UI Libraries and Coronavirus: Frequently Asked Questions

We have taken a careful, public-health-informed approach to welcoming members of campus back into our facilities. Our plans are in full compliance with state and university guidelines designed to keep staff and campus community safe.

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 are limited to staff only, thus reducing impact on custodians.

Special Collections and Rare Book Rooms will serve patrons in-person by appointment only for the Fall 2020 semester, starting on August 31st, 2020. This includes the following repositories: Special Collections, University Archives, Iowa Women’s Archives, Canter Rare Book Room, and John Martin Rare Book Room. Find instructions on how to make an appointment here.

The Main Library Gallery is also open for in-person visits by appointment. Find information of the current exhibit and appointment instructions here.

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.

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. Check this page for updates on library facility hours, in-person and online services, and safety protocols.

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

  • 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 Library.
  • Everyone must wear a face covering in campus buildings.
  • 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.

  • 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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

Questions? Visit lib.uiowa.edu/contact/.

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