Universities faced a variety of options regarding COVID-19 preparations and enforcement rules in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Libraries were on the front line as they provided computer labs, wi-fi, study spaces, and academic resources. The Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library at Tennessee Tech University made major changes as part of a campus-wide mobilization to provide face to face classes and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff installed dozens of signs, stored away hundreds of chairs, and recorded new public address announcements. Students started the semester wearing masks, but as a group they steadily moved in the direction of masklessness. During the final week of the semester only 38% were wearing masks over their noses and mouths. Between semesters the university administration asked the library dean to strictly enforce mask wearing in the library. Volunteer library staff strictly en-forced mask wearing, including removing students from the library without a warning for not wearing a mask. As a result of the new enforcement students wore masks at a 95% rate with another 4% wearing their masks below their noses. The latter were asked to raise their masks. The tale of the two semesters shows that strict enforcement can generate a high compliance rate despite students’ inclination toward not wearing masks.

Publication Date

Winter 2-21-2022