Campus dining, library and book store reopen with new safety precautions and restrictions

Use of campus facilities is restricted to current students and employees


Lilah Kimble

Leyburn Library reopened in August with modified hours.

Henry Barden

Determining how best to confront the coronavirus  pandemic presented a staggering task for Washington and Lee University’s campus services. 

The University Store, Leyburn Library, and Dining Services each grappled with the project of reopening and emerged with the plans of attack that have varied significantly from previous years.

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  • Students ordered books online and picked them up from the University Store, instead of shopping in-person.

  • Café 77 has is open for takeout only.

  • Dining services locations have been outfitted with safety equipment and signage to facilitate social distancing.

  • Leyburn Library reopened in August with modified hours.

  • Masks are required in Leyburn Library.

  • Campus buildings have been outfitted with hand sanitizer stations.

  • Access to campus facilities is restricted to students and employees.

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K.C. Schaefer, executive director of auxiliary services, said that the biggest change the University Store had to make over the summer was to reinvent the textbook buying process for an online platform.

 “As we were preparing to get ready for fall, it quickly became apparent that kind of doing textbook purchasing in the same way we always had in the past wouldn’t allow for adequate social distancing, and just wouldn’t create a good environment,” he said. 

 While the existing software the store used for other products supported this transition, the store still had to figure out how to handle a fast-approaching volume of 2,000 to 3,000  online orders, and help incoming first-year students successfully receive their textbooks; they usually don’t know the specific titles until days before classes start. “That was definitely quite a challenge, but it’s something I’m really proud of our staff for handling well,” Schaefer said. 

  The University Store also put into place physical distancing protocols, including rearranging some merchandise to facilitate better traffic flow, creating a one-way lane of store traffic with one entrance and exit, modifying the cash register line and installing plexiglass shields at the registers, introducing new cleaning protocols, and more. 

  University Librarian KT Vaughan and As

sociate Professor and Head of Access Services Elizabeth Teaff faced a daunting challenge of safely reopening the library. Teaff said that the greatest departure from regular library operations this year was reducing library hours. 

 “I think our reduction in hours is the greatest change since we’re known for and pride ourselves on our 24/7 operations during the academic year,” Teaff said. 

 The library met with different organizations and consortiums to aid its decision-making on which changes to implement. They also consulted  scientific research to answer questions as specific as how long the virus lived on the outside versus on the inside of books. 

Changes include the placement of hand sanitizer jugs around the building, the rearrangement of cubicles so they canaccess the ventilation necessary for a mask-less workday, to scheduled electrostatic library cleanings. 

The library was able to open on Aug. 17, sooner than many other libraries in the commonwealth.Many people began using their services right away. “I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that took advantage of our services, I mean we stayed busy,” Teaff said. 

The library continues to provide many of its services online. Classes involving or taught by library staff can be taught via Zoo

m, and one-on-one consultations remain possible through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. 

 The library adopts such a can-do attitude towards being as available as it can for the community because at the end of the day, the library wants to be the best resource it can be. “What the library wants to be is the home away from home for students,” Vaughan said. “And wear your mask, so we can do it sooner.”

 Jen Hickey, Director of Dining Services, also helped to implement widespread changes to regular protocol to keep students and staff safe. 

“Two things stand out to me as significant adjustments,” Hickey said. “The first is ensuring all of our venues are as touchless as possible. We are serving all items including cutlery and condiments. The second is ensuring we are maintaining social distancing and not exceeding our capacity restrictions in

any unit.” 

 Dining Services also had to account for VDH guidelines and the unpredictability of K-12 school scheduling in its effort to supply enough staff to each unit. E. Café is open only five days per week as opposed to the usual six, and Fireside is closed for dinner because Foodside is open. Hickey said the quest to return to normal hours is contingent upon acquiring new staff and the continued well-being of current staff.

 Dining Services maintains the cleaning standards it did before, but now cleans more frequently. “We have specific staff assigned in all units to ensure this is happening,” Hickey said. Staff utilize gloves and masks at all times, in addition to performing the daily attestation on site and checking temperatures before clocking in. 

 Hickey asks that students comply with the same safety regulations the University has put into place: wearing masks at all times besides when actively eating, keeping masks on during post-meal conversation, limiting one student to one blue floor dot (to both maintain social distancing and not exceed capacity regulations), and to not move chairs around to form new seating designs, as the arrangements put into place comply with VDH guidelines for social distancing.

 Washington and Lee facilities overcame tremendous obstacles to successfully and safely reopen, and thanks to their efforts, students are free to enjoy them in a safe way. Now they count on us to help keep their facilities open.