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Allen, Beverly Elizabeth

 Beverly Elizabeth Allen's published oral history

Throughout her long and distinguished career, Beverly Allen was a mentor, strong role model, and fierce advocate for the library. She fearlessly embraced the challenges of building two libraries from the ground up and championed the voice of her African American librarian colleagues.

During high school, Beverly was interested in reading all types of materials and decided to major in librarianship. After earning her master’s degree at Syracuse University, she began her career as the first black professional librarian at the University of Missouri. Her career began to blossom as she became the branch librarian at the University of Illinois at Peoria where she developed the medical school library from nothing to over 25,000 volumes. During this time she became involved in the Medical Library Association attending annual conferences and helping to plan meetings.

In 1977 Beverly accepted her most prominent role as founding director of the newly established School of Medicine Library at Morehouse College. She retired after 28 years of outstanding service to the library, the profession, and the community.

When asked why she was excited and ready to take on the monumental task of building a second library, she said, “There are not many developing medical schools. After one has developed something, one has to decide if one is going to be a developer or if one is going to be content with the status quo.”

Beverly oversaw the planning for the medical school library and implemented library policies, including founding a medical library that was independent of the Woodruff Library and a twenty-four-hour study room for students.

Beverly was committed to ensuring that faculty, staff, and students had access to the most reliable information. She knew that people’s lives were at stake. She equipped the library with state-of-the-art technology and successfully secured a grant to bring the Internet to MSM. 

Morehouse colleagues share that “Miss Allen encouraged us to move beyond our job descriptions and she allowed us to explore all areas of medical librarianship.  She was very territorial and opinionated about the library.”

Louis Sullivan, M.D., President Emeritus of Morehouse believed that Beverly’s contribution to the development and growth of the Morehouse School of Medicine left a legacy that lives on in the lives and work of the alumni, faculty, and staff – in the present and future.

Past President Mark Funk has shared that Beverly’s influence caused him to change his major from education to library science.

From 1991-1994, Beverly served on the National Library of Medicine Board of Regents playing an active role on NLM’s Long-Range Education and Training Panel for Health Sciences Librarians. At a 1994 meeting, she commented that there was a group in the profession that felt somewhat disenfranchised--African-American health science librarians. She urged that representatives of this group be invited to the next Education and Training Panel meeting so that their views could be included in the Panel's deliberations. Beverly was a valued member of NLM’s Toxicology Information Outreach Panel (TIOP) and her participation in the TIOP Conference, "Widening the Door to Access:  Addressing Health Disparities through Information," led to the important work of EnHIP today.

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