After 41 years and ten months of being employed by the Mississauga Library System, I have decided to retire. Yesterday was my last day on the job, before I use up my string of accumulated vacation and lieu time. While those days are still fully-paid and I am regarded as an active employee, I effectively retired as of 5 p.m. yesterday, but my last day on the payroll will be March 25.

Over the past four years I have given serious thought to my retirement. Back then I was close to 54 years old, and the Central Library was closed to the public because of COVID. I was fortunate to still be working daily during the pandemic, yet when the library closed a year later for its lengthy renovation, where would I be? Would I decide to work at another library for close to three years, or join some of my colleagues who decided not to be redeployed and retire when Central closed its doors? It was an easy decision to make, as I chose to spend my time during the Central closure at another Mississauga library. I was sent to South Common, and had the most enjoyable two years and nine months working with such an excellent team.

Whenever I pondered the question of retirement I asked myself if I still wanted to be working when I was sixty. The answer was no. I would like to be retired by then. I am now two weeks away from my 58th birthday, so that major birthday milestone is getting closer. I had a serious decision to make then. When before sixty was I going to make the decision to retire? When I was 59? 58?

The closure of the Central Library for its renovation certainly influenced my decision. When I was redeployed to the South Common Library in March of 2021 I told many people–both non-library friends and retired or former Mississauga Library System employees, just not any current employees–that I would work at South Common for the duration of my redeployment and then see how I liked it at the new Central. If I didn’t like it, then…I would consider calling it day.

While I loved the look of the revitalized library when I had a tour of the place last August, by the time I was recalled to Central on December 11 last year, I felt like a stranger in my old home. I was a late callback to my home department at Central, so I was the old guy in a department full of young faces. While I do not know the exact ages of anyone in my department, I am certain that I am the oldest or the second-oldest one there. I was the lone old guard amidst the new generation of information super-librarians. I come from the prior era of what libraries were and feel out of place in what libraries have evolved into.

Although I am a creature fond of routine, my reputation to the contrary I am not averse to change. Keep in mind I had to learn a whole new job while working at South Common, which included having to interact daily with children. All of a sudden I had to recommend novels to young people and listen to children’s book reports. I had to deal with new adult questions too, such as fiction and movie enquiries. At Central I was more used to dealing with enquiries of a scientific or business nature, which were all but nonexistent at South Common. I think I adapted well to my new location, and was fortunate to have been placed there where I enjoyed working with the staff and clientele.

But I knew the new Central was not for me as soon as my second day back. When I returned on December 11 we were still not open to the public, and staff had multiple orientation sessions to learn about the digitization facilities, the gaming lounge, staff iPhones, the MakerSpace floor, and so on. I realized then that I did not want to adapt to a new work environment that was so profoundly different from my comfort zone of the Central Library of the past thirty years. This would be the right time to retire.

Retirement is not a decision one makes until after reviewing one’s financial situation and in the last couple years I have met with a bank adviser and looked at my pension plan so I knew where I stood. I was on a Christmas holiday break from December 16 to January 3, where I had plenty of time to think about this and discuss my plans with Mark and his family.

While I was considering retirement I believed that the best time to leave was while I was still happy to go to work. In spite of what I have just written, I do enjoy working there. I want to go out while I’m on top, so to speak, and have my final memories be happy ones. I did not want to stick it out after months or years, by which time I might develop feelings of dread coming to work.

We have all heard the cliché that nothing else matters in life if you don’t have your health. I am leaving the library a very healthy person. Reports about my current state of health are found elsewhere on my blog, but as long as my doctors tell me the same news–that there isn’t any–I am happy. I am at the age where I take stock of my life and count my blessings (actually I started doing this about ten or so years ago) and I am fortunate to be physically fit and retiring with an able body, ready to take on any new adventures.

I’ve talked about Happy and Healthy, two words that start with H as reasons for retirement. There is a third word: Husband. Ever since Mark retired over the summer of 2022 he has been active, travelling both on his own and with me. His solo trips have included cycling trips to the US, helping out on an English-language course in Spain, and for the first three weeks in February he was on a South American cruise. I have experienced his joy of freedom. Retirement is tempting when one can see one’s husband enjoying it so much. We have been together for twenty years (our anniversary was on February 13) and now that I have retired, I will no longer have to consult a calendar every time to see if our plans would fall on my weekend to work. I used to work every single Saturday when I started work as a page in 1982. When I became full-time in 1991 my schedule involved working only alternate Saturdays. I passed up many events and opportunities because they fell on my Saturday to work. From now on, every weekend is a free weekend.

