Coronavirus (COVID-19): Libraries-specific issues

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We look forward to serving you this fall! The University Libraries has reopened all seven campus locations as of August 17, 2020.  Due to COVID-19, our campus libraries’ hours and services have changed. CHECK HERE FOR NEW HOURS. Also, please note that you must have an upgraded, valid Iowa One Card or UI Health Care Badge to swipe into Main, Hardin, and Sciences libraries. Please check each library’s website for additional details on services and procedures.

We are taking a careful, public-health-informed approach to reopening our facilities. Our plans are in full compliance with state and university guidelines designed to keep staff and campus community safe. Phased reopening has begun with limited hours and services.

In the meantime, please keep in mind that many library services have continued without interruption during the entire COVID-19 pandemic, including scanning and digitization for course and research support, delivery, and one-on-one online assistance. Please check back for more information on library facility hours, in-person and online services, and safety protocols.

When and how will onsite library services be restarted?

This fall, library services will resume in phases. To begin the semester, the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, the Main Library, and the Sciences Library will allow building access only to University of Iowa members with an upgraded, valid Iowa One Card or UI Health Care Badge. Also, all campus libraries will have shorter hours, closed book stacks, and some study areas will be unavailable.

These measures allow for appropriate quarantine of returned materials, reduce concerns about cleaning, and support social distancing due to COVID-19. Access will vary by location. For example, the Music Library and Art Library will limit occupancy by restricting access to service desks only. At the Main Library, access to the fourth and fifth floors will be limited to staff only, thus reducing impact on custodians.

In addition to limiting the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the facility, closed stacks keep the Libraries in compliance with copyright agreements with HathiTrust Emergency Access Service (ETAS), which supplies emergency online access to a large portion of our collection. The ETAS service gives the Libraries access to nearly 50% of its print volumes. Find step-by-step access instructions for HathiTrust here. The ETAS service can remain available only while our stacks are closed.

Users can still borrow books by requesting book retrieval from the stacks at any campus library. Users are encouraged to request books in advance through Infohawk+. After requesting a book, users can choose from several ways to get the book. Faculty and staff can opt for delivery to campus offices. All borrowers, including community members, can request delivery by mail. Materials borrowed from the Main Library’s collections can be picked up through a contactless service at the south entrance of the Main Library. Procedures vary by location; please check with your campus library for instructions.

As the semester unfolds, the Libraries will continue to monitor the situation. When deemed safe, the Libraries will consider extending hours and opening stacks for browsing.

To comply with state and university public health guidance, and for the safety of library staff and patrons, we will offer services with the fewest possible library staff onsite, supported by other staff working via remote. As a result, requests may take longer than normal.

What precautions are you taking to protect library users and staff and minimize risk of infection?

The safety of library staff and patrons is our highest priority. The university’s Facilities Management division has upgraded applicable HVAC units with MERV-13 filtration. High touch areas in our buildings, such as elevator buttons, handrails, and door knobs, are disinfected daily. Libraries staff have prepared our spaces with the following measures:

  • reducing capacity in smaller spaces. Where possible, the Libraries is reducing capacity by 50%, in compliance with university safety recommendations
  • closing our book stacks to help with safe social distancing
  • offering pickup services for books and other circulating items
  • with the aid of signage, we are establishing safer patterns of movement in our passageways, hallways, stairways, and elevators
  • installing plexiglass panels at service desks and other areas of frequent face-to-face interactions
  • sanitizing and disinfecting workspaces and equipment
  • limiting food and drink consumption to designated spaces in our libraries where safe social distances can be maintained
  • providing self-serve sanitizing wipes for library users to clean high-touch surfaces such as computer keyboards, mice, and scanners
  • quarantining returned library materials in accordance with current guidelines to minimize the risk of viral spread through book and other collection surfaces
  • individual and group instruction will generally be provided online. Individual and group instruction may be offered in person only when appropriate safety measures can be implemented

Library staff will follow all state and university public health guidelines including:

  • maintaining social distance
  • wearing face coverings
  • reducing the number of library staff in our buildings by continuing remote work schedules
  • hand washing frequently
  • self-monitoring for symptoms

When I visit a campus library, what can I expect?

  • Please enter at the designated location. For example, the Main Library’s only entrance is through the north side (by the Communication Studies building). The only exit will be through the east side (Madison Street). The south entrance/exit will be closed except for contactless pick-up. Access to other campus libraries may also change. Please check online or consult your campus library for details.
  • Please bring your Iowa One Card or UI Health Care Badge to swipe into the Main, Hardin, and Sciences Libraries.
  • Everyone must wear a face covering in campus buildings.
  • We’ll be opening in phases, beginning with closed book stacks. Books will be available through contactless pickup, mail, and delivery services. 
  • Some spaces are available to staff only. 
    • Physical collections (book stacks, reserve materials, journals) in all libraries are closed.
    • The 4th and 5th floors of the Main Library are closed. (Government Documents will be available by appointment.)
    • At the Music Library and Art Library, only the service desk are open.
  • As is the case everywhere on campus, signage directs the safest ways to navigate inside the buildings in order to maintain safe social distance in hallways, elevators, and other spaces.
  • Some spaces normally used for study are unavailable. Instead, they have been repurposed as consultation spaces and offices.
  • To maintain safe distance, there is reduced seating in study and computer areas. 
  • Disinfecting wipes are available for use at computers and touch screens. Signs direct library users to clean surfaces after use. 
  • Bathroom signage helps users stay safe with some stalls and sinks marked as unavailable to promote safe distance. 
  • Food and drink consumption is limited to designated spaces in our libraries where safe social distances can be maintained.
  • Group room space is greatly reduced or reconfigured for single users.

