Kaylee Stout/The Sunflower
As students start their fall classes, most daily aspects on campus are going to look different, and the Ablah Library is no exception. The library has made several changes to its operations in order to best serve students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ginger Williams, associate dean for academic engagement and public services, told The Sunflower students are expected to maintain social distancing and wear masks just like anywhere else on campus.
When the library reopened in May, Williams said library staff had a lot of time to consider what needs to be cleaned and what resources are safe to use. Staff will give extra cleaning to high-touch areas and hand-sanitizer stations, and all books returned to the library have to be quarantined for four days before being handled by staff.
Furniture has been rearranged in the Ablah library to promote social distancing, with most tables only having one chair. The only study rooms available during the fall semester are on the second floor. The library added additional focus rooms, and smaller group study rooms are being converted to single-use.
There will be three study rooms available for groups of two-to-four students to use at a time, and all available study rooms will need to be booked in advance on the website. The rooms will be cleaned in-between every use.
“We will be monitoring demand for these rooms as the semester progresses to determine if additional group study rooms need to be opened on other floors,” Williams said.
If students need to pick up a book, they can visit the library catalog online and place holds on the items they need. Williams says students will be notified by email when the items are ready to be picked up. Items will be placed in a locker next to the circulation desk to help provide contactless checkouts.
Students attending courses remotely will be able to have material mailed to them by contacting Interlibrary Loan, and will be responsible for returning items via mail. Book drops will be available in the 24-hour study room in the entrance of Ablah and the 24-hour book drop between Ablah and the Media Resources Center.
Not all of the university libraries will be as open as Ablah. Williams said the Thurlow Lieurance Memorial Music Library in Jardine Hall will be open with limited hours, but the McKinley Chemistry library is closed for the time being.
Students can still place holds on items from the McKinley Chemistry Library and pick them up at the Ablah Library. The Special Collections and University Archives unit is available by appointment.
“The reason for the limited hours is so that we can focus our staff on Ablah, where we get most of our traffic and hold most of our resources,” Williams said.
With the help of technology, the library’s research and reference services will still be available for students. The Ask-A-Librarian chat box will be open, and students can also get in contact through Zoom, email, text or phone.
Individual face-to-face consultations can be scheduled as well, and staff at Ablah Library can connect students with a librarian. The only thing not available is walk-up research help at the reference desk.
“Helping students is one of the very best parts of our job, so we really want students to keep in touch,” Williams said. “The librarians in the Research and Instructional Services will do a lot of class instruction, too. For now, that will take place online, as will our workshops.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak, the Ablah Library has seen a number of behind-the-scenes changes, too. Ordering new books for the collection and Interlibrary Loan are taking longer, as new books have to be quarantined for four days and many libraries are still not lending physical items.
Library faculty are also transitioning to online teaching methods just like any other faculty on campus. They are working on lessons to deliver through Zoom, making videos, updating research guides, and embedding content into Blackboard.
The mission of the University Libraries is to be an essential force in teaching and research, Williams said. She said they serve vital roles in educating and providing access to high-impact resources, preserving intellectual and cultural records, and continually evolving as a research network across campus and the larger community.
“Throughout the organization, we are coming together to help each other do what we need to in order to give Wichita State students what they need,” Williams said. “Our dedication to our mission hasn’t changed.”
Williams says students should keep in mind that the library is undergoing an evolving process and that things will change as the library gets a clearer understanding of students’ needs.