Helping Students and Staff navigate a safe return to Campus at the University of Surrey Library

Based in Guildford, the University of Surrey holds a Gold Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) award for providing consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students, of which it welcomes over 16,000 a year from all over the world.

With so many students to consider, and the university library closed overnight as the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Clare West, Associate Director (Student Experience) and the library team immediately turned their attention to finding ways that would allow them to safely reopen as soon as restrictions were lifted.

As existing Telepen Sentry Isis access control customers, the university were invited to attend a webinar we ran during the first lockdown, aimed at providing guidance for safer opening in line with social distancing recommendations. Kevin Sontag, Telepen Sales Account Manager, comments, “We ran a few sessions during the first lockdown which were focused around helping facilities to re-open safely. Our Juno 2020 ‘pre-booking’ product understandably had a lot of interest, because we weren’t sure at that stage exactly what the social distancing guidelines would be and what volume of students would be allowed into libraries.”

“From the minute we closed in March, we were looking at how we were going to be able to re-open safely,” explains Clare, “our risk assessment showed that we were only allowed to use 50% of the capacity of the building, which is normally around 1600 students. Once we knew numbers would be restricted, we realised there could potentially be very high demand on the spaces we had available in the library and that the Juno StudyTime app could be very beneficial.”

Due to social distancing restrictions, it was essential that the library could control the volume of students in the facility at any one time, to keep staff and students safe and avoid any congestion within the building.

“Telepen explained that the Juno StudyTime app could be integrated with the existing turnstiles we had in place,” Clare comments, “which would give us the control we needed to safely re-open when the time came.”

Juno StudyTime works by allowing students to pre-book a desk or specific area within the library via an app on their mobile or tablet and was redeveloped in 2020 in response to the pandemic, enabling students to have fairer and safer access to resources.

Following the announcement that libraries would be able to re-open for students in the autumn term, Telepen first upgraded the university library from their existing Sentry Isis system to Sentry Juno during the summer holiday, to avoid any disruption to the day-to-day operation of the library.

Linking the access control gates and the Juno StudyTime app provides an end-to-end automated validation system. From the time a student makes a booking, to the point of them gaining entry to the library, the process is entirely automated and should require minimal staff intervention.

While the system has the option of being built to admit a controlled number of visitors without bookings, the university configured the system so that no students could gain access to the library without pre-booking. This was a huge benefit for Clare and her team: “There was understandably a lot of anxiety about re-opening, as there were so many unknowns,” Clare comments, “but the new system really gave us confidence and helped to make it clear for students that this was how the library would be running, in a controlled and safe way.”

Once a student goes through the turnstile, their booking is activated and the timer begins, offering the option of extending their booking if there is free space available when they come to the end of their session.

The pre-booking system has helped with track and trace, as the library are able to monitor which students have been in the library, and exactly where they have been sitting. Students and staff have responded well to the secure environment, with Clare describing the system as, “Helping to provide a really safe space.”

Commenting on the success of the project, Clare concludes, “The Juno StudyTime app has definitely met our requirements. We wanted to be fair, and we wanted to be safe. Both those things require a huge level of control over how many hours students can spend in the library, and we have achieved that objective. Telepen have been helpful and responsive throughout and we would be pleased to work with them again in the future.”

You can find out more about Juno StudyTime by visiting this page.

To talk to us about the solutions we would recommend for your specific requirements, please get in touch by calling +44 (0)1582 769991 or emailing sales@telepen.co.uk