When Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order went into effect, all nine Madison Public Library locations were forced to close. During this time, countless library staff at all levels took on a variety of tasks outside their traditional roles in order to serve the Madison community in the most impactful way. Much of this flexibility happened behind the scenes, so in an effort to capture these stories, the Bubbler partnered with a handful of illustrators and posted weekly on the library’s social media with the hashtag #MPLHelpingHands.

 Four of these stories are below; you can find many more at madisonbubbler.org/mplhelpinghands. The project is funded with a Madison Public Library Foundation grant that allowed the Bubbler to pay artists, many of whom have lost income due to COVID-19.


Absentee Ballots

While the libraries have been closed, many of the hourly staff have assisted other city departments. Acacia can usually be found working as a Page at the Monroe Street Library, but in March and April, she used her experience in sorting materials to help process several hundred absentee ballots per day at the City of Madison Clerk’s Office. She’s grateful for the kindness and willingness to help that she’s experienced from the elections staff. What does she enjoy most about the work? “It has been nice to feel helpful during these uncertain times.” Thank you to Taylor Rushing for illustrating this story.

Postcard Exchange

The library’s Internal Engagement team has created a number of great ways for staff to stay connected as a library family. Aside from Netflix party movie nights and weekly zoom calls, they also proposed something a little more tangible. Staff are doing a postcard exchange, sending and receiving postcards each week. Every Monday, participants are emailed three names to send postcards to, and the names are rotated so everyone gets mail from someone new each week. It’s been a great way to get to know people who normally would be spread out across the library’s nine locations! When the amazing team at Anthology heard about the postcard exchange while working alongside library employees at the City Of Madison Clerk’s Office, they donated postcards to the effort. Thank you to T.L. Luke for the visual design (above).

Reading Materials for the Homeless

Madison Public Library partnered with local social service agencies to bring reading materials to individuals experiencing homelessness. To date, more than 200 high-risk individuals, including older adults and those with underlying medical conditions, have been moved to area motels. We hope these donations from community members and the Friends of Madison Public Library will bring some joy, comfort, and entertainment to our friends in motels. Thanks to Araceli Zuyiga for her artwork.


Town Hall Virtual Meetings

Library Assistant Carrie Gostomski has a unique position within the MPL family. She’s a Multisite, which means she goes to different library locations to help out where needed. This position has given Carrie a unique perspective on how all the library’s moving parts work together. A week or so after the Safer at Home order happened, she was approached by Library Director Greg Mickells to help facilitate a Town Hall.

Carrie & Greg hoped having a time where all staff could be together and get the same information at the same time would be really powerful for staff morale. Traditionally, the whole staff only comes together once a year for Staff Day. This meeting gave everyone the opportunity to see their peers from not only their own location or department, but stretching across all sites and divisions. Now we have the opportunity to do this once a week during an especially isolating and uncertain period of our lives. On average, about 150 employees participate in the Town Hall Meetings. “I could see people physically responding during the
meeting (head nodding, smiling, laughing, showing off pets and babies),” Gostomski said. “I’m hoping they felt more in control of their work and personal lives afterward.” Thank you to Brett Vosen for his illustration.