Ben Parker/Sun Senior Editor

Students flock to libraries –– including Olin Library –– ahead of finals.

December 7, 2021

As Finals Season Approaches, Libraries Continue Adapting to Student Needs

Print More

As students and faculty prepare to wrap up the semester, the library continues to play a central role of academic support, offering collaborative study spaces, assistance with research assignments and accessible academic resources. 

Bonna Boettcher, associate University librarian, anticipates an even busier time for the library once study days, project deadlines and finals start rolling in. To ease the process, the library continues to provide assistance in finding the best resources for papers, projects and assignments. 

This year, there are both in-person and virtual options to contact a librarian. Students and faculty can request an appointment, email, chat, phone or visit a library reference area

“24/7 spaces are available in the Uris Library (the Cocktail Lounge as usual, plus additional spaces for the rest of the semester on the gallery level), the Mann Library Lobby and the first-floor space in Ives Hall managed by Catherwood Library,” Boettcher wrote in an email to The Sun.

Starting on Dec. 8, the beginning of study period, Mann Library will expand its opening times by two hours: 8 a.m. – midnight on Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Friday, noon – 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon – midnight on Sunday. 

Additional services provided include instruction sessions and workshops for classes, contactless pickup, scanning services, Borrow Direct –– a rapid book request and delivery system enabling access to library catalogs across multiple universities — and laptop loans

But finals season isn’t the only time the library has adapted to accommodate the University’s needs.

“During spring 2020, when colleges and universities across the country moved to remote learning, many publishers opened their online inventory for emergency gratis access,” Boettcher wrote. 

Last year, as classes continued online and in hybrid modes, the library moved to providing as many online resources as possible, bolstering online services. Though campus has reopened since then, online resources have continued to remain a focus.

“Contactless pickup, which was developed to meet a need during 2020-21, was so popular that it’s now part of our regular services,” Boettcher wrote. 

One of the greatest changes to Cornell libraries this semester has been the move from limited, reserved seating back to first-come, first-serve seating. Some reservable study rooms can be booked through the LibCal app

According to Rob Kotaska, Reference Desk and Map Room Coordinator of Olin and Uris libraries, the Ask a Librarian 24/7 chat volume peaked during the previous academic year. The chat service is the library’s primary contact for help with coursework in the evenings.

“Now that we’re back on campus, we answered almost twice as many chats this fall as we did in Fall 2019. We’re very happy that students are finding us online and in-person,” Kotaska wrote. 

Since spring 2020, the chat service has shifted from relying on partner libraries in other time zones to answer questions in the evenings, overnight and weekends, to expanded local hours by Cornell library staff. They have been online nearly twice the number of hours each week to answer questions.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to help students connect with library resources, no matter if they’re in the library, off-campus, or studying abroad,” wrote Leah Dodd, co-director for research services in Olin and Uris libraries.

In the 2020-21 academic year, the library also newly implemented the Personal Librarian Program. Run in collaboration with the First Generation and Low Income Support Office, the program pairs first-year students with a library expert to help them navigate the library landscape, answering questions and providing tips and resources about the library over email.

“70% of our student participants who answered our survey last year said they felt more comfortable asking library staff for help after the program,” Selena Bryant, digital literacy librarian in Mann Library and Personal Librarian Program co-coordinator wrote.

Boettcher said the library staff often hears how helpful students find their guidance. 

“The library has always been an academic hub for the campus, helping Cornellians to effectively use and produce knowledge,” Boettcher said.