by Natalie St. Denis
On March 5, Feinberg Library began permitting students to bring drinks in spill-proof cups. This is a shift in the no food, no drink rule Feinberg had implemented since the start of the pandemic. Although food is still not allowed, students can now bring in their own drinks with them while still remaining cautious.
The Chief Information Officer and Dean of Library and Information Technology Services Holly Heller-Ross said there were “numerous factors” that prompted the change in rules. Her supervisors were noticing student employees would get dehydrated during their multiple hour shifts.
Additionally, students were feeling frustrated that other parts of campus were beginning to ease restrictions. Spring athletic teams were given permission to have their seasons, volunteers at the COVID-19 testing site on campus were seen sipping drinks, and campus staff can also be seen with drinks during meetings. Yet, the library was still strict with their policies.
“The dean carefully considered the students’ requests and checked with the staff in the library to make sure that they were comfortable with easing those restrictions,” Instruction and Reference Services coordinator Elin O’Hara said.
The new change was looked over and approved by the Operational Continuity Health and Safety committee.
“It was time. New York State is loosening up some of the regulations. More people are allowed into restaurants, and sports are being allowed more.”
Unit Coordinator for Classroom and Customer Support Services Carol Bleaux said. “So, it was time for us to do the same thing,”
The library is ensuring patrons will still be safe during the pandemic even with regulations beginning to loosen.
“We are still adhering to all the safety protocols around distancing, around cleaning, masking whenever you’re not just taking a quick sip and we’re also still doing our monitoring,” Heller-Ross said.
Monitoring consists of a regular sweep around the building to make sure students don’t need help, that there are no technology issues and a population count is also done to guide how the library should be structured based on the number of people utilizing it.
“At the same time that we’re doing those regular things, we are looking for the COVID-19 safety protocols and making sure people are adhering to them. We will continue doing this and I do believe that we will be successful in allowing people to have drinks without increasing their risk of spreading or catching disease,” Heller-Ross said.
Heller-Ross also mentioned that because SUNY Plattsburgh has increased testing for COVID-19 this semester, the campus environment is safer overall. However, O’Hara also wanted to alleviate any frustrations that students were experiencing.
“Particularly those students who want access to a quiet location where they can complete their coursework and not having access to a drink while they’re doing that has been incredibly frustrating to some.” O’Hara said. “This was our way of being responsibly responsive to students’ needs.”
At this time, only drinks are permitted and not food. The Feinberg Library is looking forward to allowing food at some point in the future.