As Utah public library systems cautiously reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, Salt Lake Community College libraries remained open to serve students.
All four SLCC library branches currently operate with modified hours. Jon Glenn, director of Library Services at SLCC, says the plan was to have all locations open for the fall semester.
The libraries have implemented social distancing measures and require the use of face coverings in all buildings. Common areas and borrowed materials will be sanitized on a regular basis. Several remote services are available for high-risk students or those who do not wish to visit in person.
“If COVID-19 cases continue to rise and SLCC returns to an ‘orange’ or ‘red’ status, Library Services will consider closing locations, reducing hours and/or reducing services,” Glenn said in an email interview. “We will decide based on guidance from the College, the county and/or the state of Utah.”
All library branches display signage to help maintain social distancing. Installation of plexiglass screens on all service desks keep staff safely distanced from students. Additionally, the removal of some chairs and computer workstations keep students from crowding together.
In-person information literacy training is also no longer offered in libraries, with sessions moved to classroom or instructed remotely.
Taysha Dolato, an exercise science major, says she only plans to visit SLCC libraries in the fall to attend small study groups.
“I’m not worried, just as long as all the students that do show up wash their hands and do what they’re supposed to and don’t be stubborn about it,” Dolato said through her mask in the Taylorsville Redwood Student Center. “This is what the school is here for, is to educate, and we can’t do that if one person decides that they’re not going to follow the rules.”
With face coverings now required in all campus buildings, Library Services is offering disposable masks for anyone who visits a branch without one.
“If someone can’t or won’t wear a mask, we will work to find other safe ways to provide them services,” Glenn said.
Custodial Services also hired more staff to keep common surfaces clean, such as tables and computer keyboards. Library materials are also sanitized as they are returned and kept in quarantine for three days before returning to circulation.
Dolato appreciates the new sanitation efforts.
“I like the fact they’re taking extra measures to ensure that safety from checking out books,” Dolato said. “That makes it more comfortable knowing they’re going to take the extra precaution.”
For students who are most at risk for contracting COVID-19 and those who simply want to stay outside, curbside pickup and drop-off services are available. Libraries have also increased the number of laptops and mobile hotspots available for checkout so more students can access online services from home. Reference services and research help are also available by phone, email, text and online chat.
“Library Services has always had the ability to provide robust online services and research materials and will continue to work on improving these services,” Glenn said.
With few other food options at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, the café at the Markosian Library will continue to sell pre-packaged food to students. Staff who handle food will wear disposable gloves.
“It is impossible to eliminate all risks and the decisions to use any in-person library service is something an individual ultimately must make for themselves,” Glenn stated. “Library Services staff will do what we can to minimize those risks and provide the services students and faculty need to succeed. If library users have any concerns they can reach out to our staff and we will do our best to provide them with what they need in a fashion that makes them feel comfortable.”
Dolato believes students should exercise some common sense during the pandemic.
“At the end of the day, it depends on who’s going to wash their hands and who isn’t,” Dolato said. If they are feeling sick at all, then just to stay home, I mean, that’s the only thing I think that does matter.”
Visit SLCC Libraries for more information on hours, services and COVID-19 safety measures.
An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the 2020 back to school issue.