Blue Devil of the Week: Helping the Health System Find Answers

Duke Medical Center Librarian Beverly Murphy relishes tracking down information

Beverly Murphy helps healthcare professionals find the answers they're looking for at the Duke University Medical Center Library.
Duke Medical Center librarian Beverly Murphy helps healthcare professionals find the answers they're looking for.

Beverly Murphy

Assistant Director, Communication and Web Content Management and Hospital Nursing Liaison for Duke Health System, Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives

Years at Duke: 34

What she does at Duke: At one point in her life, Murphy wanted to work in a crime lab, digging through clues and solving mysteries.

“I love detective work,” Murphy said, who was recently elected president of the Medical Library Association.

In her current role with Duke Medical Center Library & Archives, she’s still a sleuth of sorts. A big part of her job is fielding research questions from nurses and other health system staff. She teaches others how to navigate the vast online databases of published research or does the digging herself. The topics she’s had to look into have ranged from best practices for nurses to the frequency of cases of people eating glass.

Between finding the articles and a way to access them – not all are easily available – she said it’s the kind of challenge that speaks to her inner detective.

“I’ve always had that interest,” Murphy said. “So I think I’ve pooled all that stuff together and put it to use in librarianship. Sometimes it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

What she loves about Duke: “Every day I get to work with a great group of people, from the nurses to the physicians to the students, the staff,” Murphy said. “I love my job and it’s never boring. Duke has such a diverse group of people that work here. There are so many different minds working in so many different ways, I never know what I’m going to come across.”

A memorable day at work: The Duke Medical Center Library is tucked away in the small, quiet Seeley G. Mudd Building, which is dwarfed by the larger, bustling Health System campus. For Murphy, some of her most memorable professional moments come when the people she works with take a moment to let her know what her help meant.

“I’ve had patients come back and give me flowers, I’ve had people, nurses, physicians, come back and thank me,” Murphy said. “Those are memorable moments for me, when, at the end of the day, they’ve gotten what they want, they’ve learned something or found something that’s eluded them.”

A special object/memorabilia in her workspace: Tucked among the books and documents on her desk are two important sheets of folded paper.

In 2014, Mark Middleton, Murphy’s younger brother died after battling cancer. Last year, her mother, Etta Joyce Frazier English, passed away after complications following a fall. Murphy keeps the programs from their memorial services close by, in large part because of the photos on the cover. Middleton is in a coat and tie, staring resolutely ahead while a young English wears a sleek modern suit, bobbed hair and  slight smile.

“I keep these around me because I know that they’re here in spirit,” Murphy said. “I know that they’re encouraging me, even though they’re not physically here. … It’s a spiritual uplift for me. When I’m feeling stressed, I know that they’re here.”

First ever job: One summer when she was 14, Murphy was given the job of convincing local businesses back home in Four Oaks and Smithfield to advertise in a coupon book.

“I did OK, but I realized I wasn’t a salesman,” Murphy said. “I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time trying to convince somebody to do something that they perhaps didn’t want to do.”

Best advice received: Murphy grew up with godparents Robert and Helen Holt, who were educators. They told her: “You can do and be whatever you want in life as long as you work hard, be honest and fair, keep God in your life and most of all, be yourself.”

Murphy said the lesson she took away from that was to believe in herself and not let circumstances surrounding her force her off course.

“That has stuck with me,” she said.

Something most people don’t know about her: At a library conference in the 1980s, Murphy saw boxing great Muhammad Ali standing outside, near the hotel lobby. While her colleagues were too nervous to approach him, Murphy wasn’t. Wearing a necklace with smiley faces on it, Murphy introduced herself to Ali and chatted with the former champ.

The brief conversation ended with a hug, a kiss on the cheek from Ali and an autograph. When she got a good look at it later, she realized Ali had included a small smiley face drawn under his name.

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