Due to COVID-19, many changes have been made throughout campus to protect the students, faculty and staff, and the Thomas Cooper Library is no exception.
Beth Bilderback, co-chair of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Team for University Libraries, said there have been many library changes, starting with a mandatory mask mandate and distanced studying.
“We have introduced physical distancing with the study spaces, so there’s no more group studying really available. Seats are one person per table, unless there’s Plexiglass in between, then you can have two people on either side of the Plexiglass,” Bilderback said.
Bilderback also said that there are designated stairwells for going up or down between the library levels and that the elevators only allow four people at a time.
The first three library levels are closed, with only the fourth floor, the fifth floor, the main level and the mezzanine open.
“The most noticeable thing for those people who have been here before is we now have a new entranceway. The front of the main level really has been reorganized. You have to have a Carolina Card to get in the building,” Bilderback said.
The library has set a capacity limit of 775 people at any given time. This includes students visiting to get Starbucks, the Student Success Center, the Technology Lounge and other library services.
Tonya Holladay, Technology Lounge manager and production studio manager, said that the Library Information and Technology Center has reduced the number of computers in the library in half.
“It kind of forces people to sit apart, which is kind of the opposite of what we did previously. This is a collaborative space, and now we’ve had to strip it down to the bare minimum so that we can ensure that everybody’s social distancing,” Holladay said.
Holladay said she wants to assure students that, although they are not renting out equipment like they normally do, they are still renting out laptops for seven days at a time.
“We also have iPads, and if you need a camera or camcorder or a GoPro, you can get those for seven days,” Holladay said.
In collaboration with the provost's office, the Technology Lounge is also letting people rent out laptops for the entire year and giving out Wi-Fi hotspots for those who don’t have strong Wi-Fi connections.
Bilderback said the custodial department across campus has doubled the number of employees it has and “greatly increased the number here at the library as well.”
The library has also set up multiple hand sanitizer stations for students.
Ralph Sweeney, a second-year computer science student, works for the library and said he feels safe with all the changes they've made.
"For the coronavirus, it is more safe. We have gotten more strict. We have people roving now, checking to make sure people are wearing masks every hour. And everything's more spaced out," Sweeney said.
Madeline Woodison, a fourth-year anthropology student, said she likes how the library is making students scan in to keep the public out.
“I don’t know anything about what they’ve changed except for the dividers, and then I do like that they’re having students scan in. That way, they can keep the public out and keep it more centralized,” Woodison said.
According to the university’s website, the Student Success Center offers a combination of virtual and face-to-face services this semester. Students must make an appointment for face-to-face meetings.
Supplemental instruction, however, will only be available virtually through Blackboard Collaborate sessions. They are recording the sessions so that students can access the videos at a later time.
Bilderback said she hopes that students comply with university COVID-19 policies so “we can get through the semester.”
“All we want to be is have everyone safe, have everyone be able to come in and do what they need to do,” Bilderback said. “Please don’t move the furniture around, please keep your mask on, just as I say, and help us make it the experience it can be.”