COVID-19 Update: Library Reopening FAQ

Responses are based on current information and subject to change depending on emerging information and circumstances. This FAQ will be updated as plans are developed and implemented.

1. When and how will library services be re-started?  

Restarting library services will be a gradual process, with an initial focus on getting physical collection materials to users to support Yale teaching and research. We are finalizing plans to resume scanning and digitization of library materials, starting with general collections in Sterling Memorial Library (including Gilmore Music Library), Bass Library, and the offsite Library Shelving Facility (LSF) in Hamden, which collectively house about 10 million volumes. At the same time, we will implement a pickup service at Thain Café at Bass Library for books from the Bass and Sterling collections, including music library materials. To comply with state and university public health guidance and for the safety of staff and patrons alike, we will implement these initial services with the fewest possible library staff on-site, and no patrons will be allowed inside library spaces. Plans are still being finalized and the exact timing has not yet been determined, but services will start no sooner than June 1. We will email faculty, staff, and students with exact dates and details when services are ready to launch.

2. What precautions are you taking to protect library users and staff and minimize risk of infection?

The safety of library staff and patrons is our highest priority. Library staff will follow all state and university public health guidelines, including social distance, wearing masks, frequent handwashing, sanitizing and disinfecting of workspaces and machinery, and self-monitoring for symptoms. In addition, we will be quarantining collection materials for 36 hours between hand-offs to mitigate the spread of the virus through book and other collection surfaces.

3. When and how will library services expand beyond Sterling, Bass, and LSF?

Over time, scanning will be expanded to other library locations and collections, including scanning of special collection materials to support teaching and research. We are also looking at the logistics and feasibility of expanding the Thain Café at Bass Library book pickup service to include books from the Library Shelving Facility (LSF) and other libraries throughout campus. Additional services, such as limited in-person use of special collection reading rooms, will be added later as public health guidance and building logistics allow. The timing and sequence of expanded services remains to be determined; there may be significant delays for libraries where facility logistics limit our ability to implement social distancing and other public health guidance.

4. How will book pickup from Thain Café at Bass Library work? 

Details of the pickup process are still being finalized and will be communicated to faculty, staff, and students in the coming weeks. Our preliminary plans call for using Thain Café, adjacent to the main entrance of Bass Library as the pickup location for library materials from Bass and Sterling (including the music library). Materials will be pre-checked-out to the borrower and quarantined a minimum of 36 hours before they are made available for pickup in Thain Café. You will be notified when your materials are available for pickup, and you will be given up to two business days to pick them up.  Borrowers entering Thain Café will be required to follow all university public health guidance, including maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, and following designated traffic patterns to limit interactions. Currently, we do not know if we will be able to secure dedicated parking for this service. We will email faculty, staff, and students when the plans are finalized, and we have a launch date for the pickup service.

5. When I pick up my book, should I clean or disinfect it?

No! Please don’t clean or disinfect library materials.  It may damage the materials, and it’s not necessary given the precautions our staff will be taking. Materials requested for pickup will be placed in paper bags on carts and quarantined, untouched, for a minimum of 36 hours before the carts are rolled into the pickup area. The 36-hour quarantine is based on scientific research on how long coronavirus survives on different surface materials.

6. I had books on the hold shelf when the library buildings closed. Can I pick them up?

If you have hold items in Sterling or Bass that you still wish to check out, please email with the titles. Once the book pickup in Thain Café at Bass Library is up and running, we will prepare your items for pickup and notify you when they are available. At this time, we do not have a pickup process for books on hold at other locations (such as the Divinity Library or Haas Arts Library). When we do, we will email affected faculty, staff, and students.

7. I have books and personal materials in my carrel in Sterling [or in a Bass Library locker].  Can I pick them up?

As we develop the book pickup service for Thain Café at Bass Library, we are looking at incorporating pickup of materials from Sterling carrels and Bass Library lockers at the same location.  If you have materials you need to retrieve from a Sterling carrel or Bass locker, please email to let us know, and we will notify you when we have a plan and timing for pickup. 

8. Why can’t you launch book pickup for the Library Shelving Facility (LSF) at the same time as Bass and Sterling?

LSF has no space or processes for book pickups.  Books requested from LSF would have to transported to another library location for pickup—and we don’t yet have protocols in place for the physical delivery of collection materials across the library system.

9. I can’t get to campus to pick up books because I live far away.  Can you send books to me?

Initially, we will be offering in-person pickup only, but we are exploring the feasibility of sending and receiving books by mail. If and when we can make that service available, we will inform faculty, staff, and students by email.

10. What will be the average wait times between requesting a book or scan, and receiving it?

It is likely that the turnaround will be longer than usual, but we can’t estimate how much longer until we implement the process.  To protect the safety of staff and patrons, we will be operating at minimal staffing levels with workflows modified to allow for social distancing and the required 36-hour quarantine of library materials. We will add additional staff and increase service levels as public health guidance allows. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience with any delays or inconvenience. 

11. I’m interested in books from a library other than Bass and Sterling. When will the other libraries come online?

The timing to provide access to the other Yale libraries, locations, and collections, will be determined based on our experience with our initial services.

12. When will I be able to request books from Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and BorrowDirect again?  

BorrowDirect will not resume until Yale and at least a few of our Ivy Plus partner libraries are able to begin lending materials beyond their home institutions. Throughout the campus shutdown, we have continued to accept and fill ILL requests for scanned articles and book chapters, based on availability. We will resume accepting requests for physical materials through ILL when we have the capacity to do a high level of shipping and receiving of collection materials. ILL borrowing, as always, is dependent on partner libraries being open and staffed to process requests. If you currently have ILL or BorrowDirect items in your possession, please hold onto them until further notice if possible. All COVID-19 fines and late fees will be waived. If you must return them for some reason, you may use the bookdrops at Sterling or Bass. Or you may email us at, and we will find a way to help. Please do NOT return them to a library at any other institution.

13. Will there be a limit on the number of items people can request for pickup/scanning?

You may request up to 20 items a day for pickup. There is no limit on the number of scan requests you can submit.

14. May we recall books that are checked out?

At this time, we are not recalling books because so many library users are away from campus and unable to return items to campus. If you need a book that is currently checked out, please submit a purchase request, and we will try to obtain an electronic copy for you.

15. Will there be parking near the Thain Café at Bass Library pickup site?

Currently, we do not know if we will be able to secure dedicated parking for this service. We will include parking information in the e-mail announcement to faculty, staff, and students when the service is ready to launch.

16. I cannot travel domestically or internationally to work with the research materials that I need at another archive or library. Is there anything the library can do to help?

As a general rule, our library staff do not have any special influence with other archives and libraries. We recommend that you contact the other institution directly to explain your problem and request their assistance.  However, our subject expert librarians and archivists may be able to help you identify related or alternative materials in Yale Library collections or licensed resources, or collections available in digital form at other institutions. If you aren’t sure who to contact, email

17. I have overdue library materials. Where should I return them?

If possible, please hold on to any library materials in your possession, including BorrowDirect and ILL, until further notice. All due dates are being extended to September and all fines and late fees generated during the COVID-19 period will be waived. If you must return materials for any reason, please use the dropboxes at Sterling and Bass or email with questions. All other library dropboxes are closed.

For questions not answered here, email

Last modified: 
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 3:41am