Marshfield Public Library Welcomes Back Public for Second Time Since Pandemic

library in Marshfield
Marshfield Public Library

OnFocus – It has been a few weeks since the Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library has reopened since closing to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the second time in November.

The library was originally reopened via a drive-through service in late April of last year. The service allowed patrons to pick up items while remaining in their vehicle and Library Director Jill Porter said that has been an effective service so far.

Increasing numbers of sick employees forced the library to close its doors again in November 2020.

Despite the shutdowns, the library and its employees were able to provide materials to the public via Zoom calls, Interlibrary loans services and others.

“Throughout it all, we’ve taken thousands of phone calls and email requests from the community for items they want to pick up or borrow through Interlibrary Loan. We’ve been able to offer nearly all of our programs via Facebook Live or Zoom and have been able to assist other organizations in doing the same,” Porter said.

The pandemic was tough on everyone, but many of the employees of the library took it in stride. Many hourly staff members were furloughed and other staff members worked from home or isolated in the library.

Those employees still working took phone calls, offered children’s programs like Storytime via Facebook Live and kept the administrative aspect of the library in check. An unexpected but welcome string of calls came when people needed help with unemployment applications.

“The library received so many calls from people looking for help completing their unemployment applications and finding other forms of financial assistance, that staff members were taking calls day and night,” Porter said.

In the last full year of service (2019), the library welcomed in 163,285 visitors and provided 313,285 items to 28,567 members according to its website. Porter said their numbers aren’t near normal but having people back has been a welcome sight for the employees.

“It’s been really wonderful seeing people in the library again,” Porter said. “During the last building closure, we took advantage of only having to work around staff to change the layout and look of the library a bit to make it more user-friendly, particularly in our Youth Services section. We’ve had great fun showing families around, and the way books are flying off the shelf, I’d say we made a wise decision squeezing in this work amid our regular activities.”

Porter is looking to ramp up those visitor numbers during summer once again and is using some of the library’s traditional programs to do so.

“It’s been tricky planning for summer,” Porter said. “Right now, our meeting rooms are still closed to the public while we wait for more people to be vaccinated. This has meant that staff members have been planning summer programs, particularly our big Summer Reading Challenge, both as virtual programs early in the summer and in-person programs later. We’ve been looking at taking advantage of the city’s great parks to do some off-site storytimes, so we’ll see how that shakes out.”

The community outpouring that the library has seen has really helped them fight through the pandemic.

“We are really grateful for all of the support we have had from the community through all of this,” Porter said. “It hasn’t always been easy for our patrons or our staff working through a pandemic and exercising all the caution we’ve needed to as a public institution. We are all chomping at the bit waiting for things to return to normal, and as soon as health officials give us the go ahead, we’ll be ready.”

To see a full list of events and programs the library will be hosting for the summer, check out the library Facebook Page.

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Neal Hogden
Author: Neal Hogden