Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) Buildings Remain Closed Until at Least June 15, 2020, But Check Out Their Modified Services & Expanded Online Offerings

Written by Chad Dally

In mid-March 2020, MCPL closed its doors to the public. By the time the Marathon County Public Library re-opens, at least 3 months will have passed. First, let me just say: We miss you!

But as a public institution that sees hundreds of people walk through the doors of our 9 locations each day, 6 days a week, we hope you understand that the closure is necessary as our communities aim to slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Re-opening Plans

On May 18, the library’s Board of Trustees voted to extend the closure of our 9 locations through at least June 15, 2020, when the Board has its next meeting. In the meantime, we are working with County officials, statewide library leadership, and our library system to develop a multiphase re-opening plan that prioritizes public health and the health of our staff.

We will be preparing each of our locations for a gradual re-opening that is compliant with CDC and Marathon County Health Department guidelines for safety and hygiene under pandemic conditions. The Library Board will review these plans and preparations at its June 15 meeting, and further decisions on the library’s re-opening will be made at that time.

Contact-Free Curbside Pickup

Although our front doors remain locked, most of our staff throughout the MCPL system has continued to work (with appropriate precautions) to provide modified services to our communities. And, oh, what a happy day it was on May 1, when our libraries started contact-free curbside pickup of new materials at each location! (The MCPL Wausau location actually started on April 30 to work through some of the hundreds of requests made prior to the library closure before accepting new requests.)

Since we started curbside pickup of books, music, and movies, hundreds of patrons have taken advantage of the service and checked out thousands of items — more than 1,000 items at our Wausau Headquarters alone in about 1 month! And that number would be even higher, but patrons have been limited to 5 items per person.

The curbside pickup option will continue through the closure, and perhaps even after the libraries re-open — though that is one of the many decisions yet to be made in our re-opening plans. If you’re in need of something new to read or to watch, give any of our 9 locations a call and we’ll guide you through the process, or you can watch the video below to learn how it works!

MCPL Staff Only a Phone Call or Chat Away

Our staff stays close to the phones from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wausau location, Monday through Friday. (Hours are similar, but may vary a little, at our branch locations.) We can help not only with material requests for curbside pickup, but also with reference services that range from looking up a phone number to searching for an obituary in our newspaper microfilm collection, and much more. You can also contact us during those hours through our online chat feature — just head to the MCPL website and click the Zendesk chat box in the bottom right corner of the screen that says “Questions?” and we’ll be there to help.

free wi-fi logo

Use Free Wi-Fi From MCPL Parking Lots

If you need to do some work on your own computer and don’t have internet access, our libraries’ Wi-Fi remains available 24/7 outside the buildings of all of our branches, and at the Wausau location Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m.–7:55 p.m.; Friday, 7:00 a.m.–4:55 p.m.; and Saturday, 8:00 a.m.–4:55 p.m.

MCPL’s Craft Videos, Virtual Storytimes & Book Clubs, Grab & Go Craft Kits, & More…

What also continues throughout the closure is services such as online programming — including virtual story times via MCPL’s Facebook page, instructional craft videos on MCPL’s YouTube channel, and the occasional readers’ advisory program to provide recommendations for books based on other books you’ve enjoyed. (We’ve offered readers’ advisory services a couple of times through our Facebook page, but the public can receive personalized advice anytime under the heading Personalized Reading Suggestions on our website.)

Most of our online content is archived and available to watch anytime at MCPL’s YouTube channel. If you’re wondering what that might look like, check out Star Wars Virtual Story Time with Dan below.

While we are working on a detailed, phased plan to re-open, some decisions have already been made as far as our events and programming. We’ve already started to offer virtual book clubs at various locations that provide our patrons an opportunity to chat with each other through video chat or by telephone.

Also, once we re-open, to minimize hosting group gatherings for craft events at the library, we will offer “grab and go” craft kits with supplies and instructions that patrons can pick up and create from the comfort and safety of home. Some kits will truly be a multimedia experience, with online videos to accompany the crafts!

Grab-and-Go Kits
The examples shown are woven sunflowers that will be available at MCPL Wausau in August (on left) and an “Imagine Your Story” project (on right) available in June at MCPL Wausau, which prompts young ones to create a story based on objects provided in a bag. (Photo courtesy of Chad Dally.)

Summer Library Program Changes

Unfortunately, because we feel we cannot provide the appropriate amount of distancing, among other considerations, we’ve canceled many of the main Summer Library Program events, including popular children’s performer Tom Pease and events with Wausau-based Colossal Fossils. These kinds of events typically draw hundreds of attendees, and that kind of crowd in the library just isn’t a good idea at this time. However, we do plan to provide event newsletters throughout the summer to share the programming we will be offering, and you can also subscribe to MCPL’s monthly newsletter to stay informed.

Renovations While MCPL Wausau’s Doors Have Been Closed

With fewer people in the building, administration seized the opportunity to direct several renovations that might otherwise inconvenience patrons and staff. Included in the many projects at MCPL Wausau Headquarters during its closure is the start of a renovation of the third floor, a space no longer needed by the library. The walls around what used to be the Friends of the Library’s book sale room have been torn down to create a more open, inviting space to a suitable community partner wishing to rent this available space. (Book sale fundraisers for the library are now conducted several times a year in a dedicated lower level space.)

third floor of MCPL
MCPL Wausau Headquarters third floor recently had several walls torn down to create a more open floor plan. (Photo courtesy of Chad Dally.)

Okay, maybe a picture of carpet isn’t THAT exciting, but we’re really happy about the brand-new carpet that was installed throughout MCPL Wausau Headquarters during the library’s closure.

new carpet at MCPL
Installing new carpet throughout MCPL Headquarters was just one way that staff made good use of the time the building was closed to the public during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Chad Dally.)

*  *  *

We know 3 months or more is a long time to be without a library — or at least without the opportunity to step inside and use a computer, browse books, or work on projects in a quiet space. We certainly want to provide all that (and more) to our patrons, too, but our administration, Board of Trustees, and staff all recognize that the process to re-open our doors cannot be rushed. The old adage of “Safety first” is our guiding principle, both for the public and our staff, as we look to get back to operating somewhere closer to normal soon.

We greatly appreciate the support and patience of our communities during these trying times, and we’re doing our best to provide services and support back to all of you.

Thank you, and stay well!

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.  Email Chad Dally

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Wi-Fi image by Pixaline via Pixabay.