When I was a young person, playing basketball was definitely a priority over studying . Every spare moment I was in the back yard shooting or in the gym practicing basketball. It wasn’t until I did not make a college basketball team that I finally understood the value of spending more time in the library than I did in gymnasiums.
I kept going to school and spending time in libraries through my undergraduate program and five years of graduate school. Much of that time was spent in the stacks and main reading room of the library at the University of Illinois.
Fast forward 42 years later to my retirement from a career in college teaching. I now have the opportunity to choose how I spend my time.
To my surprise, I am drawn again to the library! This, however, is no ordinary library. The Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati offers the privilege to step back into time—back before technology allows both faculty and students to have the resources of a library at their fingertips. This library is so similar to the one at Illinois. Everything is wood: beautiful wood paneling, shining wooden floors, sturdy wooden tables, and cushioned wooden chairs. I sit among sculptured heads of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens as well as shelf after shelf of well-worn books. Wi-fi is available, but there is also the card catalogue to peruse. The stacks are open to members. We pay $55 per year to use all their resources. It has become my office at least one day a week when I am in town.
Last week as I sat pondering a speech I was preparing, I observed the beauty, comfort, and quietness of the library. I could not help but think about how after all these years I am drawn again to this setting, once mandatory, and now my choice.
We all learn to adapt to required surroundings, sometimes even grudgingly. Then what a surprise when those very situations are what we turn to when given a choice!