Between Semesters

The university where I work was between semesters–its three week January Interim and the winter/spring term–the second half of this week. This 2021 January’s interim was the last of its kind for Calvin University, and sadly, COVID-19 meant that students could not enjoy the normal off-campus trips to other parts of the US or overseas.

Many students were still on campus this week Wednesday to Friday, in the dorms, but the library where I work (in the archives) was quiet for the most part. There were a few students in, perhaps from the seminary, studying, a few guest researchers, and staff and student workers. Other students, staff, and guests stopped by for coffee at the Peet’s Coffee shop in the library.

So I took the opportunity this week to photograph the library between things.

In Heritage Hall, the archive that I oversee, we were an exception–pretty busy. We had a few students in the last two days of the January Interim. We had a researcher from Florida State for the whole week and a guest faculty member working on something with the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. As you can see, the FSU researcher was using his phone to scan a lot of documents. With his slick setup he was pretty fast.

We also had in our normal complement of staff, a student worker, and a volunteer in Heritage Hall. We have to juggle when people can work so were can social distance.

On Saturday, I dropped in the library to pick up a book from my office in the archives. While there, I walked the floors of the library to see what I might photograph. The lights were on, as there were a couple of student workers busy in the library. But mostly, I saw no people.

Libraries are full of lines–shelves filled with books, tables, desks, and chairs, windows, lights, and ceiling tiles. I like photographing them with a wide angle lens for the symmetry. In the second image in the gallery below you can see evidence of COVID-19, in the distance, with chairs stacked on tables so that people can’t use them and are forced to social distance. In the third image, taken with a regular lens, the presence of a person stands out.

The last image is a repeat of the cover shot of the blog post, so you can see the whole thing and click on it for a larger version. It shows students sitting outside drinking coffee or tea they picked up at Peet’s. Those chairs and tables are busy during spring, summer, and fall. But the gas fireplace attracts them even in winter.

Monday will still be quiet. But Tuesday the new semester starts and the library quickly will get busy again. I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal, whatever that means, when the COVID-19 crisis dies down.

When or if. That hope seems real some days, when I read the news think that public health measures and vaccines might be working. Other days, when I see stories about new strains of COVID I wonder if things will be much better this summer.

The financial and psychological strains caused by COVID-19 and measures to deal with it are getting ever more obvious for both people and institutions. It’s hard not to anticipate new breaking points. At the same time, I see people being resilient and supportive of each other.

All I can offer is a blessing and reminder. Be safe, stay warm, connect with people, even if only online, and take heart.

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