September 27, 2023

Sharing Sad News in the Passing of Simpson Library’s Beth Perkins

The following message is from the Office of the Provost, with thanks to Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales:

Campus Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Elizabeth “Beth” Perkins, who served as the Library’s Head of Circulation from 1984 until her retirement in early 2012.

Beth once commented that in her position, “every day is different” and “I get to do many, many things.”  During her 28 years at UMW, her main task among those numerous responsibilities was to ensure that the library provided “superior library service.”  Towards that end, she administered library programs, supervised both students and full-time employees, and planned for future library developments.

Beth was at the forefront of integrating technology into the library and in the late 1980s, assisted with the upgrade from a card catalog to a complex automated catalog system.  She was so proficient at pinpointing problems during the early stages of library technology that she was often referred to as “Beta-Test Beth.”

Beth was actively involved with the Virginia Library Association’s Paraprofessional Forum and received the organization’s first “Paraprofessional of the Year” award in 1996.  Four years later, the prestigious periodical Library Journal recognized her contributions to the field by presenting her with its inaugural “Paraprofessional of the Year” award, whose criteria included “contribution(s) enabling the library to best serve its constituents and/or its community.”

In its lengthy March 15, 2000, cover story about Beth and the award, Library Journal observed that “she displays deep professional commitment. Perkins has a record of outstanding job performance, solid managing, and effective mentoring.”

Beth’s passions included books and music.  A few years after she retired, she moved to her home state of Mississippi, where she enjoyed reading and collecting books—especially signed volumes—and going to concerts all over the South.  She died peacefully at age 78 on March 14, 2023, surrounded by her family.  A celebration of her life will be held later this spring in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


Timothy M. O’DonnellProvostUniversity of Mary Washington