The story of my life is centred around my thirty-four-year career as a librarian at the University of Toronto. My experiences during the twenty-eight years before that, varied as they were and haphazard as they seemed to be, all counted as useful preparation. In the three decades since my official retirement, my life has continued to be enlarged and enriched by those middle years.
Though the story covers three periods, it is not a neat narrative that keeps within those periods, or even within the individual chapters of this book. It is a yarn with many strands, some short and some long enough to reappear from time to time after being entwined with other strands.
My Norwegian grandmother had a knack for stretching a skein of yarn between her two outstretched feet while she whirled her hands, one over the other, winding the skein into a neat round ball before she began knitting anything with it. I did not inherit that talent. This book is knitted directly from a loose skein of memories. I have never kept a diary, except of travels during my one sabbatical year. For a few dates and other details I have referred to previous publications that are listed in my personal list of writings at the end of this book, or to my father’s two books, The Blackburn Story (1967) and Land of Promise (1970). Apart from those bits, I have had to select from a headful of memories – events, names, places, dates – that kept calling to me, wanting to be included.
I have been blessed throughout my life to have had a dear family and good friends, and in the middle years to have been allowed to take part in a period of exciting changes in the size, services and management of university libraries. Blessings are meant to be shared.
- Robert H. Blackburn