The library reopened to students and staff last week with a number of changes in place in light of the ongoing situation with COVID-19. Concrete went to investigate.
The first thing you’ll notice are stickers on the floor promoting social distancing whilst queuing to enter. Then signs prompt you to wear a facemask when entering the library building, along with an entrance and exit door – which hasn’t changed from before – but the rotating door is not in use.
Once in the library lobby there is a desk with NHS Test & Trace forms to complete, and although not legally mandatory in England, it appears to be encouraged here. Unfortunately there was little guidance as to whether or not students need to complete them given we still tap our campus cards to enter through the barriers, surely sufficient enough.
Once in the library, there is a one way system in place, the ‘main’ stairwell is only for people going downwards, whereas the smaller staircases by the lift and beyond the IT-Helpdesk are for going up. The lifts remain in operation in both directions.
The next thing you’ll notice is floor 0 has benefited from a major overhaul, with screens around the reception desk and IT and library helpdesks. All group study spaces are sectioned off and the caffeine help desk is out of action.
On other floors, desk spaces have been marked out to aid social distancing with just about every other seat in use. Same with computer spaces, although with significantly fewer in use than before. To get in the library, you are encouraged to book a study space in advance for either a morning slot (0900-1300) or afternoon (1400-1700).
Initially viewable via the new MyUEA portal, it has since been moved to eVision. I booked a ‘pod’ on floor 1, however despite searching the floor I found it rather difficult to find. I found PC’s that were close to my number and there seemed to be plenty of unassigned study space, so I settled down in a seat with a view in the quiet reading room.
What is evident – as expected – is such measures have greatly reduced the amount of study space available within the library. If this also continues with limitations on hours in the new year, this could greatly affect the number of students actually able to utilise the library to study, especially problematic at times of deadlines and exams.
While wearing face coverings is vital, wearing one for a three hour study session is laborious and even though I am used to wearing a mask now, I was getting a bit warm.
There are fancy new machines to book out your book loans, clear signage throughout the library and an abundance of hand sanitiser. Both toilets and printers were still in use. To return any books, you are encouraged to drop them in bins outside of the library entrance or on red trolleys in the library if you don’t take them out of the building.