The clock starts ticking… now

It’s official. A year from today, I can start withdrawing from my 403(b) without penalty, something I’ll do when I retire. That isn’t my plan for the immediate future, but it is nice to have options. After all, there’s still a library to build and a program to transfer. But as I said, options.

Things have really changed since I started out. My first job, we still had a card catalog (not updated, because they’d automated a few years before) and I had the “honor” of throwing the cards out and getting rid of the actual furniture. Databases were on CD-ROMs, as was the New York Times. Laser disks were the New! Exciting! technology. Then, at my next job, I did the automating and databases moved online. Yahoo! was new, as were a number of other search engines (like Dogpile and XXXX). Slowly things have moved to where we are today, with so much in the cloud that it’s no longer necessary to even come to the library for many resources.

There have also been a lot of changes in my professional life: I’m no longer the wide-eyed newbie I was back then. I’ve been involved with a number of associations, serving on committees and helping with the organization. I’ve spoken and presented at conferences. Two years ago, I read this piece by Meredith and started to think about end-career, not mid-career, goals and plans. Then COVID. So here I am, even closer to end-career, and thinking.

There are some obvious professional goals, like completing planning the new library (and, for the record, it’s great to be doing this thoughtfully, rather than what I think can be called “panic building” post-fire). There’s still a lot that I’d like to do with the catalog, making things ever more accessible to users. Continuing to work on the tutorials and Resource Guides, refining them so that students can learn the skills that we don’t always have the opportunity to teach. Ensuring that the library manual and addenda are continually updated for our use, as well as for my successor. In a few years we’ll be 10 years past an in depth departmental review and it’d be great to do another one, giving us a template for the next decade.

Beyond the narrow world of the library, there are bridges I want to build to more departments and colleagues. It would be great to be included on the advisors list (although chaperoning the Boat Dance and Prom? Ugh.) and to create programming that brings people in to the library for things beyond studying, building that Third Space on campus (yes, we’re a few years behind that trend). There are national committees I’d like to serve on, but I need to be tapped for them (I have volunteered!).

Then there’s the rest. My goal is to retire before 65 (not by much, but still!) so I’ll need health care. And honestly, I don’t want to just stay home, twiddling my thumbs. I mean, that’s great for a while but not for the remainder of my life. It would be wonderful to buy a home in a community linked to a college, and to attend some Roads Scholar sessions. There are so many things I would love to learn about, in a group, sharing the experience and discussing the concepts, teasing out additional information and new insights. Working part time in a local library or bookstore would also be lovely, a way to stay connected to books in addition to getting enough to cover my health insurance.

Learning to be more thoughtful and slowing down is another goal. Rather than rushing through things, spending time being “mindful” and choosing more wisely where I spend my energy is increasingly important. As are friends, including all the ones I’ve lost touch with, or, more accurately, lost regular touch with–we know that Christmas cards just don’t count. At least, not any more. Growing my pen pal list and my regular email list is an achievable-by-retirement habit and goal.

Over the years I’ve learned from so many other librarians, finding inspiration and being challenged in my thinking. What’s surprising, and not a little sad, is that so many have not retired. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the idea that our elders have a lot to give to the profession and they don’t have to retire and disappear. And this isn’t a rant about moving aside to give room for others to lead and move things forward! But there’s a part of me that thinks they should have an internal life and outside interests to look forward to., and my admiration for the few who have taken that route grows as the Big Day approaches. Finding that balance will be important for me, as will spending real time thinking about what things should look like for me in the future.

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