Library takes first steps in phased reopening plan

June 23, 2020

In a first step toward the phased reopening of the U-M Library, a small contingent of library staff will soon head to work in the Hatcher Graduate Library for the first time since March.

The re-entry, which is in close alignment with the university’s return to on-campus lab and studio research, will start with services that can’t be delivered remotely, and that are essential to the continuity of research and instruction. The first steps are to establish protocols and processes to ensure the safety of the people entering and using the building, and to establish workflows for the safe handling and management of books and other collection materials.

Library buildings remain closed to the community. Library staff are continuing to find and deliver digital materials wherever possible, and many of the library’s print books are available online via HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service. Many services are available remotely, including research consultations and support for fall instruction. 

According to James Hilton, dean of libraries, the initial renewed service offerings will be scans of print resources where digital versions are not already available and can’t be acquired. Once the procedures and workflows are established and successful, the library can initiate the next phase, which will likely expand digitized offerings to include items from the library’s rare and special collections. Later phases will include providing direct access to some physical materials, and reopening some library spaces to the students on campus during the fall semester. 

The details and timing of these resumptions is still to be determined, Hilton says. “Our plan is to prioritize the things we can do safely, and that have the greatest impact on the mission of the university.” He emphasizes that during the earliest phases, patrons will not have access to buildings or physical collections, and that staff who can work remotely will continue to do so, in keeping with current campus-wide policy.

“None of this will look like a return to business as usual,” Hilton adds. “But I am confident that between the library’s robust remote services, and the careful resumption of some in-person activities, the campus community will continue to be well-served by the library’s collections and expertise.”

The library’s re-entry plans are governed by public health best practices and university-wide guidelines and approval processes, and will be informed by close monitoring of the experiences of the people and groups who participate in this first phase. At every stage, the library will pause, assess, and if necessary roll back to a previous stage.

The library website will always have the most up-to-date information about the status of its services and facilities, including details about library delivery of and support for remote instruction and plans for course reserves and other course materials. 

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Last modified: 06/23/2020