FAQ: How We’re Planning to Reopen the Libraries

People wear face masks while on the Bryan Center Plaza on Duke’s West Campus. Image by Meghan Mendenhall, University Communications.

Ever since COVID-19 pandemic began, members of the Duke community have been asking us when the Libraries will reopen, to what extent, and what level of access and services we will be able to offer when we do.

If you’re reading this, you have probably seen some of the updates from President Price about the university’s plans for the upcoming fall semester. Because our work in the Libraries supports and facilitates so many aspects of teaching and learning at Duke, we wanted to share some important information about our phased plan for returning to normal operations, which was developed in conjunction with university-wide planning efforts.

We have been maintaining and updating a detailed FAQ on our website that answers many of the biggest questions. But it’s worth calling out a few of the more important points here.

First of all, the safety of library staff and patrons is our highest priority. Library staff will follow all state and university public health guidelines, including maintaining social distance, wearing masks, handwashing frequently, sanitizing and disinfecting workspaces and equipment, and self-monitoring for symptoms. In addition, we will be quarantining books and other collection materials for 48 hours between hand-offs to minimize the risk of viral spread through touched surfaces.

Bins of library books
Bins of returned library books wait in quarantine before being reshelved.

Ramping up library services for the fall semester has been a gradual process, with an initial focus on scanning and digitization for course and research support, followed by a plan to get physical items into the hands of our users.

In July, we implemented a contactless “Library Takeout Service” for books and other physical materials at Perkins Library on West Campus and Lilly Library on East Campus. To begin with, this service was only available to Duke faculty and graduate students, but it will be expanded to other groups of library users as the fall semester gets under way.

To comply with state and university public health guidance, and for the safety of library staff and patrons, we are implementing these initial services with the fewest possible library staff on-site.

Of course, while parts of our buildings remain closed for the time being, we continue to provide consulting, resources, and services online, as we have done since the present difficulties started.

We hope to continue to move forward and expand current service offerings throughout the fall and spring. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we ramp back up to a “new normal” of library services and operations, and we look forward to welcoming more patrons back into our buildings as soon as it’s safe to do so.

See the FAQ on our website about resuming library services.