What services are available to members of the community?

  • Community borrowers are still able to access books and materials from the Main Library through contactless pickup and delivery by mail.
  • Community members can seek help from librarians via our online chat service.

Course reserves—How can instructors/faculty make a digitization request?

For digitization related to courses, instructors may submit requests through their campus library’s course reserve service. While we will make every effort to secure digital access or digitize materials for courses, copyright law limits how much we can copy in some circumstances. 

How can researchers make a digitization request?

For digitization related to research, contact your subject librarian to see if we can help you identify an existing digital copy. For materials that are not available digitally, we are developing a plan for a temporary service to digitize research-related requests and will communicate in the coming weeks how to submit requests.

Will I be able to get physical books and materials from the library?

Delivery to home and offices continues as normal. In addition, we offer a contactless pick-up service for Main Library materials. We also encourage you to check HathiTrust for an e-copy of the book you need. Find step-by-step instructions here.

Will I be able to check out items such as laptops, power adapters, electronics, and tools?

During the first phase of reopening the Libraries, checkout for these items will vary by location. We are actively working on plans to provide these materials through a contactless pick-up process. More details will be available in the coming weeks. 

When I pick up my book, should I clean or disinfect it?

No! Please don’t clean or disinfect library materials. It may damage the materials, and it’s not necessary, given the precautions our staff will be taking. 

What will be the average wait time for a physical book or digital scan?

For journal and book chapter scans, we anticipate it will typically take 2-3 days to process most requests. For physical book requests, the wait time will typically be 5-7 days for books delivered via mail and 1-2 days for books picked up on campus. We will add staff and increase service levels as public health guidance allows. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience with delays or inconvenience. 

When will I be able to request books from Interlibrary Loan (ILL), UBorrow, and FastTRAC again?

Physical Interlibrary Loan (ILL) will not resume until the University of Iowa and at least a few of our partner libraries are able to begin lending materials beyond our home institutions. Throughout the campus shutdown, we have continued to accept and fill ILL requests for scanned articles and book chapters based on availability. As of Aug. 24, several BTAA partner libraries began to offer ILL services through UBorrow. Every day, more libraries are reopening and able to process ILL requests for books. The UI Libraries will accept ILL requests, but please be patient as these services are still not at full capacity and it may take longer for a book to arrive.                         

Can I recall books that are checked out?

No. At this time, we are not recalling books, because so many library users are away from campus and unable to return items to campus. If you need a book that is currently checked out, please contact your library liaison to submit a purchase request, and we will try to obtain an electronic copy for you. You can also use Interlibrary Loan to request a copy from another library.

Can you buy a book at my request?

You may request the purchase of electronic materials to support your research and teaching by contacting your library liaison. However, we have temporarily stopped new acquisitions of many other materials, including print books.

I cannot travel domestically or internationally to work with the research materials that I need at another archive or library. Is there anything you can do to help?

As a general rule, our library staff do not have any special influence with other archives and libraries. We recommend that you contact the other institution directly to explain your research needs and request their assistance. However, our subject expert librarians and archivists may be able to help you identify related or alternative materials in the UI Libraries collections or licensed resources, or collections available in digital form at other institutions. 

I have overdue library materials and/or interlibrary loan materials. Where should I return them?

Book drops are available at some campus libraries. For expanded options, please check our page on how to return materials

Questions? Visit 

For more general questions about steps the University of Iowa is taking to combat COVID-19, please see


Users can access resources by following these instructions: 

  • UI faculty and staff can prepare by setting up off-campus access to work computers. Follow this checklist for working off campus. 
  • All users with a HawkID can access the following e-resources: e-booksonline articlesstreaming videos, and e-images. It may be necessary to follow these instructions for making links work from off campus 
  • All users with a HawkID can still request online delivery of print articles and print book chapters through the Article Delivery Service if access through HathiTrust is not available.
  • Physical books can be shipped to library users with a HawkID.
  • Interlibrary borrowing is affected by library closures and other efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 virus. Physical delivery of books/items through Interlibrary Loan will be delayed or cancelled. Electronic delivery will be substituted when an online version is available. If you have questions, please contact your library liaison, who can help you get access to the items you need in this rapidly changing situation.
  • For short consultations, use the Libraries’ online chat at 
  • For complex research assistance, call or email the appropriate campus library. You can also send a direct email to the library liaison who works with your academic field of study. 


