What will the library look like this Fall?


The Daily Universe is answering student, staff and parents’ questions about how the coronavirus will impact the BYU community during Fall Semester 2020 in a series of stories. Submit questions at 

Students sit in the library wearing masks, something everyone will be required to do this Semester. (Preston Crawley)

The Harold B. Lee Library will remain open, but it will look a little different this Fall Semester. There will be changes to not only the library in general, but also the BYU Family History Library and Special Collections.

General library

According to library communications manager Roger Layton, there are some big changes that members of the campus community will see in the library this Fall.

Masks are required, and hundreds of chairs are going to be relocated to facilitate social distancing — one chair per table. Group study rooms will be repurposed into individual study rooms or rooms for faculty who need space to teach online. The family study area will be locked up.

Layton said the library will encourage everyone to be socially distant, but social distancing won’t be enforced if someone comes in with their spouse or group of people they know. BYU is requiring all students, employees and visitors on campus to wear masks inside all university buildings. “This includes when students are studying alone and in groups inside the library,” said spokesperson Carri Jenkins.

Layton said the hours of the library will remain the same; however, during finals week the library won’t remain open until 2 a.m. The hours will be kept from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays throughout the entire semester.

According to Layton, the library plans to stay open after Thanksgiving break when classes go fully remote. “Part of our purpose is to provide study space for students and we know there are students who need Wi-Fi,” Layton said. “We realize that’s an important service we can provide.”

While the library plans on keeping regular hours after Thanksgiving, the need will be evaluated once students return home. “If there is less demand for the library building, we’re keeping the option of changing our hours,” Layton said.

The process for checking out books will remain as has been. There is a self-checkout if people don’t want to have human interaction or contact. One change is that all items and books that are checked out will be quarantined for two to three days upon return. In order to reduce the risk to the library staff, the books are locked in a room and then sanitized, according to Layton.

“So there is a delay,” he said. “We insist on making sure it’s quarantined and cleaned and clean before it’s put back on the shelf.” Although the deadlines haven’t changed for how long someone can have a book checked out, Layton warned that books don’t appear on the record as checked in until they’re out of quarantine.

Online materials

According to Layton, the library has pushed the use of its online materials for years. “The vast majority of things that students would need, the vast majority of sources they need to write papers have been online for years, and we’re really encouraging people to use the library remotely,” Layton said.

All subject librarians can also be reached by Zoom or email. Layton said some librarians started being virtually available in the spring, but now all librarians are being pushed to become virtually available.

Media Center

All the software classes in the library’s Media Center have been moved online, and some of the computers in the media center have been moved to study rooms to assist faculty teaching online.

There will be no physical contact with the employees in the Experiential Lab. “You can drop things off,” Layton said. “They’ll take care of your 3D printing or your laser cutting and then they’ll let you know when it’s ready to pick up.”

The equipment in the media center will still be available for checkout. “One advantage of the equipment in the media center is that is can be cleaned with disinfectant, unlike the books we have to quarantine,” Layton said.

Special Collections

Special Collections Reference Specialist Cindy Brightenburg said a change that can be expected in Special Collections is that patrons must make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance and inform the library what item they want to look at. “We want people to come in but we just want to make sure that we’re following really good protocol,” she said.

When someone makes an appointment to look at materials in the reading room, Special Collections only allows one person per table and there are 10 tables in the room.

After materials from Special Collections are used, they are quarantined for two days before they will be available for the next person to view. Brightenburg said the books and materials aren’t cleaned because they are valuable, and they don’t want to damage them.

Special Collections is still planning on doing presentations and classes but they will be online. Brightenburg said anyone who wants a presentation should contact Special Collections.

Special Collections is going to resume usual hours in the Fall; Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Family History Library

According to Marissa Bischoff, family history and religion reference supervisor, this fall the BYU Family History Library will only be open to students, faculty and staff and will no longer be open on Sundays.

There will be an option of a virtual reference desk in addition to face-to-face help from the reference center. Bischoff ensured that safe practices will allow for social distancing even with face-to-face help.

Although the Family History Library will only be open to members of the campus community this Fall Semester, Bischoff said there will still be plenty of opportunities for community patrons to receive help online, and it’s strongly encouraged. “We want to help them as much as we can,” Bischoff said. “We’re so eager to help them.”

Even with the Family History Library being closed on Sundays, virtual classes taught by the missionaries will still be available on Sundays. Bischoff said it’s closed on Sundays because to keep the missionaries who normally run the Family History Library on Sundays safe because they are more vulnerable to the virus.

For community patrons and anyone else looking for help from the Family History Library, contact information can be found on its website.

Bischoff said the Family History Library hasn’t made a decision yet of whether or not it will continue to have face-to-face help after Thanksgiving when it is anticipated that many students won’t return to campus for the remainder of the semester.

The Family History Library hours (besides being closed on Sunday) are not changing. The hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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