Carnegie Mellon University
August 27, 2020

Save Me A Seat

By Shannon Riffe

Shannon Riffe
  • University Libraries
  • 412-268-7260
When the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries' locations reopen for the fall semester, visitors will encounter many new changes, including modified seating arrangements, plexiglass barriers, restricted access to spaces and a new online seat reservation system.

"We're committed to welcoming the CMU community back into our spaces in a way that protects the safety of our employees and our visitors," said Joelle Pitts, associate dean for administration, planning, and assessment for the Libraries who has led the reopening preparations. "We held a soft open the week of Aug. 24 to allow our staff to familiarize ourselves with these new-to-us procedures before our revised fall hours begin on Aug. 31."

The doors of Hunt, Sorrells and Mellon Institute Libraries, which together recorded over 1,023,140 visits in 2019, have remained closed to the public since the university's move to online instruction in March. In that time, access to online services and resources has continued uninterrupted and new services — such as the shipment of print books to users' homes — have been introduced to address the information needs of students, researchers and instructors.
Modified seating arrangements and an online seat reservation system will be implemented at the University Libraries this fall.

"Libraries are no strangers to change. Our work has rapidly transformed over the last 20 years," said Pitts. "Once upon a time, this type of sustained building closure would have devastated us by cutting off access to all of our materials. But, we've been gradually building our digital resources — such as e-books and databases — and expanding service offerings that we can deliver remotely. When the pandemic hit, we were able to leverage these resources and services to maintain our support of CMU's world-class teaching, learning and research as those activities shifted online."

With the return to campus, the Libraries are evolving to meet the needs of the community again.

Among the new protocols that will be introduced is a required online seat reservation system. All students who intend to study in Hunt Library and the Roger Sorrells Engineering & Science Library must reserve their seat ahead of their visit. Reservations can be made in two-hour blocks.

A significant amount of seating has been removed from all locations to ensure a minimum of 6 feet of distance between visitors. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at public facing areas such as circulation desks. To keep high-traffic areas clean, the Libraries will deploy regular cleaning and sanitization rotations in partnership with Facilities Management Services. When materials are returned, they will be quarantined for 96 hours before they re-enter circulation.


A hand sanitizing station in Sorrells Library.
In the nearly 60 years since opening its doors in 1961, Hunt Library has hosted a wide range of university activities: study groups, events, meals in the Maggie Murph Café, screenings in the Video Collection room and more. But this semester, the café and the Video Collection room are closed, library events and workshops will be delivered virtually, and all group study rooms will be limited to a single user at a time.

Other changes include the closure of the second and fourth floors of Hunt Library. All Hunt Library stacks on all floors will be closed, with item retrieval by employees only. Multimedia equipment and circulating technology such as chargers and cameras will not be available until further notice.

"Our returning visitors will have a library experience very different from the last time they were here," said Pitts. "I encourage everyone to do their part to ensure these spaces can remain open by familiarizing themselves with the Libraries' new policies ahead of their visit and following the four tenets of the Tartan's Responsibility."

A detailed FAQ on the Libraries' site has more information about these guidelines and is updated as policies change. A new email newsletter will provide another way to stay informed of the latest Libraries news.

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