Library Services Slowly Reopen This Fall
This fall, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the flow of information and aid on the University of Illinois campus will still be running—in a careful and slightly expanded manner.
When the virus hit the U.S. last spring, campus abandoned in-person instruction and adjusted its teaching and resource services. For the university to complete its spring semester, the Library responded quickly and nimbly (see Friendscript, Spring 2020). That focused response continues as the university cautiously reopens.
“I liken the Library’s services to a faucet,” Dean John Wilkin said. “We want to ensure that we have a baseline of services like access to collections, reference and research support, and instruction, and that we can open the faucet more in response to demand and changing circumstances.”
Back on campus, students and faculty found all digital services and collections functioning, and remote reference and consultations available. Many of last spring’s restrictions, however, necessarily remain in place, such as electronic resources being the go-to best option for those seeking materials.
This fall, however, three libraries allow limited entry: the Main Library and Grainger Engineering Library Information Center (for on-site consultation) and the Undergraduate Library (for loanable technology pickups and use of media creation spaces). Patrons can pick up requested items at lockers placed in the Main Library and Grainger, and two libraries (Grainger and UGL) offer bookable, modified study spaces.
When patrons access a campus library—after having their health status screened via the Safer Illinois phone app or Boarding Pass option—they enter a safety-conscious environment. Floors are marked and taped; health-care reminder signs abound; furniture is spaced; stations offer masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer; and barriers are up at service counters.
Chris Prom, PHD ’02 LAS, associate university librarian for digital strategies, served as the point of coordination for the Library’s reopening efforts. He said flexibility was key in planning for a campus comeback comprising many unknown variables.
“I would say my greatest concern has been keeping up the flow of communication, to help people to understand . . . why we are . . . doing things the way we are doing them,” Prom said. “I am very confident that we’re doing the right thing, and that we are meeting campus needs and our student and faculty needs in the best way possible under the circumstances.”
The Library expects to make adjustments as the semester goes on. Hopes are that—slowly and carefully—the flow of resources will return full stream.
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