analyzed and synthesized in-house cataloging statistics to show that upwards of 85% of catalog records had LC class numbers.  Ros showed that by using LC classification, it would be possible to move the bulk of materials more quickly through the cataloging workflow and into the hands of library users.

From Left to Right: David Ferriero, then University Librarian; Ros; and Deborah Jakubs, current University Librarian ca. mid-2000s. From Deborah’s personal collection

The LC Reclass Project was a multi-year project that began in 2004 and transformed DUL’s collection and how we catalog.  Once LC classification was in place, Ros was able to lead further process changes, namely shelf-ready processing of new monograph titles and working with vendors to provide cataloging when it was not feasible to do in house.  A philosophical change also ensued that led the Resource Description Department to its current approach toward cataloging: follow national standards and avoid local practices.  Certainly, elements of this approach were already there prior to LC reclass, but the project pushed us further in that direction.

Now cataloging is on the brink of a fundamental shift in the creation and use of metadata to linked data.  Ros will not be here to lead us through this sea-change, but her approach to people and process will continue to inform how we embrace and manage it.  We will thrive, and library users will benefit as a result.  Ros said that in her first days at Duke, she felt smarter just being here.  Well, DUL and Duke are smarter, too, because Ros was here. (Recommended reading: Dennis Christman’s January 31, 2020 post titled A Linked Data Primer.)

Now for a parting gift from Ros, here are some of thoughts in her own words.

On joining the library and what stood out to her at the time:

“The first few days that I was there I remember walking out on campus and just being awestruck.  I remember just this really warm feeling of just being on Duke’s campus. … I felt smarter just being there.”

On being a manager:

“Being a manager was like the best thing that could have happened to me.  And, being a manager in a process-oriented environment. It’s my ideal thing because it was a breeding ground for creativity.  There was no limit to what you could do.”

On automation and its opportunities:

I was fascinated about how to make things more efficient and what could be automated. … We were automating and most people hadn’t even thought about it.”

On having fun at work:

“I love planning and problem-solving.  And I think that for me that was what the LC reclass project was.  The fact that so many people had looked at doing it and it got abandoned at least four times. … I don’t know how you describe it.  It was almost like a competition.  Like when I played basketball; it was like sports.  I’m competitive.  I was like, ‘okay this can be done.’”

On linked data and the future of cataloging:

“Something major is about to happen. Another major shift in how we think about metadata, another major shift in how we think about discovery.”

“If you can give catalogers something else to embrace that taps into their intellectual value, that taps into their skill set regardless of how those skills play out, I think they will embrace it.”

Ros at work on a project in 2000.  Photo from the personal collection of Lynda Baptist, retired Head of Holdings Management.

Visiting the Library From Home

Even as the Duke University Libraries remain closed, there is no shortage of library resources to be enjoyed remotely.  We asked the Technical Services staff to share how they are using the libraries to make the most of their time at home. Here are some of their responses:

“My family has enjoyed Naxos Music Library. It has over 2.3 million tracks!”
(Natalie Sommerville, Team Lead, Monographic Original Cataloging)


“I’ve been playing mandolin for a few years now, and I like to check out music from the library to work on. I’m pretty slow, so these two should be able to tide me over for some time. Also, both of the Fantastic Beasts movies are on Swank Digital Campus!” (Dennis Christman, Metadata Transformation Librarian)


“I have an issue of one of my favorite manga at home. It’s volume no. 2 of ‘Yotsuba &!’ The series shows the zany antics of a young girl (about 5 years old, I think?) in Japan.  It’s a slice-of-life comedy that always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood.  I brought the volume home in case I need help feeling joyful in these times.”
(Will Hanley, Electronic Resources Management Specialist)


“I really needed a break from all of the terrible, frightening news, and I REALLY needed to laugh, so I decided to check out Swank Digital Campus.  Swank has a pretty good selection of films in a number of different genres, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some I’d always heard about, but had never seen.  I decided upon ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (I know, I can’t believe I never saw it either!), and really enjoyed it.  I needed something lighthearted and fun and that fit the bill. I may check out ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and I noticed Swank also has ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed.” (Ellen Maxwell, Library Original Cataloger for Monographic Resources)

“I am using Duke’s OverDrive (in conjunction with Durham Library’s – it’s great, you can combine access to both in the OverDrive Libby app) to find ebooks for leisure reading on my Kindle.

Birds of the World is a great database for those of us who have become amateur bird watchers while at home. We have a great view out of my living room window onto a bird feeder and watch the birds come and go all day. I even spent some time trying to learn to identify bird songs this weekend (not super successful on that one).” (Virginia Martin, Head – Continuing Resource Acquisitions)

“I have stacked on my dining room table around 20 books from DUL that I am using to write an historical article.  It will be entitled, “Selling Virginia: promoting English emigration in the seventeenth century” and will be published in Advertising and Society Quarterly.

I’ve taken photos of many of the images of promotion literature included in these illustrated texts (all public domain, of course.)  They included broadsides, official documents, lottery headers, etc.  Many people don’t realize how rich our collections are in older texts, and the value they provide.” (Beverly Dowdy, Coordinator – Government Documents Processing)