College libraries are adapting to the new normal

Emma Nevin

Covid-19 has changed so many aspects of the usual college experience, and the way students study is no exception. Last semester everyone was given a shock when they had no choice but to endure the most busy, stressful and frantic part of the academic year without access to their college libraries.

Though Covid-19 is still very much present, colleges nationwide have reopened their library doors this semester, but what’s inside is quite a different experience than we are used to.

DCU library has altered their services greatly in order to meet all of the demands that the new normal brings.

Unfortunately, the days of strolling into O’Reilly for a spontaneous study session and doing laps until you find a free seat with a socket are over. Instead, studying in the library has been limited to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

There are two slots you can book in for, 9:30-12:30 or 1:30-4:30. You must book your seat at least three days in advance of your study session.

All materials you wish to borrow from the library must be ordered online, using the new Click and Collect service. Staff will retrieve the items for the student who can then come to the library to collect them.

¨With 2m social distancing measures, and other necessary health and safety guidelines, we are operating at approx 20 per cent capacity… No decisions have been made at this time in relation to exam study,” said Shauna McDermott, public services manager of DCU Libraries.

“As always, the library will make service decisions based on the requirements of students during the exam period, but this year those decisions will be within the context of Covid 19,” she said.

Final year DCU student, Holly Gorman, told The College View that it simply isn’t practical for her to avail of these altered library services in her final year.

“It takes me close to an hour and a half to get from my house in Maynooth to DCU. If I came in just to study I’d spend as much time travelling there and back as I would in the library itself,” she said.

“For my degree I have to write two theses. Three-hour sessions simply aren’t enough. I’m sure most final years would agree that if you’re going to the library you’re looking to spend most of the day there,” the Joint Honours student continued.

Gorman continued to explain that “I’m the only child living in my house right now, so I am so blessed that I have a quiet space to attend zoom lectures and study. But the spare room in my house doesn’t compare to the working environment in the library. I’m gonna struggle without that resource.”

Trinity College have adopted a slightly different approach. They also have a booking system in place and are not allowing walk-ins. Instead of DCU’s twice daily slot system, you can book a slot at any time of the day for a minimum of one hour.

The maximum number of back-to-back slots is three hours, but according to the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s website, you can make a separate booking if you need to spend more time in the library that day.

Third year TCD student Fiona Coghlan said she is fearful for exam season. “For obvious reasons, they are operating only a quarter of their capacity so it’s gonna be really hard to get a seat later on in the semester.”

¨I was in there last week and I was impressed with all of the safety measures they have in place. The nearest person to you is still a distance away, so there’s no worries in that regard. It was a calmer and quieter study environment with less people,” Coghlan explained.

While the current set up in DCU is not ideal for Masters and final year students, the libraries are doing what they can to ensure students have access to resources with new systems in place.

Emma Nevin

Image credit:  DCU