Last week the University of Surrey’s beloved library reopened its doors for the first time since March. The reopening came alongside a plethora of COVID-19 regulations in order to keep students safe in the new semester. These include: wearing a face covering at all times, wiping down desks before and after use, a one way system, and being unable to browse the bookshelves, with book borrowing now taking place online in a 'click and collect' style.
The library will also only be operating at 45% capacity to ensure that the desks are socially distanced. In order to maintain control over these limited spaces, the library has developed a ticketed system where students can book a time slot to reserve a desk.
Reservations are available up to two weeks in advance and limitations have been put in place so that study sessions can be spread evenly between students. An individual student can use the library for no more than three hours a day, or 12 hours in a week. A student’s ID card will be denied entry if the student has not booked a slot.
The Students’ Union’s Vice President Voice, Theo Donnelly, told The Stag that these limits were not a hard rule, “We asked for there to be an active booking limit per week/day instead of a hard limit on the number of hours you can be in the library per week.
“The reason for this is because it makes no sense for you to have come to the end of your time in the library and be forced to leave even if there are spaces free for you to work in. So this way there is a limit to how much you can book but once you have used up that time you are free to book up to the limit again provided there is space.
“We completely understand this set up is far from ideal but we considered this to be the fairest way to do it whilst staying COVID safe. This system will be constantly reviewed and if the 12 hours per week and/or the three hours per day limits need to be reevaluated following the first few weeks of term we can look at doing that,” Donnelly explained.
The group study space will not be available for students, due to social distancing concerns, and level five will be reserved primarily for final year students to have priority usage. On Instagram the Surrey library team said they were “currently working with the University to locate spaces on campus that can provide suitable, socially-distanced group study.”
The booking system has raised concerns from students about the way this will affect their studies. Yasmin, a final year English Literature student, tweeted about the changes, “I completely understand uni making appointments for library time to reduce the number of people, but limiting to 12 hrs a week could be really damaging to students who can’t afford luxury accommodation. So many people don’t have desks at home, I hope it’s been thought about.”
Fellow English Literature student, Lily defended the changes: “I find it really annoying, but at the same time, because they are at 45% capacity they are under pressure to allow for as many students to be able to study there. If they limit the hours each person can book then it should make room for enough people. It’s disappointing that there isn’t the freedom, but we can’t expect it to be completely back to normal, and there isn’t an easy or simple resolution to the issue that would make everyone happy.”