With the end of August comes the inevitable return of the students. And here is a rather unexpected development--the students are not the only ones returning to Indiana University. I am, too.
Two weeks ago, I stood before a class of library science students. Eleven and twelve and thirteen years ago, I had been one of those students, sitting in that same classroom, prepared to absorb the information my instructors were about to impart. Now, I am one of those instructors, teaching Collection Development. Strange to think that I'm now a little bit of an expert, at least in terms of having over a decade of professional, practical public library experience, which is apparently a marketable commodity.
So. It seems I've come home, in every sense of the word.
The basement halls and lockers around which I and my friends and fellow students hung around now echo--other students cluster around them, of course, but all of my people--even the most of the professors I knew--have shuffled on to other things--other jobs, retirement, even death. Now, down these halls I walk, an almost middle-aged woman, missing those who populated my youth. I try to hold myself rather accountable--"I'm not chasing some lost youth or fanciful second chance, am I?" But still, I'm simply grateful to be here once more. It's another way to be useful and occupied and to try and lead a life of significance, if not success.
And I now have a solid reason to spend time on this beautiful campus, observing the lively, hopeful students, being challenged intellectually and professionally, roaming the stacks of the Wells Library.
Here, at least, things have not changed. These books, also my friends, have not left. They greet me, as they greet all, with a studied, passive indifference, but they accept me. They are steady, and change only as much as the people who read them (or revise them) change and project their own thoughts and interpretations onto the texts.
Most comforting of all: the campus, while now boasting of old buildings with sometimes-new names, and a few new buildings and cosmetic features, hasn't changed much either. It's still lush and green and a little bit abandoned in high summer, a little bit burnt-brown and a lot crowded in the late summer, but the land endures. The thoughts and personalities and hopes and sadnesses and worries and insouciant joys of thousands of students seep their way into the trees, the paths, the soil, becoming part of the story of our university, becoming the stories that nobody hears, but that endure nonetheless. A dozen years ago, I was one of those students, and my story became part of the university. Now I'm back to write another chapter.