Caela Go | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt’s libraries will be open this semester, but they will look much different than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes include shorter operating hours and facilities only open to Pitt faculty and students, with all visitors required to wear masks and swipe their Pitt IDs to enter. The libraries opened last Monday, excluding the music and Frick Fine Arts libraries, which will open today.
Jeff Wisniewski, a University Libraries System spokesperson, said Pitt’s libraries have done their best to address concerns and allow students to continue having the library as a resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said while the Oakland campus is in the middling Elevated Risk posture, no more than 800 people are allowed inside Hillman, while no more than 1,300 are allowed in during the lowest, Guarded Risk.
Wisniewski said libraries have undergone modifications and safety checks like other buildings on campus, including deep cleaning, adjusting the HVAC system for better indoor air quality, de-densifying shared areas, as well as modifying bathroom layouts for safer behaviors.
He added that there are currently three options for students who wish to check out materials — regular check out at circulation desks, contactless pickup and shipping for students who live far away. Pitt’s Interlibrary Loan program, which allows Pitt students and employees to place requests for items from other libraries, will remain operational, allowing for additional borrowing and lending.
Jack Rozzo, a sophomore electrical engineering major, said he was concerned about the library’s limited hours.
“When I was at the library last semester it would be from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. usually,” Rozzo said. “So the fact that I can’t go in at that time, I probably won’t go to Hillman in the first place.”
Another sophomore, Kinan Moukamal, said he was unsure of the library’s hours until he read the fine print of an email and actually walked into Hillman Library to check. Moukamal said he has gone to Hillman multiple times since the beginning of the semester and has seen many students not socially distancing or wearing masks, creating a safety hazard.
“People need to understand that they are guests in Oakland. There are people who live here and there are people who work here,” Moukamal, a computer science and linguistics double major, said. “If you’re not wearing your mask, it might not affect you, you can still go back home. Except people here, they depend on things being open. So just put your masks on.”
Students are not the only ones who are anxious about the reopening of libraries. Kornelia Tancheva, the ULS director, said many staff members are also concerned about safety.
Tancheva said all “staff [has been informed of] all decisions we are making and will be making,” and has increased workplace flexibility. Employees whose work can be performed fully or partially remotely will work accordingly. For staff who must work in person, their schedules are differentiated in order to accommodate these new safety requirements and minimize the risk.
“I would like to take this opportunity to plead with students to follow the safety guidelines and to wear their masks at all times while in the libraries,” Tancheva said.
While walking around Hillman, Tancheva echoed that despite all the signage, there are still students who take their masks off once they are in the building. She asks that all patrons wear masks without taking them off while in the libraries and follow the signage to protect themselves and others around them.
“We have a shared responsibility for each other’s safety, and if we want to have a successful semester, we need to follow the safety requirements,” Tancheva said.