Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Analysing Space : Ground floor on TISS Library

Sir Dorabji Tata Memorial library is perhaps the most ‘happening’ space inside the ‘Old Campus’ during the day time. In the ground floor one can witness loud discussions, people with headphones waving at laptops, ‘under the desk’ romance and amidst all that, people genuinely reading. This is perhaps what intrigued and finally convinced me to analyse the same space after midnight.
The reading room can be broadly divided into three sections. The 'couch space' in the eastern corner with glass tables to rest laptops or keep books on. The centre of room has six tables, each with six red chairs around it. And on the western corner are three tables, again with six chairs around it. But the difference is that the chairs are green in colour and the plug points on the table works. It is interesting to note the colour signifiers - the table with red seats does not have electricity supply while the table with green seats have. There are individual reading lights for every table but the hall is well lit that students hardly use it.

Quite contrary to the day time, there are no fights for the ‘green seats’ next to the plug points or corner couches. The book lending section is closed by 8 and it is roped off, so the ground floor is limited to the reading room and the lab for the visually challenged. Most of the chairs were empty but lay at different locations, sometimes quite far away from the desk, constant reminders of the day that had passed.

When I walked in, at the stroke of midnight, there were around twenty five people in the entire room. Two girls sitting on the couch, with their legs on the table, were deep in conversation. It is interesting how the table turns into a space to rest the legs once the crowd has reduced. Very few spaces inside the TISS campus are under surveillance and the library reading room is one such place. The sofa is one place that the camera does not cover and hence one tends to see more intimate conversations there. I do not think its deliberate. It could also well be that the sofa is much better a place for a comfortable talk. Throughout the talk they kept shifting their gaze from their respective laptops, which was placed on their stomachs, to the entrance of the library as if they were expecting someone.
 A student sat on the couch facing the ‘The Speaking Tree’ painting was shuffling vigorously the pages of a book that he had made photocopies of. Another student, who wore a T-shirt which had ‘School of Health System Studies’ written on it and was facing right towards me, had switched on the lamp on the table lamp and was scribbling notes from what seemed like a video of a seminar. During the day the people who are more interested in their work tends to be concentrated around the green table. After midnight they are more scattered as there are more vacant seats and lesser noise.
There were two groups having conversations around the 'red tables'. I could not over hear what they were talking about but from their actions it seemed as if one member in the group was explaining to others about something. I have always been curious as to why groups chose to meet at library ground floor which is a 'reading space', for their discussions. One of the biggest reason should be the lack of such a space inside the college. Apart from the 'quadrangle' and the new campus dining hall, there are no places with uninterrupted internet supply which is open throughout the day. Especially in the evenings, people often choose the library space, because of mosquitoes.
The security guard was asleep on a green chair that had been dragged to a spot next to a pillar where he could rest his head. The reading space is only accessed by the students of TISS. Except for the staff who cleans the tables every day morning, hardly anyone else enters the space. Even the security guards, even if they are upset with something happening inside the space, stands outside and tells. Understandably, they do not like it when the students make noise or switch on the lights next to the space were they sit.
At around one in the night, the majority in the library walks out to the 'SMS' canteen to get a snack before the canteen closes. The return back at different times, some don't, but generally, I noticed that everyone are back with an hour. After they return, some people move to the cyber library on the first floor. By then the staff in the cyber lab, who wouldn't otherwise allow laptops inside, would've have left. The lab is often more quieter and the air conditioned, so many prefer the place for getting the work done.
One thing that can be noticed about everyone in the ground floor (excluding the security guards) is the way they have all chosen to wear comfortable dresses. Most of them are dressed like how one would be inside in one's own house and that reflected how comfortable people were in that space. One of the student I talked to even had his tooth brush and paste with him. With filtered water also available, for many the ground floor was equivalent to their home.

The night was pretty dull and there were hardly anything that made you look at someone or something. The people inside kept moving in and out, mostly for a small walk or to attend phone calls. Students from the cyber library kept going out but nobody wanted to use the space in the ground floor. By around three, only one person had left. Surprisingly everyone had maintained their levels of intensity in whatever they were doing.  

The only incident worth mentioning, was my brief conversation with the security guard sitting outside the library. He had woken up by the sound I made while entering the library after a brief stroll and could not come to terms with the fact that I was a student. ID card and persuasion convinced him to finally allow me to enter.

The whole night was a huge contrast to the day time where there is life bustling in every corner. It is very difficult to come to a conclusion as to what type of people who generally visits people. One can safely assume it gets more crowded on during the exams. Most of the remaining group left by 4:00 a.m and the one person who was remaining lived in a house outside the campus.
My observation and analysis of the space is in no way complete or comprehensive. It is not exactly the same group that visits the library every day. What one can safely assume about the ground floor in the library is the fact that it is much beyond a reading space. It is where people like to meet up and discuss things. Silence is next to absent in the hall and there are hardly any boards/signs asking the students to keep quiet. The saddest part is how the library is no longer very reader friendly.


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