a system of signs

10 April 2010

Sometimes, in the library, information seeks you.

Books on the hold shelf come wrapped in sheets of paper fastened with rubber bands. This is next to the self-checkout machine.

Self-checkout has its perils.

So do certain kinds of micro- readers. I think this is in front of a microcard reader. I’ve never used it; I guess it’s bad for the fiche. The back walls of the carrel are adorned with melted fiche, but I couldn’t get a good shot of them.

You have to be very careful when you use these machines. Smart thieves know to strike just when you’re leaning forward, nauseous, squinting at blurry text.

It wasn’t easy shooting these signs, especially since I was just messing around and not putting a lot of effort into it. As I said in an earlier post, I don’t really know how the camera works, so I don’t know why there were times when I’d click and it wouldn’t shoot any picture at all. I assume it had something to do with the ambient lighting; in a lot of places the overhead lights, or sun from the window, or reflections, or the contrast between the edge of the wall of a desk or carrel and the open space beyond, may have thrown off the “auto” feature. After clicking a bunch of times trying to capture that burglar sign and failing to get anything, I decided to test the camera by turning it so that it would catch only objects inside the carrel walls, and this is what I ended up with. It might be the best photo I have.

I don’t know why someone went to the trouble to create a pink insert with the word “pink” on it. All the other signs I’ve seen in the area read “GREEN” (which is covered up here); but so few people use these carrels as they’re intended I don’t even know what the actual tabs and flags look like. I don’t think I’d want to leave my books on an unlocked shelf.

That’s a typical-looking basement desk. The upper-floor desks look nicer, but there’s more graffiti. Here at a fifth floor desk, there’s no hiding the writing from the flash. I wonder if it came after the sign was put in.

This sixth-floor desk has no such sign and look what happened. I wonder if anyone knows what kind of citation style this is? I can’t figure out what’s so significant about Bush, 2007 and Obama, 2009.

Back in the basement, this appears to be the good cop/bad cop strategy applied to movable shelving instructions. Too bad they didn’t give that guy a word-bubble in comic sans.

This sign always cracks me up. There’s one near the computer group on the second floor too. Kids these days.

This last photo is from the other main library, the one I don’t go to very often because it doesn’t have as many social sciences and humanities books. That library is pretty boring, signage-wise, but there’s a great view from the stairwell. You just have to keep moving while you enjoy it. I had some trouble blocking the reflection on this one; it was another clear, well-lighted day today.

I would assume that if there were a fire, the people sitting in the stairwell would simply be the first to leave, but who am I to question a sign? In the real world, just as it is on the internet, the best arguments are made in ALL CAPS.


clarity is cold comfort

10 April 2010

It’s just incredible to me that the temperature has fallen to near freezing tonight, and possibly will drop below that. Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m from the mildness of coastal California (the Bay Area, mainly), I’ve spent the last three winters on the east coast (not the Canadian one). Those winters, at their coldest, were much colder than just about any time I’ve been here except a brief clear cold period in early December – a clear cold that I welcomed, in fact. Though I must admit I was happy to drive through it and out of it and on down to California for the winter break.

No, what’s incredible to me is that I’m leaving for the summer, and when I do, the weather will have been more or less the same, on aggregate, from mid-October to late April. And by the same, I mean cold and overcast, cold and drizzly, cold and rainy, cold-but-not-as-cold and rainy, or even colder and clear. And this is the warm part of this country.


pointed and shot

9 April 2010

I finally remembered to bring “my” camera to the library today. Keep in mind that the windows are  dirty, I’ve actually borrowed this camera and barely used it before, I don’t know anything about how to set lighting/zoom/etc properly though I did manage to do basic things like turn on flash/macro/etc., my hands aren’t very steady, and the last time I took photos for myself was about fifteen years ago using a film camera that had almost no customizable settings. Any advice on very beginning photography would be appreciated. I guess I might finally use flickr.

Anyway, as spring has sort of come in, I’ve come to realize this area has something in common with LA: when the visibility is high, it’s really strikingly beautiful. Too bad about the architecture, though.

Looking left:

Center view:

Looking right (a partition kept me from turning further):


seeing and believing

3 April 2010

Alana Newhouse’s article about photographer Roman Vishniac, his photographs, the stories he told with and about those photographs, and the evidence that challenges those stories, is really kind of fantastic. Never heard of Vishniac? (I hadn’t.) Not sure you’re interested?

Take a look at the slideshow that goes with the article – whatever you think of Vishniac’s storytelling, his photography was very, very good. Then read these three paragraphs from near the start of the article:

But the center will not only be acquiring Vishniac’s entire life’s work; as the father-son spread suggests, it is also inheriting a fascinating set of ambiguities and unanswered questions — all unexpectedly uncovered by a 34-year-old curator named Maya Benton. As Benton has discovered, Vishniac released, over the course of a five-decade career, an uncommonly small selection of his work for public consumption — so small, in fact, that it did not include many of his finest images, artistically speaking. Instead the chosen images were, in the main, those that advanced an impression of the shtetl as populated largely by poor, pious, embattled Jews — an impression aided by cropping and fabulist captioning done by his own hand. Vishniac’s curating job was so comprehensive that it would not only limit the appreciation of his talents but also skew the popular conception of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe.

Sometime in 1989, Maya Benton, then a 14-year-old living in Los Angeles, had an epiphany. The daughter of a single mother, a psychoanalyst who as a child lived for years in a displaced-persons camp in Germany, Benton grew up in a household that was a relative rarity in American Jewish life: Yiddish speaking but cosmopolitan, well off and not Orthodox. As she lolled on the couch of her grandparents’ home, Benton started sneaking chocolate rum balls from a sterling silver box — one of two family heirlooms from, she had assumed, Novogrudek, the historic Jewish town in what is now Belarus from which her grandparents hailed before the Holocaust. As Benton stared at the weighty birthright from the alte heym, or Old World, bafflement struck: she knew, from an interview she conducted with her family members for a history class, that they fled the German invasion, hid in nearby forests, were interned at multiple labor camps and trekked through miles of often snow-covered forest in the east. How on earth, Benton thought as she considered the ornate container, did they manage to schlep this through Siberia? The confusion grew when she considered the second heirloom: a full set of Rosenthal china.

As it turned out, the box and the china had not been in the family for generations, nor were they from Novogrudek. As Maya’s grandmother, Tonia Benton, explained that afternoon, they were among the things that she and her husband bought from impoverished Germans after the war; bartering the chocolate and cigarettes they received in the displaced-persons camp, they were able to buy valuable items that could be used as currency to get the family to America. That day, Maya Benton says, she learned a lesson about people’s need for, and uses of, mythical narratives.

Then decide if you want to click through (or, you know, just click through, really, it’s worth it).