If you’ve ever dropped by the library, then chances are you’ve met Alan Lovette. While the name may not be familiar, Lovette is an information and loans technician at the HMALC library, who is perhaps better recognized as the individual at the front desk with a straight back and keen eyes, observing UTM students within the library.

Lovette has been at UTM since approximately 2003.

“But I first came here in 1990 to take some classes to amuse myself,” reminisces Lovette. “And oddly enough, I met Calvin Normer who worked in the Department of Philosophy at the time. I had first met Calvin 20 years earlier. He taught me a Modes of Reasoning course in my undergraduate studies at York University.”

While at York University, Lovette was completing a degree in Philosophy.

“In 2000 or so, I got pretty sick, so I thought that I’ll just take some more courses to bide my time. Then I thought that I should really have a job, so I got a little job working in the library as a student assistant. I put away books and did stuff like that, and one thing led to another, and next thing you know, I’m retiring from the library,” Lovette says with a laugh.

Lovette is actually a lifelong learner, and has completed various undergraduate courses as a non-degree student at post-secondary institutions across North America. When asked which topics he’s been more interested in learning about, Lovette answers with a resolute, “everything.”

“It’s because curiosity is never-ending,” says Lovette.

“As soon as I started learning full-time, I was out of time to do more courses, plus I had my own interests that I had been following that don’t really match up with any courses that I’m taking. I do my own research—I’m fully capable of doing so. I don’t have to be in school to learn how to research, but you do need access to resources,” says Lovette.

Lovette’s desire to learn led him to collaborate with Dr. Henry Halls, now an Emeritus professor at UTM’s department of earth sciences, on a study which focused on palaeomagnetism. Paleomagnetism is used to determine which continents were found where, at different points in time, using the Earth’s field and dating techniques.

“In 2000 I took a class that he was giving, and I was interested because I didn’t know anything about it. So I talked with him, and he needed someone to drive around and do field research with. So I went ahead and joined in that, and next thing you know, I’m interested in this subject.” This resulted in Lovette being the second author in a 2015 geology study titled, “A paleomagnetic and U-Pb geochronology study of the western end of the Grenville dyke swarm: rapid changes in paleomagnetic field direction at ca. 585 Ma related to polarity reversals?”

Currently, Lovette is interested in researching about mystic insight: “the ways of knowing that would not be qualified as knowledge.”

“One has these unusual insights that one is sure of—the question is, how do you come by it,” explains Lovette. “They’re not transferable. They seem to be unique to just you, everybody can’t have it. In fact, nobody but you.”

Over the years, Lovette says that the campus has largely changed in terms of the number of buildings present.

“Well, the library started off being a zoo. It’s settled down now, but parts of it are still pretty noisy and used in ways that old people like me may not think is right for a library. A library to me should be a bit like a mausoleum,” says Lovette.

“I walked around and I looked at the students in these groups, and saw the work that they were doing—which I’ve studied in some cases. They were working on work, it’s their methods that have changed. The way that students are students,” he adds. “So I had to change my thoughts on what it is that we should be providing in that building, because it may not be in touch with how students learn.”

Additionally, Lovette notes that students face different pressures today.

“The pressures on students are not the same. Some years ago, I found my invoice for my first year of full-time studies at York University. It was five credits—a full credit. It was $572.”

Another thing that Lovette has noticed over the years is the change in ethnic groupings.

“The groups of students seem to have an ethnic cohesion. They haven’t come to give up. They’re here and they keep their identity, unlike in America, where they’re expected to be an American,” says Lovette. “In Canada, it does count. But that fact creates some controversies. The old controversies, the old disputes, they become played out here.”

“Ethnic groups that cannot get along with each other somewhere else in the world can’t get along here. So we see imported conflict, along with the locally brewed. I sometimes see it on the campus,” he adds. “I used to see a black population, primarily from Nigeria. In the library, they would always have a certain section of computers. They would always be there, that was their meeting place. That since has faded away and disappeared. There are still lots of students from Nigeria, but they don’t have that pattern any more. Over time, I’ve watched different groups changing their relation to other groups within this setting.”

Unfortunately, this does not mirror the outside world.

“Why is it that somebody like Trump, who’s expressed all kinds of views that everyone thinks are detestable—but why can’t you have those views? It wasn’t that long ago where they were the views of North America. And everyone flocked here for the freedom and greatness of North America. What happened? Look at all of Trump’s supporters. He’s not some airhead on his own. They’re worried he may be elected. So how can this be? You can’t say that a huge part of the population is morally suspect because of their views. There’s something more fundamental here.”

Lovette will be retiring from his position at the library at the end of this month.

“I’m going to Mexico on the first of December. I’ll come back in January to finish off the lease on my apartment, and get rid of any other paperwork that I have to do. Then I’m going to put everything I own in a backpack, with some space left over. I’m going back south. I’m hoping to get to the Atacama Desert so I can see the stars.”

Upon his return in April, he plans on heading to Europe to do a combination of backpacking and couch-surfing.

“My idea is to do it like I was young again. Just to sort of find a way. Not go from resort to resort, but to just find a way,” says Lovette.