ASSOCIATES (2008, March, v. 14, no. 3)


Looking back

Gene Kinnaly
Library of Congress

Meat Loaf had it right – objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.

I will be retiring at the end of March 2008, and as I look back, I ask the question that has been asked time and again by people reaching a milestone in their lives … where did the time go?

Was it really 34 years ago that I started my career at the Library of Congress? It can’t be – the memory of that day is too vivid, too fresh, to be a 34-year-old memory. As a teenager, I often heard that those over 30 shouldn’t be trusted. Can I trust that 34-year-old memory?

I started my library career on April 1, 1974. I’ve often wondered if starting on April Fool’s Day was some kind of omen, a harbinger of things to come. But, although my career has had its ups and downs – as almost any career will have – there have been far more smiles than frowns and on balance, I have had an excellent time here, and yes, I will miss it.

Not enough to stay, though. :-)

Objects may appear closer than they are. How many things have happened during my career? I married my wife, and our next anniversary will be number 33, so I think that’s turning out all right. Both of our kids were born, and they’ve turned out all right as well. Both of my parents died, way too young, but in their deaths they continued to teach me life lessons … primarily, to take better care of myself, and to savor each day.

Those objects appear very close indeed.

Nixon was President when I started my library career, but his days in office were numbered, and he resigned that summer. I’m on my seventh President now. And my third Librarian of Congress.

Personal computers (anyone else start with a Commodore-64?) … cell phones … CDs … Betamax vs. VHS … DVDs … digital cameras … well, the list in terms of technological advances is very, very long. And as a gadget guy, I love ’em all.

My time at LC has seen the celebration of the American Bicentennial and the attacks of 9/11; the fall of Saigon and the fall of the Berlin Wall; Jimmy Hoffa disappeared and Microsoft was founded; the first and last commercial flights of the Concorde; Three Mile Island and Chernobyl; the U.S. Olympic hockey team; MTV, ESPN, and CNN; Cabbage Patch kids; the space shuttle Columbia, and also the Challenger; AIDS; Prozac; the final episode of M*A*S*H … you get the idea.

It’s been a long time. Through it all, the Library has been a constant for me. And I’ll be the first to admit that, as much as I am looking forward, I can’t help but look back, and remember, and know that I will miss it.

I’m retiring at a time when I have the best and most satisfying job of my LC career. I feel I am contributing and learning every day, working with people I respect and working in a program that is both important and appreciated. I feel like I’m going out while at the top of my game, and that’s a great feeling.

One of the nicest and most rewarding things that happened to me over my career was to get involved in library associations. Through joining and becoming active in the Council on Library/Media Technicians (COLT), the Virginia Library Association’s Paraprofessional Forum (VLAPF), and the Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT) of the American Library Association, I met people I would not have otherwise met; I traveled to places I would not have otherwise visited; and I felt very connected to my profession, really, for the first time in my career.

I had the honor and privilege of giving presentations to many library groups – in Virginia, Nebraska, Louisiana, California, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont … and I know I’m forgetting some. Ah, yes – Philly in January … how could I forget!

But what I will remember most clearly in the years ahead are all the truly fine people I have met along the way. I’ve worked with – and for – many very good people here at LC. And the people I have met in the various library associations have been wonderful. I won’t mention any names – if I start, I would be afraid I would leave someone out, and I won’t chance that. But I will remember, and I give thanks for having the opportunity to meet each and every one.

I think that maybe Meat Loaf was only partly right. It’s not that objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer – they are closer. They are as close as we decide to make them – they are as close as we decide to hold them, and to cherish them.

People have asked me what my plans are in retirement, and I give the same reply each time. I have no plans, but I have many dreams. So I hang on tight to those wonderful objects of my past, and I look forward to the new objects I will find along the way. If they’re half as good as the objects in my rear view mirror …

Take care, my friends. Thanks for so many things, including some great memories. And I’ll see you on down the road.

Gene Kinnaly … ’til the 28th.

Gene is a Program Specialist for the Cataloging in Publication Program at the Library of Congress. Over the years he has worked in a variety of positions at LC, but most of his career has been spent doing something in the area of cataloging. There is no truth to the rumor that his books at home are arranged by LC classification.