When my father was a Duke undergrad, the library was his sanctuary. He was the son of immigrants, had a scholarship to maintain, and struggled for some time to adjust to life at Duke. He lived in the library—so much so that he never ventured to the Duke Gardens. But his time there served him well: his confidence soared and his intellectual interests were piqued because of the library and the resources therein.
When I matriculated thirty years later, it took me some time to adjust to Duke as well. That began to change my sophomore year, with a class that required a research project based on primary sources. Our class met with the Special Collections staff, and I discovered a treasure trove of information—and inspiration—in sifting through the writings of Nicholas Harris, an African-American politician who thrived in Durham at the height of the Civil Rights movement. I loved every moment of learning there, and I knew that my friends and family could sense an “awakening” in me.
But my most significant memory of Duke Libraries came after my father had passed away. It was March 2005, and I was writing an essay for Towerview on my father’s life. I had been struggling to concentrate, so I met up with a dear friend in the fourth floor stacks of Perkins Library. We spent an entire Saturday there, and I churned out the most important words I will likely ever write. Even if the story had not been published, it brought me catharsis. I imagine that being in the same intellectual soil that had cultivated my father’s mind, tilled over a generation and re-seeded with another Corey, provided the clarity and calm to write about the indescribable.
Michael Corey, T’05
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