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Library Resources in the time of COVID-19: University Libraries Facilities Use Guidelines for Spring 2021

This guide will be updated on a regular basis.

Facilities Use Guidelines Spring 2021 With Support Documentation

University Libraries Facilities Use Guidelines for Spring 2021

University Libraries has compiled the following guidelines in order to create a safe environment for students, staff, and faculty on campus, as well as University Libraries employees, and others who enter our facilities.  

University Libraries Facilities Guidelines for Spring 2021 include best practices that are universally recognized as effective for preventing community spread of the novel coronavirus, and follow the safety protocols that are in place based on the State of Alabama COVID orders, the UA System Comprehensive Health & Safety Plan, the University of Alabama Return Plan, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

 Guidelines Governing the use of University Libraries Facilities for Spring 2021:

  • Action Cards, or Mobile Action Cards on one’s phone, are required to enter our facilities.
  • Community users and members of the general public are not allowed to enter our facilities until further notice. 
  • A mask or face covering must be worn over the nose and mouth at all times while in University Libraries facilities.
  • Plexiglass health screens have been installed at public service points in our facilities.
  • Social distancing is required in our facilities. Users must maintain 6 feet of distance.
  • Patrons who arrive in groups are expected to disperse when in our facilities.
  • Signs, floor waypoints, and guides denoting 6 feet of distance have been placed near service and queuing points throughout our facilities. 
  • We have configured all open computer workstations and seating areas in our facilities to provide for 6 feet of distance. 
  • Patrons must not move chairs or reconfigure furniture layouts as this would interfere with social distancing guidelines.
  • When our facilities reach capacity we will need to limit patrons from entering until numbers decrease. University Libraries has deployed a reservation system that allows students to reserve a space to ensure equity of use among the student body. 
  • Special Collections has facility specific guidelines that are available here.
  • Library instruction will be delivered on a case by case basis. Librarians will create asynchronous content for instruction purposes, and synchronous content will be delivered in-person in our facilities with social distancing and mask requirements, or via group video conferencing, depending on faculty preferences and space availability. For classes not in the First Year Writing cohort instruction requests may be made here. For First Year Writing Classes requests may be made here.
  • We have removed all document production tools/items from our service points (staplers, paper clips, etc.) until further notice to provide a clean surface that can be sanitized more easily. 
  • We have closed all group study spaces until further notice.
  • Eating and drinking in University Libraries facilities must be done actively, quickly, and in a socially distanced manner in order to return face coverings in a timely fashion. 
  • Whisper Booths will undergo a 72-hr embargo between users and will be limited to one person per session.
  • We will host student-centered events on a limited basis. For details and contact information visit here.
  • We encourage patrons to limit the number of people riding on elevators at one time.
  • Regular hand washing/personal hygiene is encouraged, and hand sanitizer is available throughout our facilities.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces will be performed in our facilities.
  • Based on materials safety guidelines, we have altered circulation and recirculation procedures for books, and other equipment. University Libraries will limit in-person interactions associated with the receipt and recirculation of materials throughout our facilities. Non-book items that will fit in book drops can be returned to book-drops to avoid as much patron-to-staff contact as possible.  
  • Paper based materials will be quarantined for 24 hours before processing and re-shelving can begin, following industry standards. Smooth plastic or plastic-like surfaces, media (e.g., CDs, DVDs, etc.) and microformats (e.g., fiche, film, etc.), and all AV equipment loans will be quarantined for 72-hours before processing can begin.
  • Equipment such as kits, headphones, etc. will be cleaned with either a sanitizing agent or 70 % isopropyl alcohol wipe or solution, whichever is the most appropriate for the material, before being put back in circulation.  Laptops will not be available for circulation.
  • Materials received in the mail will undergo quarantine for 24 hours before being processed for circulation.
  • University Libraries employees will wear gloves when processing mail and other library materials for circulation or recirculation.
  • University Libraries faculty and staff who share workspaces that do not allow for social distancing have been relocated to new work spaces. Where relocation is not possible, employees will work on staggered schedules to the greatest extent possible.

University Libraries Statement on Health and Safety Expectations for Spring 2021

All University faculty, staff, and students are expected to maintain a commitment to the health and safety of our campus community.  More information on University requirements can be found here  .

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, specific health and safety standards are in place to minimize exposure and community spread on campus. University Libraries Facilities Use Guidelines for Spring 2021 follow the safety protocols and requirements that are in place based on the State of Alabama COVID orders, the UA System Comprehensive Health & Safety Plan, the University of Alabama Return Plan, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health. University Libraries has compiled these to create a safe environment for all students, staff, and faculty on campus.

In the interest of health and safety, everyone must (1) wear a mask or face covering over their nose and mouth at all times while in University Libraries facilities; (2) adhere to social distancing requirements; and (3) comply with all other health and safety restrictions outlined in our Facilities Use Guidelines.  Those who refuse to comply with these requirements will be asked to leave our facilities.  

Unless a student has an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering, (more information can be found at ), the student will be reported to Student Life for further disciplinary action. More information on these requirements and UA Healthcheck system and screening can be found at   

Additionally, in the interest of your health and safety, and that of all UA students, faculty and staff, University Libraries reserves the right to change delivery of our services and resources based upon prevailing public health and other guidance.  While the method of delivery of some services and resources may change, we will continue to provide 24/7 online access to millions of digital resources, and our librarians will be available to assist students and faculty from a distance. 

Support Documentation

UA System Comprehensive Health & Safety Plan

University of Alabama Return Plan  

Governor Kay Ivey’s Safer at Home Order, amended 7/15/20


How to Protect Yourself & Others CDC Guidance

Social Distancing CDC Guidance

Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education

CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again May 2020

American College Health Association’s safe reopening practices. 

Study: Research shows virus undetectable on five highly circulated library materials after three days

Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Information Hub: A COVID-19 Research Project:  As libraries reopen facilities to the public, there is need for clear information to support the handling of. REALM, a partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle Labs, conducts research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries. The project draws upon the research to produce authoritative, science-based information on how—or if— materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors. The research is freely available, and informs our circulation and materials handling policies.  Link below.

Study: Testing was conducted by applying the virulent SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) on five materials held at standard room temperature.                                   

Study: Sustainability of Coronavirus on Different Surfaces

Study: Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1


*University Libraries Facilities Guidelines for Fall 2020 are based on the University Libraries Subcommittee of the  Presidential Advisory Committee on Return to Normal Operations plan, which includes the recommendations made by the University Libraries Instructional Spaces and Technologies Task Force, the University Libraries Social Distancing and Wayfinding Task force, and the University Libraries Materials Safety Task Force.