Library on Overcast Afternoon

Library on Overcast Afternoon

Library on Overcast Afternoon

I have often commented about how I believe my strengths as a photographer are best evident in the nature or landscape pictures I take. Though I am also fond of sports photography, and I feel some of those images I have snapped at games are valuable as well, viewers usually respond more to the scenes captured during my hikes along trails or beside Lake Michigan, perhaps even to the portraits of old barns I frequently display.

Nevertheless, the weather doesn’t always cooperate, especially in Northwest Indiana. Certainly, I have many fine shots of wintry scenes with snow-covered trees or frozen streams and creeks, but on overcast days with rain, outdoor photography becomes less desirable or nearly impossible.

All morning and well after noon yesterday, the skies were heavy with cloud cover bringing waves of showers. In addition, I had a department meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon. Therefore, I had no opportunity to make a trip somewhere and shoot landscape photos. Still, I wanted to use the camera, which I always carry with me, and I decided I would try some interior pictures, something I perceive as a weakness in my photography.

Tuesday was one of those rare times when the meeting I needed to attend had been scheduled in a room at the university library, and I thought I would arrive a little early to get some snapshots of various areas in the building. In recent years I have come to view libraries as sad locations, especially at the university facility, because so much of the activity that once seemed centered there has been diminished. Indeed, in the Internet age with widespread electronic publication and communication, the library appears to have lost its position as a focus for research and study.

Readers can discover answers to most questions and even find original sources online.  I remember regularly visiting the library every week to scan the shelves for volumes I’d not yet read or to open the latest issues of journals; but books, newspapers, and magazines one once had to visit the library to obtain can now be gotten and read in electronic form anywhere at anytime. Consequently, when I walk the floors of the library, I usually see all the stacks empty of browsers, as vacant as street scenes of ghost towns in old westerns.

In the photo above I took a quick picture of the central section of the university library as I stepped down a staircase from the second floor to the first. This happens to be the most populated region of the building, partially because of an open coffee and snack bar just outside the frame of the photograph. In fact, the area adjacent to the space depicted in the image used to be part of the library’s extensive periodicals section; however, since most of the university’s magazines and journal subscriptions are electronic nowadays, that portion of the collection was removed.

As viewers can see, even in this busiest part of the four-story library on a rainy day, only a dozen students sit at the tables. Almost all of them are peering at their laptop computers rather than library books. The truth I have observed is that students use the library almost exclusively as a meeting place to get together and maybe discuss classwork instead of as a spot to attain books.

Students reserve study alcoves, collaboration cubicles, meeting rooms, and carrels merely to have quiet or private locales to meet with one another. Sadly, the hundred thousand books that surround them sometimes seem superfluous, nothing but a backdrop of set decorations designed for atmosphere or props that lend a somber tone of seriousness to their ambiance.

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