Retirement Reflections: A Red-Letter Day

Emory Library

Yesterday afternoon while scootering to the post office to mail my tax returns, I suddenly remembered that I’d recently received my Emory University Alumni Card, that the card was in my wallet, and that this might be a good day to make my virgin trip to Emory’s graduate library, which the alumni card allows me to use.

Actually, yesterday’s trip to Emory’s library wouldn’t be my first one, as I’d spent many an afternoon there as a library science student over 30 years ago. Still, it was my first post-retirement trip to this library, and I was curious to find out how it would feel to become an Emory library user again.

Reader, my library pilgrimage wasn’t just mildly interesting: it was thrilling.

Not only had Emory’s library enlarged and transformed itself (evidently several times) since 1979 – to the point that it might as well be a different institution than the one I remembered – but I’d completely forgotten about how much fun it is to wander around the campus (and inside the impressive library) of a thriving, beautifully landscaped university abuzz with youthful energy. (So many international students, too!) As long as I ignored the disappointingly large subset of students staring into  iPhones and/or listening to earphones, I could still sense the unique, insular excitement that a visit to almost any college – well, any old and/or beautiful campus – invariably triggers.

Sheer nostalgia probably produced most of my excitement yesterday. When I escaped suburbia for college at age 18, I arrived at Mercer University (in Macon, Georgia) feeling liberated – a feeling that lasted for four glorious years. Those feelings of liberation and optimism swelled up again when I returned to grad school at Emory some ten years later, and cropped up whenever I visited other campuses, including campuses in other countries.

At any rate, yesterday, after chatting with the Emory library’s current reference desk staff (whose average age seemed to be about 19), I duly wandered off, still rather in a daze, into the bowels of the graduate library’s “book tower.” I assumed I’d find there a title or two about –  oh, the joys of reading perhaps (potential fodder for the other blog I write), or maybe something about gardening.

Instead, I found not only dozens of titles I was eager to skim and/or borrow some day, but I also discovered wonderful places to sit and examine the books I pulled from the shelves yesterday and the books that I will find on future visits. These heretofore-unknown-to-me niches have comfortable chairs complete with pleasant, bird’s-eye views of the campus and the distant Atlanta skyline. I also eventually located the library’s snack bar, its acres of internet terminals, and the window-clad and seating-lined bridge to an adjacent building where the library shelves its periodicals.

What was really unexpected, however, was how completely happy I felt as I spent a few glorious hours exploring this vast library. Not only was yesterday a beautiful day weatherwise – perfecct for doing anything, really, including taking a short break from my modest spring gardening projects – but it gradually, deliciously dawned on me that:

  • This virtually inexhaustible resource for enjoyment is also amazingly convenient to where I happen to live: a mere 2 miles from my front door. Plus, Emory – bless its progressive little heart – provides free parking for visitors using bicycles or motor scooters!
  • Being now a retired person – a condition I’m still finding it difficult to believe I’m blessed to enjoy – I finally have the time to roam the collections at Emory whenever I feel like it.  (And Emory’s library hours are a lot more extensive than my public library’s hours are.)
  • Emory allows me to borrow – and renew online if necessary – whatever materials I choose to take home  with me, or to take outside and read somewhere on Emory’s enchanting campus.

I knew before yesterday, of course, that I love libraries, that I have always loved libraries, and that I love this particular library. But I underestimated how completely congenial library-visiting was going to feel when I was no longer working every day in one. Or how congenial using this particular library (again) would feel.

Another exceedingly pleasant surprise along the still-new-to-Calvin Retirement Journey!