The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.

Penn Libraries News

Fall Semester with the Penn Libraries

Bags of books

The Penn Libraries is committed to cultivating and supporting a community of lifelong learners. The Libraries’ dedicated staff, diverse collections, and specialized services are at the ready to help every member of the Penn community make the most of this unprecedented new school year.

Meet Your Librarians

As the semester unfolds largely remotely, Penn librarians are available through chat, email, and video appointments to help faculty, staff, and students find materials and connect with services. A series of welcome videos offers a virtual introduction to finding your personal librarian.

A newly-launched feature within the Penn Libraries Franklin catalog also makes it easy  to connect with librarians who have expertise in specific subject areas and topics. When a user types a search term like “accounting” or “African studies” into the Franklin catalog, an Expert Help box will display contact details for the relevant subject specialist, as well as a link to chat immediately with any available librarian. When a search term isn’t a clear match with a specific specialist, a link to the full page of subject specialists will display.

In addition to one-on-one consultations, the Penn Libraries offers workshops on various topics throughout the school year. A series of "Back to School" Workshops, originally hosted during New Student Orientation, presents an introduction to library services and resources as well as a deeper dive into some of our library collections. The workshops were recorded live and will be available in the NSO hub to view throughout the school year.

Penn librarians

Borrow Books and More

While many books and journals are available online, the Penn Libraries has also been working to re-connect faculty, students, and staff with physical collections, developing new circulation procedures with safety as a priority.

In early July, the Libraries premiered Pickup@Penn, a service which allows members of the Penn community to request books and pick them up at Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center using their PennCards. Expanded versions of the Libraries’ Books by Mail and FacultyEXPRESS services have also been active since the summer.

One of the Penn libraries’ most popular borrowing programs, BorrowDirect, resumed on September 1. BorrowDirect allows users to request books and other physical items from a select group of 13 national academic libraries. The initial phase of the BorrowDirect restart includes a subset of the 13 partners; others will be added throughout September as staff at these partner libraries return to work and collections become accessible again.

A similar program, E-ZBorrow, which includes more than 60 academic libraries primarily in Pennsylvania, has also resumed services with a limited number of participating libraries.

In addition, PickUp@Penn and Books by Mail services will begin to include materials from more Penn Libraries, with once-a-week deliveries being established for most of the collections that are not already filling requests.

Because many libraries are facing restrictions in staffing and physical access to buildings where collections are housed, retrieval may take longer, and turnaround times may not be as fast as they are in typical circumstances.

Services and Support, Online and in Person

The Penn Libraries website is a gateway to all the online library resources and services accessible to the Penn community. Virtual support is continually available for teaching and learning — from finding sources for a research assignment to getting help with Canvas. A curated selection of resources and introductory videos supply additional tips for new and returning students.

Beginning later this semester, graduate and professional students will be able to reserve a limited number of seats in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center for use as study space. Safety precautions will be taken to protect the health of patrons and staff: traffic flow will be regulated, social distancing measures will be in place, and no public access to book stacks will be granted.

In order to enter the library, graduate and professional students will need to present both a confirmed reservation and a green pass through the PennOpen Pass system. Details on the web-based seat-reservation system are forthcoming.

What’s Next

The Libraries will continue to adapt services to accommodate changing needs and circumstances throughout the school year. The latest service updates can be found in this FAQ.