WW Challenge: Lonely in the Library

L is for Lonely Library

Normally, the library at a college is a pretty busy place, but last June I was there for a meeting and it was really empty. This counter is for students to use their laptops (notice the available power outlets). In the summer, when students weren’t around, even the stools were gone, except for one. Only–wait a minute–if you look really closely, behind the stool, you can see the toe of a sneaker. There was one lonely student lurking in back of the counter. It was just the one, though. The exception that proves the rule.

You can join in on the photo challenge! Pick any image you created you can label with the letter L. Share your lovely lamps or your lumpy linguini! Here’s how to participate.

  • Post an image on your own blog or website.* All types of images are welcome. If you have serious equipment and serious skills, that’s awesome! If you snap pics on your phone (like me), that’s also awesome!
  • Post a comment on this page with a link back to your post. If you post a comment that includes a link to your blog, I will add a link to your post below.
  • Check back over the next week to follow the links. That way you can see what other people did with the theme and join in the fun.

Olga Godim has another custom book cover to share with us this week, also focusing on the word Library! Check it out here.

*Just so we’re all clear, you post your photos on your own site, which means you aren’t giving control to me or to anyone else. We’re all invited to view the images you post (and comment if your site allows for comments), but nobody has the right to use your images in any way without your permission. Got it? Great!

Rush Rhees Library: University of Rochester

Yesterday I had occasion to return to my alma mater, the University of Rochester, for a presentation on the nature of memory consolidation and reconsolidation. The talk was fascinating, but not the focus of this post. I took advantage of the day to take some photos of the campus, which has changed a lot since I attended there. This facade, though, is just the same.

The Rush Rhees Library is the anchor for the main quadrangle at the University’s River campus and the academic heart of the school. This building was built in 1930, and although it has been expanded several times and is fully updated internally, this view hasn’t changed since then. The library is a wonderful example of how tradition and innovation are blended at the U of R.

What you can’t read in this photo are two inscriptions carved into the stone on either side of the doors, behind the stone urns.



As a shiny new freshman in the 1970s, I found those words deeply inspiring. They still move me today. They embody the spirit of education, writ large: remembering, understanding, and learning from the mistakes of the past, and using them to climb, slowly and sometimes painfully, into a better future. There is a clear-eyed and honest view of how many things we get wrong and how hard it will be to get it all right. There is also a determination that this journey is worth the effort. I also got a sense that I, one scholar just starting on this journey, could be a small part of this mighty task.

I credit my education at the University of Rochester with giving me a firm grounding in scholarly inquiry and setting me off on a life of learning and teaching. It awakened me to a life of the mind that I cherish.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Awakening

Inform, Inspire, Engage

The title of this post comes from the U.S. Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, in its description of what their collections do. My local library is nothing compared to this, but it is still important to me because it, too, does its part to inform, inspire, and engage. My photo this week is a glimpse of the nonfiction section in this library, a place where human knowledge is organized according to the Dewey decimal system, designed to be flexible enough to identify an unambiguous shelf location for books on everything from 000 (computer science) to 999 (extraterrestrial worlds).I love that the inherent complexity of human knowledge can be so structured, enabling anyone to find whatever they are looking for. Thank you, Melvil Dewey.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Order


My Library Home


The Henrietta Public Library in Henrietta, NY, is my home library. They don’t know this, because I live in a different town so when I log into the system it keeps linking me up to that other library. However, I rarely go to the library in my actual town. For one thing it’s not as convenient, because the Henrietta library is closer to where I work and has better parking. Mainly, though, the Henrietta library is more likely to carry the books I’m looking for (they have a much better collection of science fiction and fantasy, for instance). They also do a terrific job with customer service, which hasn’t always been true in the library closer to home. So when people ask me about my local library, I tell them about Henrietta.

Even beyond which library is my local library, though, there’s the larger issue of picking a library as my home place. I don’t have young children, so I never took part in most of the community events that this library has to offer (and there are a lot of them). I don’t go to their movie nights or take part in their craft events for adults. I go there for the books.

I’m a book person; my husband built me a compact library with roll-out shelves to fit all my paperbacks into a closet. The only rooms in my house that don’t hold books are the fancy dining room and some (not all) of the bathrooms. But it’s not enough! I never have fewer than two or three books checked out at a time, and it’s been as high as a dozen. Libraries feed my book habit.

I love what libraries mean to me. Even more, I love what they mean to others in my community. People who can’t afford to buy books, or have no home to keep them in. People who don’t have Internet access. People who need tax forms or voter registration forms. In the words of T. S. Eliot: “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”