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Joel A. Katz Law Library Reopening Policies: Fall 2020

A summary of library policies upon reopening. These policies take precedence over earlier policies, and are themselves subject to change as circumstances warrant.


Circulation desk with plexiglass shieldUT Law faculty, staff, and students will have 24/7 swipe access to the library. For contact tracing purposes, everyone should swipe in one person at a time. The law library will be staffed Monday-Friday 7:30a.m.-8:00p.m. and 12:00-4:00p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Pro se patrons, UT faculty and students, alumni, and Bench and Bar may access the library by appointment only Monday through Friday. To make an appointment, email or call 865-974-7419.

Library Seating

To physically distance students, the total number of carrels and table seats has been reduced to 188, and the extra seating has been removed. Before arriving at the library, students need to reserve a seat. Students should reserve a carrel or seat using the online reservation system on the Portal. Everyone will be asked to clean their workspace before each use and collect all of their belongings when they leave.

Safety and Cleaning

Everyone is required to wear a mask while in the library. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at the Circulation Desk and Reference Desk. In addition to at the library entrances and exits, hand sanitizing stations will be provided on various floors throughout the library. Facilities will be cleaning the library at least once a day Monday - Saturday.

Service Points

Reference desk with plexiglass shielfThe Circulation Desk and Reference Desk are the two main points of employee and patron interaction. We will have signage and floor markings to space patrons 6 feet apart at the service desks.

Printing and Public Computers

There will be three public access computers on the first floor, spaced apart. Users will be encouraged to clean the keyboard and mouse before each use. The library will continue to monitor, troubleshoot, and supply the printers. Students will be encouraged to use wireless and remote printing when possible.

Study Rooms

Social distancing is not possible in our small study rooms with the existing ventilation, so some study rooms will be available for one-person use. Study rooms will be reserved via the online seating reservation system, which allocates a quarantine time to allow for ventilation between study room users.

Moving Around the Library

Students entering the library should swipe or tap in individually, and not hold the door for others nearby. All travel between the first (main) floor and third floor should be via the large, open staircase towards the middle of the Law Library. When using the stairs, be sure to keep to the right. You may use the enclosed staircase near the elevator to access the ground floor and to travel between the third and fourth floors. Use the elevator only if necessary. The elevator capacity has been reduced to two to maintain safety. As elsewhere in the Law Library, be sure to wear your mask while using the elevator.

Library Materials Checkout

Students will be able to check out books and other non-book items (umbrellas, power cords, book stands, etc.) as in the past. Library staff will wipe down non-book items with disinfectant wipes when possible, and borrowers are encouraged to clean them as well for maximum safety. Based on studies about the length of time that viable coronavirus persists in library materials, books will be quarantined for three days upon being returned. If further studies show that this length of time is excessive (or too short), we may change the length of the quarantine period. Due to the need to quarantine books for three days, students will be encouraged to rely on online study aids, and students should not rely on the library’s copy of a required text or case book.

Continuation of Library Services

We are committed to providing as many of our library services as possible despite this year’s challenges.

  1. Reference help—Reference consultations and individual training will continue to be available to all students via Zoom, chat, email, and telephone.
  2. Interlibrary loan—This service will be affected during the fall, as some libraries will not lend books. We will do everything we can to get requested items, including obtaining scans of chapters where possible.
  3. Research help—We will continue to offer research help to faculty members. We will provide class-specific research guides for expository classes (and other classes requiring research) on request.
  4. Research instruction—We will continue to provide guest lectures and guided research problems on request for any College of Law course.
  5. Formal Legal Research instruction —We will continue to teach Legal Research I and II as part of the Legal Process curriculum and an upper level Advanced Legal Research course. We will offer an asynchronous 1-credit course in Advanced Administrative Research in Spring 2021.
  6. Stack checks—We will continue to work with journal members in their stack checks, and with journal editors in using interlibrary loan to acquire resources not available at the university.
  7. Training—We will continue to offer Bluebook and other journal training upon request, though this training will be conducted remotely/via Zoom. We will continue to assist journal staff members with editing and Bluebook questions.


Returning students may keep their lockers from the previous year if they wish. No action is required. If students want to check out a different locker, they can return their former locker key and check out a new one at the Circulation Desk. All returning upper-class students may check out lockers starting on Wednesday, August 12. New students can check out library lockers beginning on Wednesday, August 19.