Jack Kuehler, 20, (left) a UF business administration junior studies in Library West on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)

At the start of UF’s Fall semester, UF libraries and RecSports facilities reopened with capacity limits in response to COVID-19.

On UF’s library and the UF RecSports websites, students can see live capacity monitors for all library buildings and recreation facilities. Students and employees say the systems are up to speed and visitors appreciate their presence. 

RecSports has been tracking occupancy for years to know which spaces are utilized most and where equipment needs to be added and removed, said Marty Dempsey, RecSports associate director of facility operations. Now, these counters are visible to the public. 

The counter system is not an automated sensor. Staff count how many people come in and out of the building and update every hour, Dempsey said. Staff members, new and old, were trained to ensure accurate recordings. 

“I would say it’s fairly accurate with the small amount of human error built into that,” Dempsey said. ”But our staff is pretty diligent about getting those counts and doing those every hour.”

The capacity counters for RecSports facilities let people like Jared Beaufait, an 18-year-old UF biological engineering freshman, plan his lifting sessions ahead of time. He goes to the gym four times a week and thinks that the counters are really convenient, he said. 

“I don't have to play a guessing game of whether or not there's gonna be a line to wait to get in the weight room,” Beaufait said. 

The status page on the UF Libraries website shows how much room is available in six libraries and four Smathers study spaces in real time, said Barbara Hood, George A. Smathers Libraries communications director. Hood said that she checks the page frequently and it appears to update almost every minute. 

For Spencer Rice, a 22-year-old UF health education and behavior senior, the library is where he can shake off distractions, like his two-year-old pitbull lab mix Dexter, at home and be productive during the semester. 

“Even if it's not homework, just kind of organizing my life for the next couple of days, going to the library and sitting down, taking an hour or two is nice,” Rice said. 

Rice goes to a library about four times a week and checks the occupancy counters before every visit, he said. He said they always seem accurate.

“It’s never even close to full, but I definitely do check it just to make sure,” Rice said.

Contact Rachel at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @racheljslay.