Thursday, July 3, 2014

Loren's Parting Words

At the retirement reception on Friday, June 20th, Loren gave a few parting words to his colleagues and friends. Below is the transcript of his reflections!


I am grateful for all the many kind words expressed here this evening.  These 16 years at LC have gone altogether too quickly.  Oh for those days when we were in our 20’s and time moved so much more slowly!  Now, I pause and wonder, “where have all the years gone?”

Now that I am retiring I often think I’ve become a relic of the past.  How many in this room, for example, rode horseback to a one-room country school?  One of my vivid school memories was the periodic visit from the County Superintendent of Schools and her bringing a large wooden box filled with books.  It was always like Christmas to open up that box and retrieve a new book.  Our teacher always read to us immediately following the noon recess.  On Saturdays when my parents made the 23-mile trek to town for groceries I would go to the Carnegie public library and read.  That was my first introduction to libraries and probably had a bearing on my becoming a librarian later in life.  Growing up on the ranch in Nebraska taught me a lot about life and I’m grateful I had that experience.

I didn’t start my career as a librarian.   I earned two degrees in music from Westmar College and Colorado State University and I taught secondary and college vocal music for ten years.  I might have made a career in music had it not been for my habit of forming new ensembles, teaching more sections of voice class, etc.   I found myself “burning out!”  Indeed, the last year I taught I told my wife, Pat, that Christmas just wasn’t fun anymore because it seemed like my performing ensembles were involved singing everywhere during the season and there was precious little time for my own family.  That prompted me to consider an alternate career and I guess my early experiences in the Carnegie Library at O’Neill, Nebraska had some influence to that end. 

With our two oldest children, Lisa & Gina, and our newborn son, Ryan, Pat and I made the move to Bloomington, Indiana where I had a graduate assistantship directing the Eigenmann Graduate Residence Hall Library.  My first job out of library school was at the University of Nebraska at Kearney as Head of the Government Documents Depository, and two years later I became Head of Government Documents and Microforms at Auburn University.

When our fourth child, Amy, came along and Pat was quitting her job I decided I needed to make a better living for the family and I accepted a position with 3M Company.  That began a career in the business world that included me representing the Books Division of Brodart Company, and the Library Systems Division of General Research Corporation in Santa Barbara, California.   Santa Barbara is one of my most favorite places in the world!

While representing Brodart Company I worked weekends as a Reference Librarian at Wofford College.  I never expected to be able to re-enter a career in libraries but Providence had other plans and I became Director of the Library at Erskine College & Seminary until July 1, 1998 when I began my career at LaGrange.

One of my long-time dreams as a librarian was to be involved in the building of a new academic library.  Thankfully, I had that opportunity at LaGrange and was able to work with the late Jay Lucker (library building consultant) and Steven Foote of Perry Dean Rogers (architects).  It has been such a delight to work within this marvelous building that they had such a huge role in bringing to reality.

Almost immediately upon arriving at LaGrange College I started in earnest to begin the groundwork for planning a new library.   The Banks Library was one of the smallest academic libraries in the Southeast and the collection was considerably smaller than that at Erskine.   There was very little study space in the old Banks Library and one could not stuff one more book on the shelves.  I am thankful to the
Board of Trustees of the College for approving $100,000 for the installation of compact movable shelving in Banks Library.   That enabled us to recoup much needed study space and shelving for new acquisitions.  Indeed, it bought us some time until we were able to move into the Lewis Library in 2009.

In the early stages of planning for a new library I contacted library directors in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and traveled to a number of their libraries.  I asked them three questions: (1) What works about your library?  (2) What doesn’t work? And (3) What might the library of your dreams be like?   At the request of Jay Lucker, our building program consultant, I organized 20 focus groups that represented every aspect of LaGrange College life.  The input from those focus groups was provided to Jay Lucker for his consideration in developing the buiding program.

After Jay Lucker had presented his building program, President Gulley and the Board of Trustees authorized me to issue invitations to architectural firms for proposals for a new library at LaGrange College.  All of the firms (with the exception of Perry Dean Rogers) recommended tearing down Pitts Dormitory and building the library in its place.  However, Perry Dean Rogers presented a plan to place a rectangular building in space that was a parking lot in front of Pitts Dining Hall.  Their initial plan included consideration of renovating space in Pitts Dormitory to be used as a library annex and archives at a future date.

Although Jacque Hornsby and Pat Barrett have done a stellar job as part-time personnel in the Suber Archives of Lewis Library, the earlier proposal by Perry Dean Rogers to utilize Pitts Dormitory as a library annex and archives would still be a very welcomed reality, indeed.   If you visit the Suber Archives on the Lower Level of Lewis Library you will quickly realize what I mean as we are already out of space.

I am especially grateful to the Board of Trustees that they saw fit to include a half million dollars for collection development in the Defining Moment Campaign.   In 1998 the library had fewer than 90,000 catalog records for books and other items.  Thanks to the funds associated with the building of Lewis Library we can now boast of nearly 500,000 bibliographic records for books,  e-books, and other information types  .   Few liberal arts colleges in the nation can match the resources available for LaGrange College students.   Yes, I’m proud of this building but I am also proud of the collections that we have been able to build for our students & faculty.   

LaGrange librarians serve as liaisons to assigned academic departments and programs and have responsibility for collection development and library instruction.   The strong service orientation of librarians and staff has strengthened a very active information literacy program at the college.   I have been blessed to have the best library staff in America.   I credit any success that the library may have enjoyed directly to their efforts and to their taking ownership of the library’s mission. 

Speaking of “taking ownership,” I want to give credit to National, and especially Brenda who keeps our building neat and maintains a pleasant place for work, study, and research.  All of the people at National are to be commended for the work they do day in and day out.  I constantly receive compliments from visitors about our library building and the LaGrange College Campus.  National is a big part of that and I’ve always considered them to be a part of our “team.”

So, here we are 16 years after I first arrived on campus.  I am especially thankful to have had the pleasure of knowing Frank & Laura Lewis for whom this library is named.  During my time in LaGrange I have been fortunate to have organized and conducted the Sons of Lafayette Male Choir for eleven years, and to have served as Director of Music at First Presbyterian in LaGrange for an equal number of years.  I cherish my many friends from the community and I especially thank each of you for being here this evening to share in this celebratory event.  
Perhaps one of the poems in “God is No Fool” by Lois Chaney says it best, “We are all made up of bits and pieces of all who have touched our lives … pray God that we accept the bits and pieces.”   As my wife, Pat, and I close out one chapter of our lives, we will cherish the bits and pieces from having known each of you.  I give thanks to Almighty God that in His Divine Providence He caused our paths to cross.

When I was commuting from Greenville, South Carolina down to Due West at Erskine I often used the commuting time to compose.  My friend and colleague, Lee Johnson, will come and direct members of the First Presbyterian Church Choir and the Sons of Lafayette in singing two parting blessings that resulted from that time in my life.  I hope each of you received a copy when you came this evening and I invite you to open it up and “sing along.”  Then, please enjoy some good fellowship, food, and drink and explore the library.  After all, this is a celebration!

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