The Ralph W. Steen Library staff announced on Feb. 10 that the available seating would be limited due to continuous non-compliance of SFA’s mask policy.
The mask policy has been in effect since July 7 and is mandated in all areas of campus. However, Linda Reynolds, director at the East Texas Research Center in the library, said, “During the fall semester I spent August-October asking students to put their masks on, which they would put on and then take off after I left since I would walk by 30 minutes later and have to ask them to do it again.”
“During the spring semester the library started having a library wide announcement every hour that students needed to wear a mask for the entirety of their stay. This made no difference, only about half of the students studying would wear a mask,” said Reynolds.
The lack of compliance toward the mask policy poses a threat towards the wellbeing of everyone on campus. For this reason, complaints were often made to the University about this issue. And after receiving a complaint from Director of the Environmental Health in the Safety & Risk Management Department Dr. Jimmy Higgins, Library Director Jonathan Helmke sought to find a resolution to the issue.
Higgins and Helmke toured the facility and identified areas where improvements were needed. Believing they could make the facility safer for students, staff, and faculty, they decided on limiting the amount of available seating.
“It is our hope to provide an ideal learning environment that is pleasant for all of our patrons, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve our services. We will continue to work with the Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management department and the Covid Operations Team to make the library building safe for students, staff, and faculty,” said Helmke.
Junior history major Hunter Bailey said, “Before this week, the library was operating how it has been since the start of the Fall 2020 semester. This meant everyone was expected to wear masks and observe social distancing. I would always wear my mask while doing my work in the library. With recent policy changes, there is now very few spots to sit in the library. A large majority of the tables and chairs are blocked off and unavailable for use.”