While I was at South Common I had to work only one night a week, instead of the two nights I had to work each week while I was at Central. When I returned to Central, staff had to work two nights again. So I went back to work on a schedule that, although I was used to it for decades, now restricted me. I valued my extra free evening while I was working at South Common. So I was not thrilled about returning to an old schedule when I had it so good during my redeployment.

I know that there are plans for the Central Library to stay open beyond 9 p.m. during exam weeks. The extended hours might be until 11 p.m. Will this be just for university exam weeks, or for high school as well? Although I am a nighthawk I have no desire to work until 11 p.m. And with the rumour that Sundays might become full days incorporated into our regular workweek at straight pay instead of time-and-a-half, I was less inclined to stay.

Look, I am already in my late fifties. I do not want to work several times a year until 11 p.m. and if Sundays are made part of my workweek, will my weekends be gone forever? I don’t want such drastic changes to my schedule. I was asked while at South Common how I felt about the proposed changes to Sunday scheduling. I answered that I would retire if Sundays became part of the regular workweek. Here is my opportunity to beat them to it.

When I met with my manager on January 4 to announce my retirement, I was firm in stating that I didn’t want anyone else to know that I was leaving. I just wanted to retire, take my accumulated vacation that I had earned…and vanish. I realized that such a request might be fantasy talk as my manager would have to tell some people, like the director of the library for one, in order to get approval for my job to be posted. My manager informed me that she had to tell both of my department’s senior librarians my plans in advance of the job posting, and both of them kept silent on the matter, not speaking to me about it at all, until the more senior of the two approached me the day before I left.

I told my manager that I did not want a public announcement, as sometimes managers send a systemwide E-mail informing all library staff about an upcoming retirement. I also would not be writing such an announcement myself. This is not unprecedented; I can think of two colleagues, both recent retirees, whose departures weren’t posted via systemwide E-mails.

My job was posted around 4:30 in the afternoon on February 15, exactly two weeks before my last day, and my manager kindly informed me of this in advance. I was greeted with merely one enquiry from a colleague in my department as soon as I returned to work the following day. She came out and asked if I had plans to retire. Truth be told, I was expecting more people to ask and word to get out, but didn’t receive a second enquiry until February 21. People either don’t read the job postings or they came to the erroneous conclusion that the job posting was for an additional staff member of my level, and not for my replacement. It was only on my second-last and final days that the news really broke and I received E-mails, chats and gifts and cards from my dear colleagues.

After close to 42 years on the job, all of it based at the Central Library [1] I have grown with the job and its changing environment. Each library assistant level four has his or her own strengths based on location and customer service base. I have worked at the branches and know that a different range of expertise is expected there than at a Central Library subject department. I will be taking four decades worth of nonfiction knowledge and diverse programming skills with me when I leave, so I am anxious to find out who will be the one chosen to replace me. I fully admit that my tenure has left me with a sense of ownership of this job, so whoever does the hiring had better get it right. I will give my opinion about the successful candidate when the announcement is made. I have not been nosy asking people if they were interested in my job, yet I do know three colleagues with LA4 aspirations who would be perfect candidates and I hope they all applied.

Yesterday I decided to wear a pink tie and pink Converse shoes to match the colour scheme on the fourth floor. This has been a fashion theme of mine since I returned to work at Central: sometimes I will coordinate my wardrobe with the colours of whichever floor I am scheduled to work on. During our grand opening on Saturday, February 3, for example, I wore an orange bow tie and orange Converse shoes and socks since I was based on the orange third floor. While I was stationed at the information desk yesterday, my colleagues surprised me with visits and well wishes. I am usually reticent but once engaged in conversation I tend not to know when to shut up, so I had some lengthy chats about my retirement plans, and what the library system and its staff have meant to me over the past four decades.

In the years before I ever gave any serious thought to retirement, I knew one thing: I wanted my last day to be as uneventful as my first. It would be just an ordinary day. The goodbyes, gifts and cards did not detract from that wish. At 5:00 I said goodbye to my colleagues who took over for the evening shift. I took the elevator down to the ground floor, walked through the atrium and waited for Mark who was next door at the YMCA. I had been surprisingly composed over the past two days as I spoke to my colleagues, but as I waited for Mark to meet me I felt close to losing it.

