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Quiet! This is a library

When I got the assignment to go make some pictures at a library in a nearby town of patrons, workers and the building itself, I thought that it would be a quick in-and-out assignment. Boy was I wrong.

When I got to the library in Pecatonica, Ill., the only people there were workers. I got to shooting right away, following around a reluctant employee. And then another reluctant employee.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library aide Edie Matheson returns a book to a shelf Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in the childrens section of the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library aide Edie Matheson returns a book to a shelf Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in the children's section of the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth scans in a DVD Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the front counter of the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth scans in a DVD Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the front counter of the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

I was getting useable images. But if I settle for useable, I never make “WOW” images. While I was waiting for a customer, I kept thinking of how I could make a wonderful picture at a library.

That’s when I saw a man come in and get on one of the computers. Pardon the expression but I was on him like white on rice. I talked to him for a bit to get his story about why he was there. I mean, it is a library. There isn’t really any way to be discreet about taking photos in a building known for being quiet.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Luke Nevdal uses the internet Tuesday, March 1, 2011, on a computer at the Pecatonica Library. Nevdal's laptop is in for repair and he has been using the library's computers to access his e-mail. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Luke Nevdal uses the internet Tuesday, March 1, 2011, on a computer at the Pecatonica Library. Nevdal's laptop is in for repair and he has been using the library's computers to access his e-mail. ©2011

Alright. Now I had some variety. I thought about calling it quits and heading back to the office but I still wasn’t overly satisfied with the pictures I had made.

This brings up one of the most important lessons I ever learned while I was an intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If you have the time, be patient with an assignment. You never know what you miss when you leave a place quickly.

So I stayed. I chatted with the employees. I poked around. I kept an eye on the front door.

That’s about when one of the library employees picked up a sheet of paper and went to the stacks looking for books. She was pulling books that were requested by other regional libraries. She was fulfilling the “pick list.” So I followed her.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth searches for a book requested by another regional library Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth searches for a book requested by another regional library Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth searches for a book requested by another regional library Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Library clerk Kay Kluth searches for a book requested by another regional library Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

These aren’t likely to win me a Pulitzer but they are a heck of a lot more visually appealing than the earlier shots.

My patience also paid off and allowed for another customer to come in.

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Richard Lindquist looks for a book Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

MAX GERSH | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR Richard Lindquist looks for a book Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at the Pecatonica Library. ©2011

It’s not the best image but I like having variety to bring back to my editor.

The lesson is one I’ve told before and I’ll probably tell over and over again. If time allows, be patient. Don’t force images. Find the scene and wait for something to interact with it. It’s not always possible but when it happens, you’ll have no doubt that all of that time was well spent and not wasted.

Covering the Wisconsin legislature protests
Blizzard 2011
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