The main library of UG in pandemic

We borrow fewer books and use the reading room less frequently. Instead, we make more use of the new electronic possibilities - such is the noticeable result of the pandemic among the readers of the Main Library of the University of Gdańsk. Traditional contact with volumes has taken on new forms. Book-O-Mats and digitised collections will remain in use forever.

The BUG changes are immediately visible on the outside. In front of the main entrance, there is a new device - a Book-O-Mat. Thanks to this device, it is possible to collect ordered books and return them after reading without interacting with the staff. The device is also used in other libraries in Poland. - 'We've thought about installing it before,' says Grażyna Jaśkowiak, director of BUG. - The situation with the pandemic only accelerated our decision.

The trial run of the Book-O-Mat has proved very successful. Despite its small capacity, it is popular with readers. The device worked faultlessly, even in freezing weather.

With the changed and limited opening hours of the library (during the week from 8.00 to 18.00), the book machine allows you to use the library collection also outside opening hours. - 'This is a great convenience. You can adjust the pickup or return to the hours that suit you,' says a student from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Gdańsk, who has used the device once before.

The library plans to expand this borrowing and return possibility. According to director Grażyna Jaśkowiak, further purchases of equipment are planned, thanks to which 64 collection boxes will be created, while at present there are 16.

Books in quarantine

As soon as you enter the BUG you will see designated paths for people returning and ordering books. Since the pandemic, direct reader contact and personal ordering are no longer possible. Staff is at a distance and orders and returns are only processed electronically for any time convenient to the reader.

Floors I, II and III are still inaccessible to readers. There, before the pandemic, it was possible to search the shelves for selected items on your own. Today it is impossible. - 'We are afraid that the virus will spread to the books,' explains the library director. Therefore, all books that are returned to the library are put in a three-day quarantine. As it turns out, paper requires a slightly shorter period of isolation, on the foil the viruses can stay a little longer.

The applied contact restriction rules and the new work organisation probably proved effective against transmission of the covid-19 virus. 'During the year, only four infections occurred among our employees,' informs director Grażyna Jaśkowiak. - 'All infections came from outside BUG, from domestic sources. As the employees were not at work at that time, we did not even introduce quarantine.' Let us add that 160 people work in BUG. As the director emphasises, effective protection is due to the employees: - It is the great generosity of the team at that time. 'It was not easy, but they did a great job.'

The reading room in its former form has been closed since spring. A small reading room was prepared, in which sanitary rules and distances between tables are respected. - 'We assumed that the demand would be higher,' explains director Jaśkowiak. - 'However, it turned out that the current 22 seats are enough. Among the facilities, there is also the possibility to book a place in advance, but it is rarely used.'

Instead of photocopying

There are far fewer readers and borrowers in BUG. The form of using the collections has also changed. (Information about the new forms is available on the BUG website under the heading: News).

The library's new, secure and contactless capabilities are becoming more popular. - 'Our offer to scan and send electronically ordered excerpts or articles has exceeded our expectations,' says Director Jaśkowiak. It is estimated that the interest in using electronic sources has increased by up to 70 per cent. Electronic databases of periodicals are the most sought-after. Digitised books without copyright restrictions, usually 70 years old, are of interest to humanists. Science faculties benefit from new databases and up-to-date information.

Among the new offers facilitating access to library resources is the possibility of ordering teaching packages. This form was born out of the situation of remote education. It is mainly used by academic teachers when preparing materials for classes.

Pandemic time has also made e-book readers popular. All 80 are in use. Also, more audiobooks and e-books are being borrowed.

The photocopy service, which for years had been useful for copying excerpts from works and had been steadily losing readers' interest, suspended its operations and is unlikely to continue functioning due to the pandemic and new electronic technologies. Director Grażyna Jaśkowiak, on the other hand, believes that some of the new electronic facilities will probably continue to be used after the end of the pandemic.

Ewa Cichocka/Press Office of University of Gdańsk