Noticeable consequences to the library during the pandemic

3 June 2021

The University Library has, just like all university operations, needed to adapt to current restrictions due to the pandemic. It has been a true challenge for the important meeting place that the library constitutes, which during normal circumstances would welcome thousands of visitors every day. And consequences for students and staff who use the library's services have been substantial.

Since the pandemic kicked off over a year ago, the university has adapted its activities according to the recommendations and the changing situation. Even if we, now in the start of June, can start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, the situation in May was completely different. Only about a month ago, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 among students and staff rocketed to the highest level yet in 2021. Due to the seriousness of the situation, this led to the university issuing a reminder that everyone should avoid visiting the university's premises. This is an important reminder of how quickly the situation can turn.

This year's measures and restrictions have naturally also affected the University Library.

Dieter Müller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

The three libraries making up the Umeå University Library are not just any regular facilities, they constitute important and natural places to meet, study and work for students and staff and welcome over 5,000 visitors on a normal, non-pandemic day. A large number of people also use the services provided by the University Library. As chairperson of the Library Board, I can assure you that hard work has been put into adapting the University Library to the recommendations and restrictions the pandemic has brought with it, both those issued by Umeå University and other parties.

The university's decisions due to COVID-19 regarding the library have involved opening hours and accessibility to study spaces and group rooms, and for a few weeks, the library has only been open for loans and returns of books as well as for printing and copying. Consequently, it is currently not possible to use the library for studying, and all group study rooms and study places are closed. Being able to carry out the University Library's assignment and simultaneously limit presence of staff and students is no simple equation. All the same, it has been satisfying that the University Library has been able to stay open also during a period when, for instance, public libraries needed to close down.

To the University Library, the service of reserving and requesting returns of books has also been affected by the everchanging level of infection in society and the university's measures for students and staff. The library is currently investigating how overdue items can be recalled both from a legally certain and COVID safe perspective – something which has proven a tough nut to crack in a situation where national COVID legislation also need to be adhered to. Many users have also expressed their views on how the Swedish COVID legislation is implemented at the University Library, which has led to a revision of the regulations. Until this work has been completeds, it is no longer possible to reserve books, and previous reservations have been cancelled.

As a part of Umeå University, the library follows the decisions made by the university. As an authority, the university has a responsibility and obligation to follow the preventative measures reached by the Swedish Government, the Public Health Agency of Sweden and Region Västerbotten – in order to provide a safe and secure place for our students and staff to study and.

Continuously adapting the operations of such a large authority has truly tested our patience during the pandemic, but the seriousness of the situation has been met with understanding and the measures have been efficient and feasible. Thanks to the hard work by everyone, we are looking forward to a semester with more normal routines.

When the autumn semester starts, the library is planning on opening up all services again and with regular opening hours, of course with respect for the potential restrictions that exist at the time.

I am sure I am not the only one truly looking forward to that.

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