Library steps up efforts to enforce mask policy

Students in the library will have to wear face masks or face revoked BuzzCard access to the building. // Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

The Institute’s library system has recently decided to begin enforcing its COVID-19 mask wearing policy inside all library facilities, including Crosland Tower, Price Gilbert Memorial Library and the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons. The library system’s mask wearing policy is not new.

Last fall, Tech introduced a mask mandate in all buildings to combat COVID on campus. This policy followed student demand over the summer, alongside a USG system wide requirement that masks be made necessary at all times on USG campuses.

“The mask policy is not just a library or Georgia Tech policy, it’s a USG policy,” said Shandra Jones, public services lead.

Previously, the library had not been enforcing this policy and had instead opted to remind students who were not following the guidelines to try and do their part to bring the pandemic to an end. This semester, however, the library system has gone a step further and has begun enforcing mask wearing as part of a three-tiered punishment system.

“The biggest issue that we were facing is that numbers on campus were rising, and we attributed library cases to [students] becoming lax in the COVID policies,” Jones said.

In the new system, student ambassadors patrol the library to ensure mask wearing and social distancing is being practiced by everyone at the library. When students are caught without a mask on their first offense, their BuzzCard information is recorded, and they are asked to put on a face covering. An email is then sent from the Dean of Libraries to the student reinforcing the policies and warning the student to abide by the Institute’s policy.

On the second offense, the student is reported directly to the Office of Student Integrity and charged with a non-academic disciplinary violation.

On the third offense, the student will be asked to leave the library and will have their BuzzCard access revoked for the rest of the semester, without possibility of being reinstated. The student is also once again reported to the Office of Student Integrity with a second non-academic disciplinary violation placed on their record.

While these punishments may seem harsh, the library staff has explained that they do not wish to punish students and are not interested in ruthlessly enforcing the penalties. Instead, they have introduced them as a way to ensure that students are more willing to wear masks at all times in the library.

“The goal is to not be punitive. We really just want people to wear their masks, [and] the only way we can enforce it is if there are some negative consequences.” said Donna Riley, executive assistant to the Dean of Libraries, Leslie Sharp.

The library’s goal is to simply ensure that the virus doesn’t have an outlet to spread in the close proximities students often find themselves in when studying at the Institute’s library spaces. As of Jan. 21, the library has not yet had to revoke BuzzCard access, and at the most, has simply had to remind students to keep their masks on. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that this precedent will change anytime soon, or that students should be worried about the effects this policy will have on their favorite campus study spaces.