A library is a community place, so when Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library was ordered to close its doors to the public, it was difficult for staff and patrons alike. Though people were supportive of closing and library staff were more than willing to help do their part to prevent the spread of disease, staff say it was still sad to witness.
“We closed at noon on Monday, March 16, and I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in this little bit of time,” said Lori Belongia, library director. “That day, as I left my office to get on the elevator, I looked across the second floor at the computer bay and it was just empty in so many ways. It was really hard. It made me think back to the day we cut the ribbon on the new library, before anyone was in the building.”
Throughout the construction of the new facility, Belongia had always said the building wasn’t a library until it was filled with people.
“Having to close, it’s like a punch to the gut,” she said. “We worked so hard to get this beautiful space and now to not have people spend time in it and enjoy it. That’s hard.”
Library materials were defined as a transmission point for the virus, so people with items checked out have been asked to hang onto them until the all-clear is given.
“We asked people to hang onto what they have and we pushed out the due dates,” said Belongia. “We’d rather people hang onto them, but if they must return them, we keep those items ‘quarantined’ for several days and then sanitize them before putting them away.”
Even though the doors must be closed to the public, library staff are finding creative ways to reach their patrons. For example, the youth services department has implemented virtual Storytime and crafts through Facebook that kids can follow along with at home.
“We get really attached to our public,” said Belongia. “People were very supportive. That was one of the things that I initially worried about, not that it was going to stop us from doing the right thing. We didn’t want people to feel hurt by the closure instead of protected.”
Though they might not be able to visit the library in person, community members can still access a plethora of resources, including books, magazines, and content, online through the library’s dozens of e-sources.
“We want people to remember that, though you might be at home and feel like you’re stuck, you’re not,” said Belongia. “There are opportunities to grow and learn even when you can’t leave your house.”
Belongia highlighted seven of her favorites resources to explore [click here to access]:
- Ancestry – search historical records with information on over 6 billion people. This is special access to people at home during the COVID-19 situation. Usually it is only available from a library computer.
- Flipster – A next-generation digital magazine service allowing patrons to access their favorite magazines through the library
- Global Road Warrior Travel Resource – Learn about and virtually travel to 175 different countries
- Heritage Quest – explore Genealogy records and books, including census data, local histories, tax rolls, cemetery lists, etc.
- Hoopla – borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV! With no waiting, titles can be streamed immediately, or downloaded to phones or tablets for offline enjoyment later.
- Learning Express Library – Practice tests and tutorial course series for students and adult learners.
- Overdrive – Wisconsin’s Digital Library offers digital audio books and ebooks for use with computers, MP3 players, and ebook readers.
For those people who don’t have a library card, there is a way to get a temporary card to use right now.
“All they have to do is send an email request to [email protected] or phone 715-387-8494 and chose #1 to leave a message with your name and phone number, said Belongia. “At this time we are issuing temporary cards that will give them access to e-sources until this is over.”