A year in the library

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Front of the Cowan-Blakley Library. Photo by Mary Kate Leonard

The Cowen-Blakely Memorial Library, a place to find peace and quiet amidst an everturning world, is an essential piece to the University of Dallas. Every day it is used by many students either looking to check out books or seeking for quiet study sanctuaries. 

Within the last year, the library has gone through some bittersweet changes but still continues to thrive. Transitioning from the coronavirus era into a mandate-free world was initially a lot of work, but made things simpler at the end of the day. The library also went through some staff changes.

With COVID-19 slowly disappearing, restrictions in the library also started to dissipate.

Reina Williams, associate dean and director of the library, said, “You’re no longer required to wear masks. Social distancing is no longer required in the library.”

Because of the school’s dissipating mandates, the library’s operations are slowly coming back to pre-COVID-19 era. This initial change created work that the library had to deal with, but in the end made things a lot simpler.

Williams explained that stickers and signs were removed from furniture, tables and doors around the library. Additionally, the stairwells are back to normal operation, instead of going up and one for going down. The study rooms are open, as well as the balcony for student use. The BRIC and computer lab had limited seating, but more computers and seats were added to fill it up.

Operations also have become more efficient and have made it easier for the librarians to track the books.

Daniel Henriquez, a senior student employee for the library with a philosophy major and a theology concentration said, “Last year we had a self-checkout option. You could check out your books by yourself, and just walk out of the library. This year we took that away because there were less cases, and it’s easier for us to keep track of the books if we run through the service desk.”

With operations moving away from COVID-19 restrictions, the library was able to handle the large number of students coming in every day. 

Williams said: “With the influx of a large incoming freshman class, it was really busy the first week of school. Some days we would have 500+, 600+ students visiting the library. Almost every book was checked out of the Groundhog Library. We’ve hired several students, many of them freshmen, so right now we have 47 student workers working in the library.”

The vibes in the library are much more open and relaxed.

Williams stated, “I think it makes people feel more welcomed, and the library more open if we don’t have as many policies in place.”

Sadly, the library had to say goodbye to two librarians who worked for UD for many years, and decided it was best to retire in the summer.  

Williams said, “Lely White, our cataloging librarian, who had been here I think almost 40 years, and Susan Vaughan, our serials librarian, was here for 20 years.”

The library also had two other librarians resign, opening up space for needed librarians.

Although the library has gone through many operational changes within the last year, it continues to serve students as best as possible.

When asked about how he likes working in the library, Henriquez said, “I’ve been working there since freshman year. I’m a senior now, so I really enjoy working in the library. There are times when I can sit down and do homework, but then there are other times where they need us to keep working, so it’s a good mix, a good balance.”

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