All Madison Public Library locations are closed, but library staff are working hard from home to make sure that patrons can still access a wide variety of library resources.
Almost immediately, the library shifted from physical to digital resources in mid-March. Thanks to a $50,000 grant from Madison Public Library Foundation, the library was able to expand its eBook and audiobook collections through OverDrive. The use of these materials is up 43 percent since the week before the library closed.
A Madison Public Library card gives residents online access to newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, and to magazines like The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and Better Homes & Gardens. Not all residents have a physical card, though. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Library Director Greg Mickells said. “Staff quickly developed a virtual card for those without a regular library card to access our online resources. Almost 1,500 new virtual cards have been issued, keeping more Madisonians connected to the news and engaged with the wider world.”
In addition to keeping traditional library materials accessible from afar, library staff have been busy creating digital content and moving in-person programs online. For instance, youth services librarians are hosting English and Spanish storytimes, the “Bubblearians” have organized materials you can use to bring the Bubbler in Your Bubble, and reference librarians are available to answer research questions by phone.
“The decision to close Madison’s public libraries to the public on March 17, 2020, was difficult, but it was necessary to ensure the safety of our staff and our patrons during the COVID-19 crisis,” Mickells said. “We are beginning to prepare for reopening our libraries and what that might look like as we navigate this crisis, but our top priority will always be the safety of our staff and the public.”
Foundation staff are proud of the work that library staff are doing to keep Madison residents engaged, educated and creative in their homes during this time.