April 22, 2020
The week of April 19–25, 2020, is National Library Week — a time when libraries across the country typically celebrate their myriad offerings and show appreciation for the patrons they serve.
However, that celebration is drastically different this year due to precautions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Marathon County Public Library’s (MCPL) Board of Trustees voted to close all 9 MCPL locations to the public beginning March 17, 2020. A "Safer at Home" order from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers went into effect on March 25 stating, “Libraries shall close for all in-person services, but may continue to provide on-line services and programming.” The order was originally scheduled to remain in place through April 24, but has since been extended through May 26. Due dates on all books currently checked out will be extended, and books will not be due until the library reopens.
The library remains closed to the public and, as of the publication date of this article, is scheduled to reopen on May 26. We are working with State and County officials on a plan to provide books to patrons via curbside pickup (assuming our courier service is available). Please watch www.mcpl.us/coronavirus for the latest updates on if or when that service is available and for details on the library’s plan to reopen.
Most MCPL staff continue to work at their respective locations. To be clear, we are allowed to continue working as an essential service that provides educational and other resources to the public, but we are not required to work, and we are absolutely to stay home if we or anyone we’ve come in contact with shows signs of, or tests positive for, the coronavirus. Many of us at MCPL feel fortunate that we’re still working when so many people around us cannot, and we’ve filled our working hours in a variety of ways that continue to move our local libraries forward in our shared mission:
“To enrich lives by promoting lifelong learning and actively providing the community with access to ideas, information, and opportunities to connect.”
To that end, we continue to order new materials — books for all ages, movies, music, and more — that will (eventually) be delivered to the MCPL system so our patrons will (eventually) have access to the latest blockbusters and bestsellers. Further, patrons may still contact the MCPL Wausau reference desk for questions and assistance via phone, email or online chat between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Patrons may also call any of the eight MCPL branches, though staff hours during the closure may vary.
For many patrons, access to e-books and electronic audiobooks has been a lifesaver (or least a sanity saver) while the library is closed, and we’re happy to assist patrons with learning about that service. You see, Wisconsin’s Digital Library is a statewide catalog of free e-books, audiobooks and videos that you can check out and enjoy for limited periods of time. In most cases, all you need is a library card and the OverDrive or Libby app. Face it, even when the library reopens, face-to-face contact will likely still be limited in some ways, so contact us with your questions about how Wisconsin’s Digital Library works. If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet, you’ll never be without books (in the form of e-books or audiobooks) again!
Part of my library duty involves reference work, and part of it involves event coordination. During this year’s National Library Week, I’m proud of the work our staff has done in both of these areas…
We’ve worked together to deliver programming content for our patrons in ways we haven’t before:
- Our daily virtual story times through MCPL’s Facebook page, have generated thousands of views and given parents and their kids a little slice of entertainment, literacy and normalcy each weekday.
- Our staff has created videos for craft projects — which we’ve archived on MCPL’s YouTube page — and we’ve posted instructions for crafts on our MCPL blog.
- Also on our MCPL blog, we’ve shared recipes to help with the extra cooking all of us are doing, shared some of the books, music, and movies that have kept our staff occupied and entertained, and shared information about online educational classes and resources such as Gale Courses (where you can take hundreds of online courses for free!)
Just as significant as what we’ve been doing is what we will be doing in the future. The health and safety of our patrons will always be a top priority for us, and precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus are likely to continue long after MCPL opens its doors to the public. So, we’ve also been making plans to continue providing content and programming in alternative ways, such as virtual book club discussions and craft kits that the public can pick up and take home — both options to avoid having larger groups gather in one place.
And we’re noticing opportunities that our libraries being closed provide. For example, since we’re a public library that is currently without the public inside its doors, the closure has given Marathon County’s Facilities and Maintenance Department the opportunity to replace the carpeting at our MCPL Wausau Headquarters — a job made much easier and more convenient for everyone when we don’t have to disrupt the daily library activities of our patrons.
While we mark National Library Week 2020, the Marathon County Public Library — and other libraries across the country and the world — are trying our best to adjust how we do what the public expects from us. It’s challenging, sure, but it’s also fun to try new things and to provide services for our patrons in ways we’ve never done before.
Just another way that libraries are constantly adapting to best serve the needs of our communities!
image credit: provided by ALA for library publicity