Teacher Appreciation Week was celebrated this week. Reinhardt University would like to recognize someone who has not held the title of professor but has been equally instrumental in the education and success of its students.
Joel Langford, Director of Library Services at Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center, is retiring after 38 years of dutiful service at Reinhardt University. Langford humbly recounted upon his time at RU, describing his role as taking place behind the scenes. He is appreciative whenever he receives a thank you note from a grateful student or faculty member. “To get some recognition is affirming we are doing what we need to be doing. But we don’t care about having big glory,” Langford said. Big glory, however, is something Langford deserves after helping the university flourish for almost four decades.
Langford started his career at Reinhardt in 1985 after receiving his Master in Librarianship at Emory University. He appreciated that Reinhardt was small, friendly, and felt that it was a beautiful place to begin his career. Reinhardt’s affiliation with the Methodist Church also appealed to Langford, as his father was a Methodist minister. As time passed, Langford further grew connected to the campus when he met and married his wife, Sheila, an alumna of Reinhardt. He and Mrs. Langford planted their roots in the surrounding area of the campus and made it their home.
In the 1990’s, Langford gained the unofficial title of University Historian. The university president at the time, Floyd Falany, asked him to make a presentation to the Cherokee Historical Society on the history of Reinhardt College. “At the time, we had one section of one shelf with unorganized archives material in boxes,” Langford explained. “So, I did that presentation, and as time went on, I started delving more into the history, grew the archives, and did more in-depth history and presentations.” Today, Langford leaves behind an extensively detailed archive of Reinhardt’s records, none of which would have been possible without his efforts in research and conservation.
What Langford finds most endearing about Reinhardt are the challenges the school overcame in its early years, as well as the vision of Captain Reinhardt and Colonel Sharp for the children of the area. Despite fires and natural disasters, the school persevered. “It’s just amazing that the school grew from what was basically an elementary through high school into a university over time, up here in the back woods of northern Georgia.”
Over the years, Langford oversaw renovations and major transitions in the library. He recounted that one of the biggest changes he experienced was in technology. He guided the move from paper materials like books, magazines, and card catalogs, to standalone computers with monthly floppy disk updates. Eventually, Langford even helped the library implement the more complex technology that is commonplace today, such as the internet, e-books, online research databases, and more.
When asked to explain one of his most memorable moments on campus, Langford described the day when the Gordy Hospitality House was brought to campus in 1991. Transported in three separate pieces, the house was physically relocated from Piedmont Road in Atlanta to the campus of Reinhardt. Langford says it was quite an exciting event, as he saw the house being transported while having lunch at the Gordy Dining Center. He also mentioned that he enjoyed being a part of Reinhardt’s transition from a two-year college to a four-year college, to a university, the growth of degree options, and the tripling of enrollment.
What is Langford’s vision for Reinhardt’s future? “I want to see it continue to grow. It’s been amazing the last 15 or 20 years, but I’d like to see us grow and have not just a state or regional, but a national reputation as a good school.” Upon retirement, Langford plans to travel west to visit national parks with his wife and catch up on his reading. “Librarians are too busy to read, so I have a stack of books at home waiting for me to retire.” Langford is a fan of Mark Twain, who wrote his favorite quote, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
Reinhardt University is sincerely thankful for Langford’s dedicated service and wishes him the best in his retirement.