Pepperdine students follow Payson Library’s COVID-19 safety regulations including mask-wearing and socially distanced seating Feb. 24. The library’s reopening allowed students to reserve a spot in the library through their website. Photo by Ali Levens
The libraries on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus reopened Feb. 24, and students are allowed to reserve seats at the Payson Library. As LA County continues to reopen, library staff said they are excited to see what this means for the future.
In a March 3 President’s Briefing recap email to the Pepperdine community, the Public Relation’s office wrote LA County permitted the University to allow students to reserve and use the library, following COVID-19 health regulations.
Pepperdine libraries put restrictions in place to keep students and workers safe. Payson is open to Seaver students, the Drescher Library is open for student athletes’ use only and Harnish Law library is open for law student use.
“We think it’s a good plan, keeps everyone safe and so far we’ve had really good response,” Dean of Libraries Mark Roosa said.
Library Staff Follows Safety Regulations
All employees and student workers at the library are following strict University guidelines regarding COVID-19 safety, Roosa said. These regulations include requiring social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing for in-person staff.
“We have a limited number of staff on the ground right now since we’re not offering every single on-ground service right at the moment because we’re only in a kind of a provisional reopening mode,” Roosa said.
While following the health and safety guidelines is mandatory, Roosa said, the library is not requiring vaccinations for its staff.
“I would say that with the increasing the availability of vaccines, most if not all of our frontline folks are being vaccinated,” Roosa said. “They are becoming inoculated that way so that’s a good thing.”
Roosa said the library reached out to students who worked as ambassadors for the library pre-COVID-19 and asked if they would be willing to return. Six students who worked for the library prior to the COVID-19 shutdown now work in Payson library to help student visitors sign in.
“We were fortunate that we had a good response,” Roosa said. “Normally we hire more students during the normal year and we fully expect to do that as soon as we get back on ground.”
Library Services Adjust to Hybrid Format
One of the services that would benefit from continued reopening is the Genesis Lab said Anna Speth, the librarian for emerging technology and digital projects. The Genesis Lab is a hands-on learning and technology lab that contains technology for students to use on academic and personal projects.
Before going virtual last spring, the lab employed 8 to 10 student workers, Speth said. Most of the student workers at the Genesis Lab last year were seniors and this year the number of workers dropped significantly down to one student working virtually.
“The lab has definitely been a little quieter while we’ve been fully remote, although we still have our services as needed, but it’s certainly not the same sort of place,” Speth said.
In addition to the Genesis Lab, Speth also runs the web archive, where librarians preserve and compile old digital and physical collections for student use online. Over the course of the remote semesters, this area of the library saw increased use, Speth said.
“We took it as an opportunity,” Speth said. “A big part of our normal workflow is scanning those archival materials that we think are of high research value and putting them online.”
Speth said being remote allowed her and her team in the digital archives, which consists of one student worker and one undergraduate intern, to find a method for cleaning up and organizing Pepperdine’s research dating back 10 to 15 years.
Visitors Follow COVID-19 Regulations
Eligible students, faculty and visitors can use the library website to reserve a seat, Roosa said. COVID-19 regulations, such as required mask-wearing, are posted at the front of the library.
Capacity at the library, Roosa said, is at 25% due to county guidance. Library furniture is socially distanced, with seats six feet apart and tables eight feet apart, following county and University regulations. Safety guidelines are consistent across all open libraries.
“[Students] understand the online app really well, and they are able to make a reservation and come in and check-in and then use the space, and then when they depart they check out on the app,” Roosa said.
The NCAA requires universities to have a separate library facility for student-athletes. Pepperdine has designated Drescher Library for athlete use, Roosa said.
“That facility is solely for student-athletes and they of course are, they have their own testing protocols and very strictly in place for a number of months,” Roosa said. “We’re really pleased to be able to offer the Dresher library to them during this time.”
This semester, because of the limited hours at the Drescher library, there are no student employees, Roosa said. Drescher library can only be open for a maximum of five hours a day.
Library Anticipates Lightening of Restrictions
In a March 16 email to the Pepperdine community, the Public Relations Office at Pepperdine wrote the University is preparing for LA moving into the Orange Tier. LA county is in the Orange as of March 30.
Moving to the Orange Tier, Roosa said, will allow the library to make more seats and space available for student use.
“That’s the change that students will probably see and that will be reflected in the sign-up app, online; there’ll be more spots available so as we get towards midterms and finals there’ll be more spaces available for students to study,” Roosa said.
Speth said because the Genesis Lab is such a small room, regulations only allow one visitor at a time, in addition to Speth and a student worker. If regulations allow 50% capacity, the Genesis Lab will be allowed to hire more students.
“I hope that the lab can be available to students for final projects sort of stuff, by appointment by that point, and then I hope over the summer, things might start to look more and more normal,” Speth said.
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