  • The Libraries have automatically extended loan times. Materials currently checked out to:
    • Faculty and P&S staff are now due June 7, 2021.
    • Graduate and Undergraduate Honors Students are now due June 28, 2021.
    • Undergraduate Students and Community Borrowers are now due September 1, 2020.
  • Please log on to  your library account to check due dates for your loans at


Before returning library items, please observe the following safe-handling practices:

  • Do not clean, disinfect, or microwave library materials before returning them. For example, do not use water, Lysol, or any other cleaner on materials.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before handling library materials for return.

Please note: to ensure staff and user safety, we are quarantining all library materials upon return. This will result in items taking longer than usual to show as returned on your account. If you have any questions, please contact

If you are in the Iowa City area, please return books (including interlibrary loan) at the Main Library drop box (125 W. Washington Street, return slots available at both the south and north entrances), the Hardin Library drop box (600 Newton Road, next to the entrance that faces University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics).

If you have tools or electronic equipment, you should schedule a drop off (see list of libraries below) or ship the materials (see shipping addresses below) to ensure the security and safety of the items.

  • Business Library: Schedule a time by emailing
  • Engineering Library: Schedule a time by emailing
  • Hardin Library: Please use the drop box for books and DVDs. Please return non-book items to the service desk.
  • Main Library: Please use the drop box for books and DVDs. Schedule a time for non-book items by emailing
  • Music Library: Please use the hallway book drop on the first floor of the Voxman Music Building.
  • Sciences Library: UI users (students, faculty, and staff) can enter the facility to return materials. Non-UI users should use the book drop or schedule a time by emailing

If you are away from the Iowa City area, you can return books (including interlibrary loan) by checking the UI Libraries’ book return map for drop-off locations in the state and region.

If you don’t see a drop-off location near you, or if you live further than 30 miles from Iowa City, you can request a UPS shipping label to return books.

If you are printing your own label to ship via UPS or FedEx, use this address:

University of Iowa Libraries
Interlibrary Loan Dept.
125 W. Washington St.
Iowa City, IA  52242-1420

If you are printing your own label to ship via the U.S. Postal Service, use this address:

University of Iowa Libraries
Interlibrary Loan Dept.
100 Main Library
Iowa City, IA  52242-1420


All UI campus libraries and several library units are offering virtual hours. Get the complete list.


Effective immediately and until normal access to physical collections resumes, students, faculty, and staff at the University of Iowa have online access to a large portion of the University Libraries’ print collection—volumes that would have been difficult to access from library facilities that are closed due to COVID-19.

Reading access to digitized copies of print volumes has been granted to the UI by HathiTrust, a not-for-profit, collaborative digital library that holds over 17 million volumes digitized from academic and research libraries. The UI Libraries, in collaboration with the Big Ten Academic Alliance, is a founding member of HathiTrust.

This means that any books available through HathiTrust that are also in the UI Libraries’ collections will be available online without the additional step of requesting a digital scan. HathiTrust’s online collection contains nearly half of the UI Libraries’ book collection for an additional 1.6 million volumes now available online for our campus community.

To take advantage of this resource:

  1. Visit HathiTrust and click the yellow “LOG IN” button.
  2. Select “University of Iowa” and log with your HawkID.
  3. Use the site to locate the item you wish to view.
  4. Click on the Temporary Access link at the bottom of the record to check out the item through the Emergency Temporary Access Service.
  5. You will have 60 minutes of access to the book during any session. If you remain active in the book during any session, access time will be extended.
  6. Please note that it is not possible to download books from HathiTrust. This is to protect authors’ rights.

HathiTrust has provided detailed instructions, including how to use the service on a phone or tablet.

For help with access to these and other digital resources at the UI Libraries, please contact us.


Laptop checkout – No laptops are available for checkout from the UI Libraries at this time. The Dean of Students is coordinating student computer needs. Students with technology questions related to online classes should consult the Keep Learning at Iowa website.  The ITS Help Desk is still open for business; students contact the ITS Help Desk for individual help with tech questions. 


Library liaisons will work with directly with faculty to accommodate faculty requests for library instruction for online classes. To request assistance, faculty can call or email their library liaison and set up a time to discuss the best way to deliver library instruction to a specific class.


E-delivery for journal articles or book chapters—If you need a PDF of a journal article or book chapter, please submit a request through interlibrary loan. If you need instructions on how to upload a PDF to ICON, visit this link. For general information on streaming videos, visit this link.

Online video – If you need a video to be placed online, visit or contact Main Library Course Reserve staff at


For faculty, staff, and TAs — Distance and Online Education, ITS/Office of Teaching Learning and Technology, and the Libraries are working together to provide support at the following website:  Critical information for teaching online is available under the following categories: 

  • Technology Solutions  
  • Communicating with and Supporting Students 
  • Delivering the Course 
  • Facilitating Activities and Assignments 

For students — The UI has developed this website to help students with online learning:  The site has lots of helpful information on how to prepare for online learning, access your course content online, and complete activities and assignments online.  It also features study skill and time-management resources that may be helpful. 


General inquiries: 

Other inquiries: university librarian John-Culshaw@uiowa.eduassociate university librarians and