Coming home to Carolina’s libraries

November 16, 2021

Dear Tar Heels,

We missed you! For nearly a year and a half, you studied and worked from all over the world. Things were awfully quiet here, without those late-night study sessions in Davis Library, the steady streams of visitors to beautiful Wilson Library or staff members chatting with colleagues. Having you back this fall brought renewed energy to the study spaces, work rooms and stacks of the University Libraries. Welcome home!

Your friends at the University Libraries

All of the photographs in this story were taken during the first two weeks of the fall semester in August 2021, by Johnny Andrews, University Communications.

Scene of a crowded Davis Library reading room

Scene from Davis Library

Scene from a crowded Davis Library August 2021

Scene from Davis Library


Carolina senior Nate Allen, a circulation delivery assistant, works in Davis Library. “What I missed most about the libraries was just seeing everyone around studying and helping them out during the day,” said Allen, who has worked for the libraries since arriving at Carolina.



two students work in a study room in Davis Library

Scene from Davis Library


Lucas Darden

Lucas Darden, general collections conservation supervisor, repairs a book at his desk in Davis Library. “I’ve definitely missed the hands-on part of my work,” said Darden, “One of my favorite things is coming in the next day and seeing the finished repairs and how they turned out. I get a lot of satisfaction when they turn out well. I also really missed the day-to-day consultations you have with colleagues.”




Rustin Zarkar

Rustin Zarkar, Middle East and Islamic studies librarian, looks over literature in Davis Library. “I started in my position in January 2020, so only had two months onsite before everything went remote. It was a challenge to learn my job while being physically out of the library, and many of my responsibilities were put on hold, such as purchasing books from international vendors. Now that we’re back, I can finally get a full sense of the work, the Library, and the campus.”


A group of students converse around a large table in the Health Sciences Library

Scenes from the Health Sciences Library at UNC-Chapel Hill


Dayna Durbin giving a presentation in front of students in the Undergraduate Library

Dayna Durbin, undergraduate teaching and learning librarian, instructs a class at the Undergraduate Library. “What I missed most when the Undergraduate Library building was closed was interacting with students in-person,” said Durbin, “There’s a certain magic that happens when teachers and students learn together in a classroom and it was difficult to create that same sense of community when I was teaching online. I also deeply missed the energy and buzz that students bring to the libraries.”

Crystal Casparis at the Media and Design Center desk

Crystal Casparis (right) helps with materials being checked out at the Undergraduate Library’s Media and Design Center desk. “What I missed most about the libraries was seeing my co-workers every day,” said Casparis. “I was only two weeks back from maternity leave when we had to start working from home in March 2020. While we have returned to some semblance of normalcy, at this point in the semester we haven’t seen as many patrons as we normally do. I also miss the level of interaction we had before that allowed us to help more people and let them know what our space and collection has to offer.”


Maddie Stahle shelving books in the Art Library stacks

Carolina junior Maddie Stahle, a student assistant, works at the Sloane Art Library. “I’m a hands-on person and I like being able to hold physical books,” said Stahle. “I missed being able to check out real books.”

Josh Hockensmith standing at the service desk in the Art Library

Sloane Art Library Technical Assistant Josh Hockensmith talks with associate professor Carol Magee. “I love the library as a place to connect people with resources (and) to have conversations about the research they’re excited about,” said Hockensmith. “We do that remotely, too, of course, but there’s something about the combination of enthusiasm and seriousness that comes from being in the library that I really missed.”

Wilson Library Fearrington Reading Room filled with studying students

Students study in the Fearrington Reading Room at Wilson Library.

Jason Tomberlin helping a student in the Wilson Research Room

Jason Tomberlin, head of Research and Instructional Services at the Wilson Special Collections Library, assists a student in the research room. “I missed the in-person interactions with researchers and especially student researchers,” said Tomberlin. “I remember being an undergraduate at UNC and my first visit to Wilson. I was absolutely fascinated with being able to use these invaluable collections and I imagine that my face looked a lot like the ones we see at the research room desk. Those responses and conversations were what I missed.”


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