Now Open: What to Expect in Using VCU Libraries' Buildings

August 3, 2020

As of Monday, Aug. 3 library buildings on both campuses are open for on-site services. Users will see many changes designed to help create as safe an environment as possible for study and research.

“VCU Libraries and our employees are excited about the return of students to our campuses,” says interim dean and university librarian Teresa L. Knott. “The return of students and faculty at the beginning of a new academic year brings vibrance to our spaces and energizes all of us. Despite the challenges of operating in a pandemic, the start of the academic year is ripe with abundant possibilities.”

“We look forward to working with VCU students, faculty and staff in person once again,” said Laura W. Gariepy, Ph.D., who is leading VCU Libraries' reopening work group. Gariepy is associate dean for research and learning. “To reduce risk of germ spread, we’ve instituted a number of rules in library buildings, and know we can count on our library users to follow them while using these spaces.”

Some major changes that library users should be aware of are:

VCU Libraries reserves the right to limit building access to VCUCard holders to be consistent with university recommendations to limit visitors on campus. 

All users must wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth fully.

Building occupancy will be limited to promote physical distancing. Cabell will be limited to approximately 800 people, and Tompkins-McCaw will be limited to approximately 150 people. If a library reaches capacity, a line will form outside the building with one patron allowed in as one exits. 

No food or drink, other than quick sips of water, will be allowed in library spaces except in the Starbucks seating area at Cabell Library. Water bottle filling stations will be open but other water fountains will be shut off.

More details that will help users make the best use of VCU Libraries spaces and services this fall include:

  • Users who need physical materials can order them online to be picked up at either library’s main service desk or use the new Front Door Pickup service without ever entering the buildings. Materials may be shipped to campus and some home addresses. 
  • In addition, VCU Libraries provides vast online collections of ebooks, online journals and articles and streaming media that can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Spaces within the buildings will look different. Some furniture and computers will be removed or roped off to create six feet of space between users.
  • Because many public computers will be out of service to arrange physical distancing, users are encouraged to bring their own laptops or devices when possible.
  • Most study rooms will be available for reservation, but often at a reduced capacity. Some will be closed. Rooms will be available for reservation on the VCU Libraries website by Aug. 17.
  • No large public events will be held in library buildings during the fall semester.
  • Both Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw plan to expand building hours as the fall semester progresses.
  • You can chat, text, email, call, or visit in-person to get research assistance or help with using the libraries. 
  • Most research consultations and librarian-led instruction sessions will be conducted remotely—by Zoom, chat, phone or email—to minimize face-to-face contact.  
  • Special Collections and Archives at Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw are open only by appointment until after Labor Day, when Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives will reopen to walk-ins Sept. 8. Details about this service
  • The Workshop at Cabell Library will reopen on a limited basis on Tuesday, Sept 8. Prior to then, remote assistance is available, and multimedia/creative equipment will be available for loan beginning Aug. 17 at both Cabell and in the Makerspace at Tompkins-McCaw. More details will be posted on the library website. 
  • Many shared amenities, such as pens and pencils, scrap paper, whiteboard markers and such will no longer be provided by the libraries. Users should bring their own items.
  • Starbucks and the IT Support Center in Cabell Library plan to reopen on Aug. 10. Both will implement measures to prevent germ spread.

Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place. Hand sanitizing dispensers, disinfectant wipes and accompanying disposal receptacles  are available throughout both libraries. Users are expected to wipe down public keyboards and workstations before and after use. VCU and VCU Libraries have  increased cleaning and disinfecting of library spaces and equipment and high-use items such as door handles, keyboards, handrails and bathrooms. 

VCU Libraries employees will carefully monitor and adjust these protocols throughout the semester to create the most supportive research and learning environment possible, while continuing to prioritize user safety.  


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