Study carrels—normally available only for thesis students to reserve for a year—are remaining open for anyone to use this year, owing to the pandemic, difficulties with vandalism and a severely water-damaged library roof. The purpose of a study carrel is to provide a quiet place to work and study, surrounded by all the research facilities of the library. The prior reservation system often meant that students would decorate their carrel and leave a few belongings there. However, as with many things, COVID-19 has posed challenges. In response to the pandemic, the carrels can not be reserved and are now open for all students at any time.
Co-Dean of the Library Helene Gold explains one of the reasons for this: “We have to be able to sanitize surfaces, and when a student tests positive, we have to be able to sanitize the surfaces where the student may have been. We have to be able to clean all the surfaces for safety so we can’t have materials permanently in carrels anymore because it’s just not safe for COVID-19 protocol.”
Another reason why the library can not have materials permanently in carrels anymore, Gold explains, is to prevent any personal belongings from being lost or inaccessible if the library were to be shut down.
“When we suddenly have to close for an emergency, such as the pandemic or a hurricane, no one has access to the building, so if there are personal items, if there are research items, a student can’t get them,” Gold said.
Although this change is part of COVID-19 protocol, there are other challenges with leaving items and materials at carrels. There have been small, but consistent problems with vandalism and theft, according to Gold. More importantly, the library roof has been struggling with water damage for years, further deteriorating through the summer’s rainy season to the point where the ceiling leaking water or its panels falling through are a big problem for students and library staff, and put personal valuables at risk. The library and administration are working actively to schedule the roof’s repair or replacement, and expect the problem to be fixed hopefully by next semester.