Students at the University of New Mexico will have to find new study spaces at the start of the semester due to the delay in the opening of University Libraries (UL).
UL pushed back its originally-planned opening on Aug. 10 to an anticipated opening on Aug. 17 to no date for a public opening at all.
Instead, UL is following a two-stage opening plan, according to Associate Dean of Public Services Mark Emmons. This includes the Zimmerman Library, Centennial Science and Engineering Library and Fine Arts and Design Library.
“What we’re trying to avoid is having too large of a viral load in our building,” Emmons said.
The first stage will consist of limited library staff in the buildings until further notice. Emmons said staff and employees that currently have the ability to work from home are doing so.
The following specifications must be met before stage two proceeds: contact tracer and library employee training, accessible rapid testing and a new security guard.
UNM has been hiring contact tracers and is still in the process of training them, which UL wants done before reopening. In addition, testing has become less available in New Mexico in recent weeks, and University Libraries wants rapid testing readily available to employees that are exhibiting signs of COVID-19 upon request.
UL is also requesting funding for an additional security guard that will enforce mask-wearing and social distancing, according to an email sent by Interim Dean of the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences Fran Wilkinson on Aug. 11.
“Our goal throughout this is safety and to reduce the spread of the virus,” Emmons said.
In addition, work-study student employees are not permitted to start working until Aug. 17, giving UL time to train staff in health and safety before a public opening.
When stage two is eventually implemented, UL will open to UNM staff, students and employees via appointment at a 25% capacity or less, according to Emmons and Wilkinson. The entire lounging area has been rearranged to meet these needs, and group studying will be discouraged.
“The group aspect of study, which a lot of students have done over the years and which we’ve always encouraged in the past, will go away while the pandemic’s going on,” Emmons said.
In addition, the Starbucks in Zimmerman Library will reopen in the future with limited hours and personnel. All food and drinks will be carry-out only and will not be allowed in Zimmerman.
“We have reinstated a rule that we haven’t had for more than 20 years of no food in the library,” Emmons said.
UL has been providing a carry-out service since May, where UNM-affiliated individuals as well as certain community members can request up to ten print items per week.
“We love to serve our students – and we really hate the fact that the coronavirus has limited us in how well we can serve students in person in our physical spaces – but our librarians and our staff have been doing their utmost to make sure that all the other services that don’t involve being physically in the library are as robust as possible,” Emmons said.
Continuing to provide the carry-out service will prove vital to the Fine Arts and Design Library because of its location inside George Pearl Hall. Emmons said this is just one of many buildings on campus that will require proxy access, or key card access, for entry.
UNM student Isabel Figueroa mentioned being a regular at the Fine Arts and Design Library for lounging and studying, which will be limited this year due to the proxy access requirement.
The Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections (CSWR) department offers applications for in-person appointments to view specific works in the Anderson Reading Room, with a time limit of either an hour or an hour and 45 minutes so that employees can clean the space between patrons. Two patrons are allowed in at once.
“Everything we have is open to the public; it’s just limited by time right now,” Tomas Jaehn, the director of CSWR, said.
UL has close to two million books available to preview online, but Emmons said that number is nowhere near the actual selection of books, which is one of the downsides of the carry-out service.
“I do know that we can do interlibrary loans, but it’s really not the same as going to the library and finding what you need,” Figueroa said via Twitter direct message.
Jaehn has contemplated uploading materials from CSWR online but said he was lacking in warm bodies to help expand the library’s online presence.
“We simply do not have the staff, and COVID is not helping to do any specific uploading, Jaehn said.
He said CSWR will prepare plans for students that cannot physically come into the building because of circumstances created by the pandemic.
“We in special collections are prepared to go the extra mile for students knowing that some can’t come in,” Jaehn said.
“Ultimately, there’s going to be restrictions like all parts of life because of the pandemic, but we’re going to get through them the best we can,” Emmons said.
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716