Last week I went for a walk around campus and ended up at the library. Ok, who am I kidding? I always end up at the library. Anyway, from the top of the Terrell Library you can look through the skylight and see down into the rotunda. It's a beautiful building.


On the ground floor of the library there were rows of chairs set up, along with a baby grand piano and a few tables. I decided to find out what was going on- hoping there was a recital I could stay for. As I entered the library, I saw a large sign with a photo of John Tarnai - it was a memorial service. Tarnai worked for more than 30 years in the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. He had served as the director of SESRC since 1996.

I know all this because a nice woman came up as I was looking at the sign and asked if I was attending. I told her I had never met Tarnai, and asked her who he was. After telling me about his service at Washington State University, she directed my gaze to a table on the edge of the room.


The long table was covered with library books. There had to be more than a hundred - most were pretty unique from their neighbors. There were books on writing and journalism, entomology and chemistry, research and economics and many others. The woman let me take them all in before telling me they had placed them there so attendees could understand a little more about Tarnai's personality. She told me all of the books on the table had been found in his office after his death. All of them were books from libraries on campus and, from what she said, the majority of them were recommendations. She said he would come to the library to check out a book a colleague had recommended, or he had been wanting to read, and he would leave with several books recommended to him by the librarian who helped him. It sounded like he tried to read them all.

I couldn't stay for the memorial, since it started later and I had to get back to work, but I am told they shared stories about Tarnai that had been sent in by people from all over the country. People who had worked with him, corresponded  with him, or knew and used his research.

I hope there are such stories about me when I die, and I really hope they involve books.

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