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Hope-Geneva Bookstore, 1971.

My father, Mark, is retiring today — on his 64th birthday — from his position as Director of the Hope-Geneva Bookstore at Hope College (Holland, Mich.), my alma mater and extended living room. He’s held the position since 1973.

I have a complicated relationship with Hope College — like most people have with their extended families. Most of my earliest childhood memories implicate places and people whom we knew, in part, through Hope College connections. And the Hope-Geneva Bookstore was the site of my earliest work experiences. It was through work as a bookseller that I eventually found my way into librarianship.

It was also my father’s work that gave me access to, and appreciation of, all the resources available at institutions of higher education. I was incredibly privileged to leave seven years of undergraduate studies only $5,000 in debt, having availed myself of the faculty, award-winning library, and cultural resources the college had to offer.

In other words, in many ways, I am the librarian I am today because of the bookseller my father has been for the past forty years.

(As an aside: I was pleased to see, a couple of weeks ago, that they’ve publicly announced that the institution will recognize the same-sex spouses of faculty and staff for the purposes of all college benefits. Hanna and I still couldn’t get married in the college chapel but hey, baby steps are better than standing in place or running backwards.)

Another thing my father’s long career at Hope College has taught me is that it is possible to remain in the same job for decades while constantly reinventing your work in ways that keep your mind sharp, your energy relatively positive, and your labors worthwhile. Being able to “grow in place” is just as valuable a skill, I would argue, as knowing when or if it is time to move on. (Assuming, in both cases, you have a say in the matter.)

Dad’s doing a bit of both the next couple of years, shifting to a new part-time project position for the college — I hear he’s super excited about his new office with a balcony on which to drink his morning coffee! — and then transitioning to freelance work as a mapmaker, in addition to books and bicycles another of his enduring romances.

There’s no larger point to this post — I just wanted to take note of the day and share how much my father’s career really has (and will continue to) inspire my own. … Including the eternal quest for an office with windows and a sun-warmed balcony on which to drink that morning coffee!

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