At UMW, there is concern amongst students regarding equal access to the physical and online library resources for those both on and off campus.
“I know some of the textbooks have been made into e-books and people can check them out, which is helpful,” said Madeleine Carberry, a sophomore biochemistry major. “There are still plenty of resources that on-campus students can access whenever they want, and off-campus students would have to drive here for them, which isn’t always possible if they live far away.”
Some remote students, like Elizabeth Rybarczyk, a history major, are not worried about the potential educational disparities.
“When I lived on campus I was able to complete all of my work without using in-person library services,” said Rybarczyk. “However, it might be a little bit more difficult now that I can’t go to the Writing/Speaking Center in person.”
Rosemary Arneson, UMW’s librarian, is optimistic in the face of the challenges presented by the social distancing guidelines on campus.
“Over the summer, we worked closely with the teaching faculty to identify textbooks and other materials that students would need, and we have scanned over 55,000 pages of materials,” said Arneson. “We’re encouraging faculty to make these scans available to their students in Canvas, and we have also scanned materials for students.”
The library now fulfills scanning requests with some limitations.
“We prefer not to scan an entire book for anyone, as this crosses the line where copyright is concerned,” said Arneson. “Instead, we may offer to scan the table of contents first so that the person can identify the sections they need.”
Arneson revealed one of the biggest frustrations for the faculty is acquiring the license for certain films to be streamed on Kanopy or Films on Demand. With a 60 percent success rate, the library continues to strive for expanded access.
“Equal access to resources is one of the fundamental principles of librarianship, and we are committed to doing all we can to make sure no one is deprived of access to services. One of the things that worried me most when we had to shut down completely last spring was that we know there are students who rely on us for access to a computer and the Internet,” said Arneson. “That’s a problem across the country, and at all levels of education.”
Another service the library is now offering is curb-side pickup.
“If a student lives locally, they can request an item to be held at the Simpson Library desk for pickup,” said Arneson. “We’ve not yet had a student ask us to mail a book to them, but we would be willing to do this if they can’t get to the library.”
As for the sanitation of the books themselves, the library quarantines every book for at least 72 hours before returning them to the shelves. The virus’s longevity upon books and paper is unclear, but currently Simpson Library is doing all they can to give students access to safe and clean resources. The material is handled by a library staff that is required to wear masks and gloves.
The library has seen a major change in the midst of the pandemic to their hours of operation. As listed on the official UMW library website: Simpson Library is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.. It is closed on Saturdays.
“I hated to have to reduce the library’s hours this fall,” said Arneson. “We did so because we could not staff the library adequately to ensure the health and safety of library staff and our library visitors. I know that providing a quiet place to study is one of the library’s most important services, and limiting our hours limits our ability to do so. We are continuing to monitor library use and demand, and we will adjust our hours when we can do so safely.”
As the semester continues the university as a whole will keep making sacrifices in the name of public health and safety. “We appreciate the cooperation of all the students who have been in the library since school began,” said Arneson.