After a year of online and curbside services, the in-person services and study spaces of the University of Alberta libraries are back.
University libraries have reopened most of their locations and services to in-person traffic since August 16, with COVID-19 precautions in place. While larger services such as borrowing books, computers and workstations will be readily available, access to other smaller services such as the Digital Scholarship Center, University of London Archives. ‘Alberta and the Bruce Peel Special Collections will remain by appointment.
Most library locations and services returned to normal in September with health and safety efforts being made
U of A vice-provost (libraries and museums) and chief librarian Dale Askey said library use will be reasonably standard for students. For those who are concerned about health and safety in libraries, Askey assured that adequate preparation and considerations have been incorporated into the reopening plan.
Consistent with other university buildings, masking will be applied at University of Alberta Libraries.
Plexiglas screens are present at the contact and service points, and the seats have been rearranged to promote social distancing.
“We also made a few changes to the seats,” Askey said. “It’s really difficult because most of the furniture is not movable, but we made a few modifications to the seats to spread them out more and to reduce the density.”
Askey Offers Thoughts and Considerations on Potential Skepticism Returning to Libraries
When asked why students and faculty should have confidence in going to libraries, Askey said we should all understand any skepticism people may have and continue to act based on our own comfort level then. that things continue to change.
“Compared to some entities on campus, we actually have quite a bit of experience because we’ve had staff working on campus throughout the pandemic to do things like sidewalk service,” he said. -he declares. “We have gone through generations of working on campus. I have a feeling that if anyone on campus is willing to do it, it’s the library.
According to Askey, U of A libraries have reopened most locations at the same time instead of taking a more gradual approach to accommodate the number of in-person classes being held on campus.
“Internally we talked about a number of different types of scenarios… but it became clear to us that if we are going to have a number of classes on campus, we have to open up the library spaces,” he said. said Askey.
“I think we would have considered all the options, but it’s really hard to think of a scenario where we would open [just one library] because we have to open everything up to make the system work and support the campus. I think there was an implicit understanding between the university and the libraries that we would have that kind of open space.
Askey explained how not opening enough space can encourage overcrowding; he also mentioned that there might be situations where students need to take an online course between in-person classes. Designated places in libraries serve as landing places.
Considering how the U of A approach compares to other institutions, Askey mentioned a high degree of conversation and collaboration between Alberta and Canadian libraries. He described communication between institutions as a way to make sure things are done in a consistent and thoughtful way.
“Our plans more or less line up with other libraries… we have to coordinate with other libraries too because of course we share a lot of resources, so we send collections back and forth all the time,” said Askey. “An important factor is to look around and make sure that we are all doing it as a library community. “
New features expected from libraries, while mindfulness expected from library users
According to Askey, students can look forward to seeing new library features in the fall term, including the reading list service, a new checkout system, and renovations to the Rutherford Library.
“It was during the pandemic that we introduced a new reading list service,” Askey said. “Its use continues to grow, but it’s a really powerful service that allows professors to create playlists and integrate them directly into eClass, making it incredibly easy for students to access course readings. We can’t wait to be back on campus and encourage people to use this system.
Askey mentioned a new register system for books launched this fall. He said the big machines were being replaced by a system called MeeScan – a handheld device with a barcode reader and a mobile app that allows “to view books with an app on the phone now”; Askey described it as “incredibly easy to use” and said it should “make checking books even faster.”
In addition, renovations were carried out on the second floor of Rutherford North. It now houses a number of collections from the former Education Library, which closed last year due to financial problems.
According to Askey, the U of A retains plenty of library space even after the recent closure of two libraries. He asked people to try and avoid congregating in one space, instead encouraging them to spread out and discover more parts of the buildings that await them.