Not Your Grandma’s Library… Why MCPL Is Relevant to Today’s Changing Needs (You Might Be Surprised!)

Written by Chad Dally

To meet the changing needs of our communities, the Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) system is ever-evolving in new and creative ways.

Staff are working hard to strengthen the idea that:

Libraries are not just book and computer storehouses, but also 21st century hubs of social activity.

Some of our bread-and-butter programs (e.g., story times, author readings, and movies) still draw many patrons to the library, and we’re happy to offer those library staples. But we’ve also made a concerted effort to expand our programming into technology, digital literacy, advanced crafts for all ages, science and math, and programming for patrons with special needs.

Special events and activities you may not know about include:

  • Tween spy school
  • Coding games for teens
  • Pokemon Pictionary
  • LEGO block parties
  • Family coloring parties
  • Quilting/crocheting/finger-knitting
  • Cardmaking
  • Math club
  • Historical lectures and presentations
  • Tile painting
  • Story times for kids on the autism spectrum
  • … and many more library events here.

In addition to traditional literacy programming, we also offer digital literacy and technology-related services, such as coding and computer programming for youth, basic computer classes for adults, 24-hour remote database access, eBook instruction and support, and we’re currently looking into obtaining a cutting-edge device that supports young children’s language development.

Before we dive into more detail on a few of these high-tech topics…

Credit is due to Wisconsin Valley Library Service—the regional consortium for which MCPL serves as the resource library—for its investment in new kits for children’s creative play and learning, A/V equipment, and technological materials (like several scanners and a 3D printer) that circulate among all the WVLS locations. We’ve already used their video equipment to shoot a promotional video for Marathon County Public Library and used their laptops to teach beginning computer classes (among other collaborations), and we’ll be incorporating more of their equipment into future programming.

That being said, let’s take a closer look at the LENA System, 24-hour online library resources, and eBook checkout in Marathon County…

The LENA System

Our libraries are homes for words—trillions of words. So, it only makes sense that MCPL is considering the use and circulation of an innovative, new language program known as LENA (Language ENvironment Analysis).

LENA device

The LENA System measures children’s vocabulary using a handy device that tracks the number and variety of words a child hears throughout the day. Vocabulary is compiled and words are counted, providing caregivers and LENA-trained specialists with a “language development snapshot” to assist in the prevention or remediation of child language delays and disorders. The LENA program is aimed at caregivers of children from birth to 3 years—a critical window for cognitive and social development. Scripted instruction, videos, and even text reminders help caregivers using this 13-week program increase the amount of words they use with their children.

According to The Lena Research Foundation, families completing the program added an average of 3,400 words to their baby’s day!

Discussions over this collaborative effort are ongoing, but we’re optimistic we can find a way to get this great program—which would be only the 7th in the country—off the ground in Marathon County. Stay tuned to the MCPL newsletter for details…

24-Hour Online Library Resources

We occasionally hear from patrons who lament the loss of some printed reference materials from the library’s shelves. We understand and try to keep some essentials on hand, like our detailed city directories. But our online resources and databases provide us with mountains of information that doesn’t take up any shelf space!

If you don’t have a computer or internet service, please know that if you have a library card, you’re welcome to use our computers or bring your own device and take advantage of our free Wi-Fi.

Any patron with a library card, device, and internet at home or school can conveniently access the library’s online databases 24 hours a day—without ever having to make a trip to the library.

So, what might interest you enough to log on to these 24-hour resources from home?

Well, for starters, you can view:

Just visit to browse all the areas of interest. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

eBook Checkout

As tablets and smartphones have become more powerful and user-friendly, the library has fully embraced the world of electronic books and audiobooks—and our patrons have, too.

Helping people get started with the world of (FREE!) eBooks is definitely some of the more common work of our reference staff. We want anyone who’s interested to be comfortable browsing and downloading eBooks. We see that eBooks aren’t a passing fad:

If the MCPL’s digital system were another MCPL branch, it’d have the third-highest circulation behind Wausau and Rothschild—with more than 96,000 checkouts in 2016.

Click here to learn how to get started downloading eBooks at MCPL.

As the wants and needs of a community change, so too must a library be swift to adapt to new demands and technologies, while still providing traditional services and programs the public comes to expect from its libraries.

Visit our website to see all the exciting classes, social events, and learning opportunities the MCPL system invites you to—both in- and outside its doors.

We have lots of evening and weekend events, too, so get out of that chair, grab a friend, and get to the library… We may have way more FUN to offer you than you thought!

Chad Dally - MCPL - Library SpecialistChad Dally

Library Specialist  |  Marathon County Public Library

Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction. He’s heard chickens are smart, but the small brood he keeps at home provides evidence to the contrary.  Email Chad Dally

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