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On July 19, the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center will no long require individuals to schedule appointments to browse the library's stacks or to use self-serve study areas. Reservable study areas also may now be booked.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

The Penn Libraries are expanding access to the Penn community and outside visitors ahead of the University’s in-person fall semester.

The Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center expanded on-site access to Penn students, faculty, and staff and outside visitors on July 19. Individuals no longer need to schedule an appointment or make a reservation to browse the library's stacks or to use self-serve study areas. Reservable study areas also may now be booked. Most other University library locations will reopen to the Penn community and visitors on August 16.

Van Pelt is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Several of the Penn Libraries, such as the Penn Museum Library, remain closed.

Associate Vice Provost and Deputy University Librarian Jon Shaw said the Penn Libraries have been undergoing a phased, “evidence-based” reopening process since November 2020. He added that the decision to expand access to the Penn Libraries over the summer was a response to an increased number of visitors as COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

While Van Pelt had approximately 1,000 during the academic semester, Shaw said the library saw 1,000 use the library this past week alone.

“There’s a real need for library access,” Shaw said. “The need for the Libraries to have both a contemplative and collaborative space on campus is really critical for the Penn community.”

The Penn Libraries will continue following the COVID-19 guidelines outlined by the University and the City of Philadelphia, Shaw said. The Penn Libraries recommend that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors, and unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.

The Penn Libraries will continue offering “hybrid support” by maintaining many of the online library resources developed as a result of the pandemic, Shaw said. The Penn Libraries’ Virtual Support page has links that allow students to communicate with librarians, access online books and video content, and use the Virtual Computer Lab — which offers the same software applications as the on-site computer labs.

“You have this entire array of options to use to interact with the library in ways that are far more robust than they ever have been before,” Shaw said.

Shaw added that the pandemic has led to the Penn Libraries discovering new ways to “refine” and “streamline” resources to better accommodate students, faculty, staff, and outside visitors in their learning and research. The Penn Libraries plan to introduce a new service called “Service Express” which would allow students to have library books and materials delivered to their College House dorm, Shaw said.

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