When students began to arrive on campus last week, many made their way to Perkins Library to study after a long day of virtual classes in their rooms, only to find the library was already closed for the day.
Perkins, Bostock and Lilly Libraries have closed at 6 p.m. during the first full week of classes and will not be open on weekends until Jan. 22. Repeated student non-compliance with COVID-19 rules, the rise in COVID-19 cases nationally and on campus, labor shortages and limited use of the libraries during the beginning of the semester were all factors that led to the closures.
Students have expressed frustration about no longer having a space to study due to the limited hours.
"I have to study for the [Medical College Admission Test] and need somewhere to study outside my room," senior Caroline Maloney said.
“When do they think we study?” junior Katie Spencer asked about the limited evening hours.
Dave Hanson, associate university librarian for research, collections and scholarly communications, said the libraries wanted to abide by Duke’s COVID-19 guidelines amid the rise in the Omicron variant.
“Being kind of responsive and aligned with Duke’s overall guidance, the message went out of basically, ‘You can come back to campus, but they don't particularly want a lot of people flooding back in and hanging out,’” he explained.
Hanson said a driving piece of the decision was “uncertainty about how many of our student staff would even be on campus to be able to help us open the library.” The Duke Libraries rely on student employees to operate, especially during extended hours.
Another factor behind the shortened hours was the limited usage of the library during the first week of classes.
“We have to be responsive to how many people are actually in the building. I was just walking around today, and I saw all of, like, eight people on the first floor of Perkins,” Hanson said.
A history of student non-compliance with room capacities and masking requirements was also a factor in the decision making process. Hanson said the libraries had “a lot of problems” with students not wearing masks towards the end of the fall semester.
He noted that the majority of non-compliance issues took place in the late evening hours when students “congregate together in groups.”
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“Our plan and hope are to go right back to normal hours as soon as Duke really resumes kind of on-campus activity,” Hanson said.
The most updated library hours can be found here.
Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.