Libraries reopen with fewer chairs, more masks and no food

Part of the renovated 3rd floor of Hillman


In a sign of a return to normalcy, Pitt’s libraries are beginning to reopen. And in the case of Hillman Library on the Oakland campus, the redone third floor is getting its debut.

Hillman Library opened on Aug. 24 with weekday hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, but that doesn’t mean you can meet up with a big group of people to study.


The new library catalog, PittCat, rolled out at the end of July. This updates Pitt’s more than 20-year-old catalog system to be more streamlined and efficient. Additionally, the ULS’s main webpage was redesigned in July.

Most services, including borrowing, workshops and more, continue to be available online at all University libraries.

Over the past couple of months, library workers have de-densified the space, removing some tables and chairs to better allow for social distancing, according to Jeff Wisniewski, director of Communications & Web Services for the University Library System. Some enclosed study spaces are limited to two people.

Libraries, like all buildings on campus, have reduced occupancy limits — once the limit is reached, entry is on a one-in, one-out basis. For Hillman, that’s 800 people while the Oakland campus remains at Elevated Risk status, and 1,300 at Guarded Risk. Access to library spaces is limited to faculty, students and staff with a valid Pitt ID.

All floors of Hillman are open, but you have to have an appointment to visit the new Archives and Special Collections area on the third floor.

Masks must be worn at all times, which means there will be no food or drinks allowed in the libraries. The Cup & Chaucer on the ground floor of Hillman will remain closed.

All other libraries in the University system, including those on the regional campuses, are either open regular hours or by appointment, except for the Finney Music Library and the Falk Library in Scaife Hall. The Barco Law Library is only open to law students. Find a full list of hours here.

The Falk Library is preparing to open on Aug. 31, but in a much smaller footprint, according to Barbara Epstein, director of Pitt’s Health Sciences Library System. “Because of the demolition of Scaife Hall’s west wing, which included the back half of both of the library’s two floors, we have been ‘squished’ into about half the space, and now with physical distancing requirements, availability of student study space is further reduced.”

Hours at Falk will be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and access will be limited to those with a valid Pitt ID.

Study carrels and book shelves on Hillman's third floor

The third floor of Hillman, which closed in spring 2019, was supposed to open in May, but by then all Pitt’s campuses were closed. The renovations follow themes similar to the redone fourth floor — more open, collaborative spaces for students with redesigned furniture.

Work had been scheduled to begin this school year on the first and second floors, as part of the Hillman reinvention project, but David DeJong, acting senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations, said that because of de-densification throughout campus now would be a terrible time to make those floors off limits.

The library project will eventually be completed, he said, but they need to look at the timing of it. University officials originally had hoped to complete the renovation by 2021 or 2022.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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