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Books need to quarantine, too: UNC libraries adapt operations for COVID-19

DTH Photo Illustration. A student wipes down books in Davis Library on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. UNC libraries are enforcing new protocols to prioritize the health and safety of library goers.

Things look different on campus this semester, and the library services are no exception. In spite of countless University-wide changes due to the pandemic, students are still allowed to check out books from the stacks.

Joe Williams, the director of Public Services for University Libraries, went through the process. 

First, students request materials online using the Library Catalog, accessible with a UNC Onyen. The library staff finds the materials on the stacks, which are closed to the public, and checks out the materials to the patron. 

The library staff members wear masks and gloves the entire time. When students are notified that their materials are ready, they can set up an appointment time. If students aren’t comfortable walking into the library, drive-through pick up times are available every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside of Davis Library. The only requirement to pick up books is a valid UNC One Card. 

When books are returned, the books are put on carts and moved to a “safe quarantine space”  for at least 72 hours, before being re-shelved in the stacks upstairs, Williams said. There, they are isolated until the next time a student puts in a request. 

Williams wrote in an email that the Libraries have recorded 3,000 items checked out since they reopened on Aug. 3. He expressed his gratitude to students, and an appreciation for the hardworking staff. 

“Everyone has been extremely cooperative and we appreciate how cooperative folks have been during these difficult times," Williams said. "We recognize that students are clearly having to cope with a lot right now, and this is one part of our new reality.” 

The University also limited the number of libraries open to the public and created reservation requirements to study at these locations.

Maddie Carney, a senior public policy and global studies major, said she is applying to graduate school programs and taking tests online in the midst of the pandemic. She said she is frustrated with the time constraints on library reservations, as many of the tests, such as the GRE graduate school entry exam, take nearly four hours to complete. 

“I know a few students are renting out hotel rooms just to take their exams, like the LSAT, and sometimes you can get a voucher, but it’s unfair to those with questionable-at-best Wi-Fi,” Carney said.

Marisa Deininger, a senior English major, said she recently tried to study at the Health Sciences Library and found it to be a “safe and seamless process,” but has run into similar problems. 

“I think they’re doing a great job with social distancing,” Deninger said. “You have to make a reservation, but I think so far there hasn’t been an issue with crowds of people trying to sign up. The only downside is that you can only reserve your seat for two hours a day, and that's a very short time frame.” 

With the transition to remote-only learning, both Davis Library and the Health Sciences Library will remain open, with reservations required to come in and study, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning Wednesday.

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