And so a major part of my life has ended, and another has begun. Thank-you to the Mississauga Library System for giving me over forty years of employment. For that privilege I hope I have given you decades of dedicated and loyal service.

After the Central Library at 110 Dundas St. W. closed to customers on Saturday, June 29, 1991, a photographer from the Mississauga News took a picture of me with library director Diane Dineen. I was supposed to be posing as if I were checking out Ms Dineen’s books, but the photographer wanted the positions reversed. I am presenting an unlinked card while Ms Dineen is about to scan it with her wand. She is not left-handed, by the way, and the library director does not sign out books. In spite of the photographer’s visit and the paper’s history of writing about library programs, neither the photo nor story made it into the newspaper.

On Friday, July 5, 1991 my colleagues at Central Circulation held a farewell lunch for me and Massia Morant. Both of us were leaving the department to join the new Central Telephone Quick Reference team at the new Central Library.

From the farewell lunch. I am with Mrs. (Dorothy) McGleish, my first supervisor. She would serve as a mentor and I would use her guidance when I myself became a page supervisor, thirty years after her own retirement.

At my desk in the Central Telephone Quick Reference office, sometime in 1996. The tiered carousel contained dozens of reference books. The Quick Reference Department served the public to answer their questions before the Internet. I worked there until the end of 1999, when I transferred to the Business Department in January 2000.

[1] I worked full-time over the summer at various branches during my university years as part of the now-discontinued summer university page program, and while the Central Library was renovated spent the last two years and nine months at South Common. Aside from that, I was based all my library years at Central, starting at its former location on 110 Dundas St. W.

11 Responses

  1. Congratulations on your well earned retirement, Craig. What was your success rate like when you were working the Quick Reference Department desk?

  2. Thanks for sharing your story with us and the people whom you served over the past four decades. Enjoy every minute of your well-deserved retirement.

  3. Craig! This was so lovely to read, what a memory you have! Wishing you all the best in this next chapter of your life. May it be filled with lots of new adventures!

    Ps. I’m taking your enjoyment at South Common as a personal achievement

  4. Craig. I looked at the blog and said, I need to read this tomorrow, thinking it needed some concentrated time. However, I decided to read only the captions under your pictures, which btw, you were soooo young and so very cute! Still are, of course, even young in my eyes! Then I read backwards and finished the totality of the blog, enjoying it immensely. Thank you for posting and CONGRATULATIONS! You will love….love…love the freedom! It will take time to fill so many empty hours of the week, but before you know it, you won’t have enough time again to do everything, but will be having so much more fun!
    P 😍

  5. This post was beautifully written! I appreciate your openness. I admire your decision to leave on your own accord—a truly boss move! May your newfound leisure bring you the most joy. I look forward to posts on future adventures of you living your best life. You’ll be missed, even by those who didn’t have the chance to get to know you better. P.S. I still want to see those Christmas decoration photos! All the very best!!

  6. Craig, congratulations on a great achievement. Books are friends and you brought many together through the years, I’m sure! Enjoy every minute, whatever you do.

  7. Congratulations Craig,
    I hope you have many wonderful adventures! Great pictures. I am glad I worked with you over the years and always enjoyed your insights about so many things.

  8. Thanks for sharing photos and details about your long career. Looking forward to reading about all the changes that took place in the library and your start in a location I never worked in. So many changes took place even in my past 22 years and library has now evolved into a digital hub and there is a heightened focus on diversity,indigenous people and community hub.

  9. It was so moving and inspiring to read your Retirement post! First of all, congratulations on your very well earned retirement…I can’t even fathom working for the same organization for that length of time, that is commitment and dedication and speaks to the love you have for your profession.

    I am also glad to hear you are heading into a new adventure full of health and vigor! It certainly is a blessing to be so young and have many wonderful years of adventure, travel, and pursuing any and all passions/interests you have. And the best part is you get to spend more time with Mark.
    Everyone I know is retired now and I’m the lone holdout…I hope to be able to retire by at least 68, so I have a few more years left…more than I’d like to admit!

    P.S. I love the pics…what a blast from the past. Ah…youth!
    Enjoy the next phase and every day of being able to chart your own course.

    Be well…

  10. Congrats Craig, very well deserved retirement! Best of luck on this next journey in your life.

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