Textbook manager retires with environmental concerns

Forrest Halford sits on his porch Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Bowling Green, Ky. Halford recent retired after 24 years working in the WKU Store. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Trey Crumbie

When most people retire, it is usually due to old age. However, Forrest Halford’s reasoning for retiring is quite different.

Halford started working at the WKU Store in 1990. He was originally an optician in Nashville, but took a pay cut to take a job that was closer to his home. Halford said it wasn’t the proximity of the store that influenced his decision.

“It’s the fact that I got two-and-a-half hours of my life back everyday,” he said.

Haflord worked at the WKU Store for more than 23 years. He assumed the position of assistant director of educational materials, or textbook manager, in 1993.

In this position, he was responsible for educational material distribution, such as included textbook rentals and digital content delivery.

Halford said he was stressed, but never bored while working at the WKU Store and has many fond memories.

“There was the one time that a student came to the information desk and said, ‘Does A-R-T stand for art?’” Halford said. “And so, I mean, what do you say to that, right?”

In October, enthusiasm for the job began to fade. He began to lose passion because of his thoughts on the environment. 

“One of the things that’s going on in academia right now is that everything is going to electronic delivery, everything,” he said. “…It bothers me that we’re using electricity to access each and every bit of literature.”

Some academic information on electronic media is only accessible for a limited amount of time, while a physical textbook can last much longer. Halford said most electronic devices eventually get discarded and thrown away. 

“And all these things will end up in the garbage on some foreign shore, where children will pick through them for their precious medals,” he said.

Halford began reading extensively about the environment around a decade ago. This steadily fueled something in his mind that caused him to retire.

“It was cognitive dissonance,” he said. “…It was increasing, because I found increasingly what I was doing in my professional life did not jive with what I thought in my private life.”

Sarah Sears, e-commerce supervisor of the WKU Store, said Halford wasn’t shy about expressing his views in the workplace, but wasn’t forceful.

“He’s an open person so it came up quite a bit,” she said.

Halford sold his car in 2008 and rides a recumbent bicycle to get where he needs to go. Halford said owning a car is not a necessity in life.

“I just don’t see the reason to use gasoline to go to and from work,” he said. “There’s no reason for it. You don’t have to do that.”

Sears said Halford is a truly unique individual. 

“His sense of humor is so off the wall,”  she said. “I love it.”

Jim Sears, a former employee of the WKU Store and Sarah’s husband, said there was one time where Halford yelled, ‘I love tater tots, I love tater tots,’ after a woman told him that he had no business riding his bicycle in the road.

 Halford, retired on April 4, but still plans to teach piano lessons on the side. Halford graduated from WKU with a bachelor’s of arts in music in 1990. Most of Halford’s responsibilities have been given to Emily Ruby, educational materials coordinator for the WKU Store.

Halford said he is aware of the environment, doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist because he does things that he considers a true environmentalist wouldn’t do.

“He’s a very decent man,” Jim Sears said. “He’s a very good man. He’s an honest man. He’s a respectful man. He is who he is. He doesn’t care what you think about him.”