Meeting Meliora

There are certain things to expect when starting a new job with a new organization. I touched on one in my last message about the whirlwind of meeting colleagues and downloading information. (I’m still on—and enjoying—my listening and learning tour.) Another is embracing newness itself.

It takes more than a couple of months before you no longer feel like the “new guy.” I mean in the sense of being a new face to those around me, and more to the point of this message, in the sense of my surroundings being new to me.

I’m certain I will quickly develop the comfort to confidently navigate campus, but I expect that I’ll need more time to become fluent in Rochester’s culture. That’s why I feel fortunate that I’ve already had some opportunities to engage with the University community in ways that deepen my understanding of Meliora. That started last month with the opening of Up Against the Wall at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG).

It was very exciting to learn about the AIDS posters exhibition and the collection we house in Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. As a member of Generation X, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a significant part of my adolescence. I grew up with a father who was a pathologist and a mother who was a frontline nurse at a county hospital. So, AIDS was not just a crisis on TV; it was a topic of dinner conversation. My parents’ perspectives humanized the disease through the terrible impact it was having on people and communities around us.

I believe the exhibition has the power to resonate with just about anyone. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re able to get to the MAG, it’s worth the visit.

I also want to briefly share my experience at “Screw Up Night” at iZone. For those who don’t know, Screw Up Night is an event that embraces failure as a product of progress. I shared the story of my “failed” career change. When I was in my late 30s, I decided to leave my job as a law librarian at Cleveland State and take a position as an auditor at an accounting/auditing firm that specializes in real estate investment trusts. Three weeks into the new job I knew it wasn’t for me. Looking back, the experiment provided me with valuable experience and insights that allowed me to return to libraries and never look back.

Screw Up Night reminded me that even our failures have value, which is a comforting thought when starting a new job. As I continue to settle into my new home at the University of Rochester Libraries, I will do my best to prevent and avoid missteps, but should they occur, I know I—and the libraries—will learn and grow from them and be better for it.

Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries