UA debuts new guidelines for campus facilities

Jeffrey Kelly | @jeffkellyjr, Assistant Culture Editor

Update, August 23 – As students and faculty navigated their first week back on campus, the University Libraries continued to update its plans to handle health and safety better.  

One of those updates, a reservation system, will be unveiled on Monday, August 24, allowing students time to familiarize themselves with it before it becomes a requirement on Sunday, August 30.  

This system will be a new way for students to interact with the libraries with “advanced planning” in mind. Students will now have to make reservations on the University Libraries website if they want to study in a library space. Reservations are limited to four hours a day and can be made up to 24 hours beforehand. 

 While students need a reservation to study, they are still allowed to visit using their ACT cards if they need to print a paper, use the restroom or pick up materials. 

Michael Pearce, the University Libraries’ director of strategic engagement, said the plan was put into place to avoid having to close the libraries’ doors during periods where they have reached capacity. 

 According to a mini-FAQ posted on the University Libraries’ website, without the mechanism, once they reached capacity limits of the individual libraries, their patrons would have to wait in line until someone else left the building. 

“We didn’t do this in some arbitrary fashion to just limit and shut off access. We’re doing this to promote and encourage access,” Pearce said.  

He said the idea for the system came to the University Libraries’ administration after looking at other institutions with similar protocols in place. 

“The main thing is that we know that this entire scenario of being on campus and having in-person classes in the middle of a pandemic can be frustrating. It’s a difficult time for everyone, but we want to do everything that we can to promote the health and well-being of our students,” Pearce said. 

“We want to make sure to provide an equitable experience,” he said. “We want to make sure that every student has an opportunity to use all of our facilities.”  

For more information, visit the University Libraries website where you can also view occupancy of all four libraries, chat with librarians, and get more updates and tutorials.

When the spring semester went online due to COVID-19, a blanket of uncertainty left many with questions about the future. While students spent their summers picturing what the fall semester would look like, University-wide efforts were directed toward crafting guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

Now, as the fall semester is kicking off and students return to campus, divisions like University Libraries and Bama Dining are still working to improve upon and maintain their best laid plans for reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. 


For UA libraries, the planning for this semester started in April. Michael Pearce, the University Libraries’ director of strategic engagement, said that time was spent in committees to learn from limited operations during the summer and tweak social distancing and messaging to align with the overall plan. 

These decisions evolved into the University Libraries Facilities Use Guidelines for Fall 2020. The guidelines include rules that follow University-wide guidelines like plexiglass health screens, masks, the reduction of occupancy by 50% and social distancing throughout the facility. While also covering specific library rules, like the use of ACT cards to access facilities, the quarantine of paper-based materials before re-shelving and more. 

Though there are plans in place, Pearce noted that there would be a learning curve. 

“We hope this semester goes well for everybody,” Pearce said. “Obviously, there are no guarantees for any of that; it’s all up to whether or not we can all sort of follow the guidelines and the rules that are universally accepted. Thankfully, a lot of people were working on this, and hopefully, it comes off flawlessly. I anticipate there will be hiccups along the way, but we are hopeful for the best.” 

He asked that students be patient and aware of the new realities that we are all adapting to because while things are changing, the library resources and services are still available. 

“As long as students can adhere to the social distancing guidelines and policies that are in place, there’s nothing really in my mind that would prevent them from being able to accomplish all [their] goals,” Pearce said. 

Whether it is a student that always uses the library or one who rarely uses it, Pearce said they are here to serve the UA community and are confident in their ability to accomodate the research needs of the University.

“We are here for them wherever they are,” he said. 

While they are excited to serve and provide as normal an experience as they can,even in these abnormal times, they can’t do it without the students’ help. 

“The driving force behind all of it, all the plans, all the resources that have been expended, all the time and effort that has gone into preparing an environment that will hopefully hold up in a significant period of time … It all crumbles if we don’t have student help in terms of the distancing and the masks and the patience,” Pearce said. “We need [students’] help to succeed.” 

He said students could help by offering up their patience, adhering to social distancing guidelines and taking care of themselves. 

“We’re all in this together,” Pearce said. “We’re right here with them.”  


Bruce McVeagh, the resident district manager for Bama Dining and Kristina Patridge, the director of university dining services, both expressed the same sentiment as Pearce.  

Patridge said students could help them by visiting their facilities and adhering to the social distancing guidelines. 

“We’re one of the few places on campus where you can take off your mask, you can sit down and enjoy a meal together,” Partridge said. “But it has to be appropriately spaced out, and the students are completely ignoring our guidance.”

Patridge said they are happy to serve students. Still, the disregard for the regulations has put a toll on the management. 

“They’re trying to provide nutritious, delicious food and provide an opportunity for some community building because that’s what we are we’re hospitality,” Patridge said. “You know, we want to welcome people in, but we’ve been asked to toe the line with this social distancing.”

While creating their guidelines, McVeagh said they searched for the best practices and found what would best work for a large campus like UA. 

Once they had the framework for their guidelines, Patridge said it began to evolve through input from their peers and experience. 

Along with university-wide guidelines, Bama Dining has been working diligently to ensure that both residential and retail dining facilities are safe and efficient. 

McVeagh said the biggest difference for them has been flipping the high volume dining halls. Self-service stations have been eliminated, yet there will still be opportunities for students to customize menu items. Now, all locations will offer optimized to-go options. They have also included directional signage, individual disposable cutlery kits and reduced seating. 

“If the students like The University of Alabama and they love this institution like we do, and they want to stay all semester, it’s imperative that they do these things because if we have an outbreak, a serious outbreak, if it gets to be crazy, I can’t tell you that they won’t pull the plug and we will all go home then,” McVeagh said. “Let’s be part of the solution and not the problem.”