As a new graduate student at Central Washington University in 1986, I was expected to spend every spare moment of my life in the huge and intimidating library researching never ending topics that my professors never tired of assigning. The sad truth is that prior to grad school, I had spent less than ten hours of my life in the reference section of any library.
That was to change because of one amazing man, Malcolm Alexander. I had that terrified look all new grad students have and the blank, lost look he had seen many times. He said that the secrets of the universe lived there and he was their caretaker. Did I want to discover them?
For the next two years a world opened up to me - I wasn't a student anymore, I was an explorer. Malcolm was always there to help me. He made walking through the long tunnels of books, journals, music scores and maps a safari of the mind. He would always have a challenge ready for me. He would find a jewel of an article in a journal that would move my research into new and significant areas. He would give me just a piece of the puzzle, and I would go exploring until I found the treasure that it always was.
Then sadly I learned that he needed help. His kidneys had failed and he was also losing his vision. He would trip over the stools in the isles or a chair left in the wrong place. He was forced to leave his eternal kingdom he had helped me learn to love. I would read to him as he underwent dialysis, and soon we were back in his wonderful kingdom again. He patiently waited for his pager to ring and tell him a kidney was waiting. It never rang.
Two years later while I was teaching in Poland, Malcolm sent my family a Valentines Day package. It was full of wonderful books and candy treats. When I called to thank him, my heart broke to learn that in the very prime of his life his heart had failed- just days after he sent his gift of love.
Every time I see a friendly librarian invite a new traveler to enter, I picture Malcolm inviting scared and intimidated grad students to explore his amazing realm. My world has become a universe because I walked into that library and met this most exceptional man.