UT-Austin course materials, library resources to be available largely online

Anna Canizales

The Perry-Castañeda Library opened Thursday with limited capacity and safety measures in place to enforce social distancing and will continue to provide resources largely online.

All other libraries on campus remain closed, and students will not be able to go inside those libraries and browse for books. Instead, students will have to request books online and pick them up at the front desk of the PCL, said Carolyn Cunningham, head of collection development for UT Libraries.

“The (PCL) is going to look a little different right now,” Cunningham said. “As always, we provide e-books, electronic journals and streaming media for online use. I don’t think people always know that they can ask for things. If we don’t own (a book or article), we will try to buy it or borrow it.”

Associate history professor Aaron O’Connell said he had to adjust the course materials and assignments for his seminars this semester, which rely heavily on library access. 

“Normally … I would say (to my students), ‘Go to the library, check out at least 10 to 20 books that you think will be useful on this topic,’” O’Connell said. “We can’t do that now. I’ve had to do a lot more researching into online databases and digital archives and fully online books that are on the shared subject matter of the (seminar).”

Cunningham said the PCL will not let people in after it reaches a maximum capacity of 400, and students and faculty will scan their ID cards when entering to keep track of how many people are inside. She said the number of people inside will be displayed on a monitor inside the library and online

UT Libraries is also expanding conversations with faculty about textbook affordability, Cunningham said.

“I hope that this is a push toward faculty finding more low- or no-cost options for their students,” Cunningham said. “Librarians are really good at finding that kind of thing, so if instructors need help, they can always ask the library. (Finding books will) just have to have a little bit more of an online component.”

Computer science senior Ben Carter said all of the course materials for his classes are fully online and free, and his biggest concern is communication with professors.

“All of my (College of Natural Sciences) classes have been that way — all the course materials were online and free anyway,” Carter said. “I expect (communication to be difficult), but the degree to which it’s strenuous I’m not sure. I do expect my professors to be diligent about it, especially since they’ve had time to prepare.”

O’Connell said the content of his classes will remain the same, but students will not get to collaborate in person in the same ways.

“We’re doing the best we can, but without an actual community in-person classroom, you’re going to lose a big part of that experience,” O’Connell said. “It’s just something we have to chalk up to (COVID-19) … get through (it) and return to what we know works best, which is in person.”