After 43 years at Hillsdale College, Mossey Library Director Dan Knoch will retire at the end of this semester.
Knoch came to Hillsdale College in 1976, after graduating from Western Michigan University in 1975 through its American Library Association accredited program, and since then, he has progressed from librarian to director. As a director, he was responsible for everything that goes on in the library, including budget, personnel assessments, chairing meetings, and working with the faculty library committee. Now, he said he would like to focus being with his family as a grandfather.
“I’m going to be more involved with my grandchildren. I’m going to babysit my boys, my grandsons, two days a week,” Knoch said. “They live in Hudsonville, near Grand Rapids. Mondays and Tuesdays after they’re done with school, I’m going to go up there and sit with them because their mom works those days.”
He also has a granddaughter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he said, who he said he intends to help out with.
“I often say after my first grandson was born, I’ve seen bumper stickers after the fact that said, ‘If I would’ve known my grandchildren would be so much fun, I would’ve had them first,’” Knoch said.
In his time at the college, Knoch has witnessed many changes at the library in the past 43 years, the most noticeable and difficult ones being technological.
“The biggest thing with the library by far is the computerization of the world,” Knoch said. “I mean, when I came here, it was card catalog, the college had a mainframe computer that they used for administrative stuff, and it was based before the personal computer.”
The library initially had a card catalog system, where it recorded its stock on index cards; by the 1990s, it had an online catalog and progressed to a fully integrated library system. In 1994, Knoch said they added the section in the back of the first floor and the Heritage Room – the first additions since 1971. In 1995, the library added an internet system.
“I said ‘The following summer, I’m going to take the summer off,’” Knoch said with a laugh. “It was very rewarding work, though.”
The library has changed so much over the years that Knoch said he never felt like he was working in the same place.
“Maybe that’s an excuse for staying here as long as I did,” Knoch said. “But the work was rewarding and impactful, and I enjoyed it.”
Knoch said as a director, he looks back on past attitudes and actions and thinks there were times he could have been less strict, but the familiarity and the pace of the job has helped. With the staff, he said he is there not so much to direct, but instead to guide and support. Though he said he gets a lot of credit as director, much of the work is done by the librarians.
“I always kid them about that, like, ‘Yeah you know the library director, he always gets the positive stuff,’” Knoch said. “I’ve always felt if you hired good people, that’s the best management you could possibly have. If you hire good people, you don’t have to worry about whether quality work gets done.”
Public Service Librarian Linda Moore has been Knoch’s co-worker since their first day in 1976, and she said their relationship as co-workers and friends has grown from just the day-to-day interaction.
“I’ll stop in his office, we’ll just chit-chat about what happened last night or the weekend, any news that we have, how his family’s doing, his kids,” Moore said. “It’s been a nice relationship.”
Moore said she will be retiring next year, but she knows that having Knoch in the library will be missed.
“It’s the familiarity,” Moore said. “He’s been library director for almost 20 years, and he was a colleague for 24 years before that.”
Junior Josiah Leinbach has worked at the library since he was a freshman, and he said his favorite memory with Knoch was that he remembered his name within two days of him being hired.
“Dan takes a personal interest in his employees. He takes time to get to know them,” Leinbach said in an email. “He asks questions like, ‘How is your semester going?’ or ‘What did you do over break?’ and he actually wants to know.”
An open house to celebrate Knoch will be held in the Heritage Room from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 10.