The University of Sheffield has confirmed that Western Bank Library and the Information Commons will be open for pre-booked study between 9.30am and 9.30pm from Monday to Friday, alongside re-opening between 9.30am and 4.30pm on weekends from Saturday 28 November. 

The move aims to ease pressure on library services, which have become increasingly busy in recent weeks with students battling for space to complete mid-term assignments amidst national lockdown restrictions. 

However it’s understood the Diamond will remain closed for independent study and that students remaining in Sheffield for the Christmas break will have limited access to facilities from 18 December, with Western Bank Library due to close and the IC only open on weekdays between 9.30am and 4.:30pm until 3 January at the earliest. 

Emily Evans, a third year English Language and Literature student, told Forge Press it is“simply not possible to find a library slot available for the following day” with the current provisions.

She said: “It’s got to be 48 hours prior, and knowing whether you need to go to the library that far in advance is next level planning.

“I can’t bear to think what it’s going to be like during exam season.” 

Other students have suggested simply extending opening hours in a limited fashion won’t necessarily fix the problem. 

Fred Baker, a Politics and International Relations student said he was pleased to see the SU maintaining some great study spaces but that he was “pretty spontaneous” with his work so that “booking slots at the library feels strange”. 

He also added that the rules around taking out books hadn’t been clear to him and many of his classmates for the duration of the semester. 

Physical library shelves are currently inaccessible and, according to the University website, book borrowing is currently reserved for students with “research needs”. 

For James Turrell, an MA Librarianship student, the loss of physicality has proved a substantial problem. 

He told Forge Press:“At its heart the library is about things; books, DVDS, journals, newspapers and even sheet music. Under the current rules, there can be no borrowing of physical resources or even browsing of the shelves.

“Studying on paper and studying on screen are vastly different experiences. 

He added: “For me, the biggest loss from these Covid measures is the loss of serendipity. The feeling of browsing the shelves looking for nothing particular and coming across the perfect book for your essay or finding a film you’ve always meant to watch but never got around to. 

“The zombie library system we currently have has taken something fundamental away from the university experience, one which may take us a long time to get back.”

A spokesperson for the University said: “The health and safety of our students and staff is always our number one priority, so throughout the pandemic we have focused on providing a high-quality library experience online. This way, students are able to access content and resources 24 hours a day and we are able to support the largest number of students at any one time.

“We realise students having access to study spaces is really important however, so the library has been working hard to safely increase staff numbers.” 

 “As well as the Information Commons and Western Bank library facilities, students are able to book study space at a wide range of locations around campus, including various campus buildings such as the Hadfield building and Bartolome House, Inox Dine, within the Students’ Union and study/social spaces for residents at multiple student accommodation locations. To help keep students safe, we ask them to book a study slot to access spaces before arriving at their chosen location.

“We will continue to review study space availability in light of student demand, while doing all we can to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.”

Image: Hannah Ahmed

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