Instead of having to go through the usual routine of swiping ID cards, waiting for a click, and passing through the turnstiles, Reg patrons were met with “Out of Order” signs and directed through an open gate. They still swiped their cards, but entered single-file, greeted only by a sign announcing the upcoming renovation of the entrance.
An expensive addition, the three new turnstiles the University plans on installing at the Reg and Crerar will arrive October 28. They come at $30,000 each. In addition, the software needed to operate the new system must be purchased separately, further inflating the cost.
At a University in which the library serves as both a primary study space and a social center, it strikes many as strange that this situation has taken so long to be resolved.
“It seems kind of silly,” said Vivian Lee, a fourth-year in the College entering the Reg recently.
Erik Boyko, a third-year College student, agreed: “It would be nice to see them fixed at some point.”
According to Jim Vaughan, assistant director of the Library, that point will come by the end of October. But rather than fixing the much-maligned turnstiles, the library has plans to overhaul the entire operation and install a set of brand-new equipment.
In the next few weeks, older turnstiles at both Crerar and Regenstein libraries are to be replaced with new “optical barrier turnstiles” in coordination with a “state-of-the-art automated access control and security system,” Vaughan said.
The new entryways will provide the library with an immediately increased level of reliability. Instead of the familiar rotating bars, they will feature sliding gates, which will allow students to pass more easily. An upgraded scanning system promises to provide faster decisions once students have swiped their cards, no longer forcing them to wait for the machines, improving the traffic flow.
This comes as welcome news to Joe Payne, an attendant at the Regenstein front desk, who monitors incoming visitors. According to Payne, the University began considering this change “four or five months ago,” and has “already given three or four dates” on when the turnstiles will be replaced.
Vaughan is confident that the new system will be in place shortly. He said the University has already signed a contract for the new machines that are scheduled for shipment on October 19.
Vaughan explained that the process has taken so long because the old turnstiles, while constantly breaking down, were usually fixed by Building Services staff. As a result, despite persistent problems beginning last December, the library first contacted potential replacement vendors in May, making the purchase in July.
Vaughan acknowledged student safety concerns, especially after the removal of a stalker from the Reg last year. He believes the current situation, in which the patrons enter through an open gate, ensures some protection for University students. However, he emphasized the new system will provide a much higher level of security.
Visitors are permitted to enter the library simply if their ID cards are valid. According to Payne, the desk attendant, this presents a potentially dangerous situation. Anybody “could pick up an ID on the street” and gain access to the library, he said.
As an added security measure, the turnstile improvement project will include upgraded software, providing the attendant with an identification photo on the front desk computer monitor. This will allow the library to match faces with ID cards and guard against unauthorized access to the facilities.
The open gate allows patrons to scan their ID cards and enter much more smoothly than before. Security appears to be of little concern for most library visitors.