Library doors open slightly for curbside pickup

County branches have had to adapt to changing environment due to shutdown
Dan Robinson, of Shawano, plays a song for the audience at the annual Rhubarb Festival in June 2019 at Heritage Park. He was scheduled to perform at the Shawano Public Library last week for National Library Week but was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. A new date for his performance has not been set.

File | NEW Media
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

SHAWANO — Not even libraries are immune to the coronavirus shutdown that has keep most nonessential businesses and other facilities closed to the public for over a month, but things are looking up for Shawano County’s library patrons.

Gov. Tony Evers revised his Safer at Home order in mid-April. Among the changes was the ability for public libraries to offer curbside pickup for books and other materials that patrons were able to easily get their hands on before Evers’ original order closed the libraries in March. The service started Monday.

Patrons will be able to contact any of the libraries to request items. Staff members will schedule a specific time for pickup, staggered to maintain social distancing requirements, and patrons can pick up the items just outside the entrances at their appointed times, according to Kristie Hauer, library director.

The main branch in Shawano will be providing curbside pickup five days per week, while the others in Bonduel, Birnamwood, Mattoon, Tigerton and Wittenberg will only have the service one or two days per week.

“We’re so excited that we’re going to be able to get stuff out into people’s hands,” Hauer said.

While the prospect of getting hands on physical materials again has benefits for patrons, there will be some drawbacks. Hauer said that books will not be able to go to other libraries in the county system (for example, a book available in Bonduel can’t be checked out by a Wittenberg patron).

“Each library is an isolated collection right now,” Hauer said. “Patrons would need to contact whatever library they’d need to make a pickup at. It’ll be like old-school libraries from the past.”

She noted it will be a bit of a jolt for patrons who are used to being able to check out materials locally from not only other county branch libraries but also from other libraries outside Shawano County.

Prior to this week, library patrons could only check out items available online, such as ebooks and streaming movie service, according to Hauer. When the order to close occurred, library staff made some changes to allow patrons to check out more digital items to compensate for not being able to access physical materials, which Hauer said almost quadrupled the amount of digital resources checked out.

“Previously, before we were closed, patrons could have four checkouts per month. We then increased that to 10 checkouts,” Hauer said.

The libraries also saw an increase in the number of library cards, as some folks who visit don’t always leave with materials. Hauer said some have not used their cards in years, and when the online materials were the only items available, those patrons renewed their cards.

The libraries have also been more forgiving of those with physical items still checked out, not applying fines due to the facilities being closed.

“We never assess fines on the days that the library is usually closed, anyway,” Hauer said. “Fines are not accruing, so patrons will not be reaching a limit on their cards.”

The shutdown also required the library staff to take activities like story hours and do-it-yourself craft sessions online, as well.

“We’ve tried to adapt some of the physical things we do in the building in an environment that’s virtual or done at home,” Hauer said.

It’s unclear when the physical programming will return, along with the other services like computer accessibility and job searching. Two big activities for last week’s National Library Week — music with local musician Dan Robinson and a visit from Wisconsin author Michael Perry — are expected to be rescheduled. Hauer said that can’t occur until the state gives the all-clear for libraries to reopen.

“It’s been stressful at times, but it’s been interesting and enlightening at times,” Hauer said. “One of the things that I think has worked out very well for our libraries is that we really have a motivated staff, and they are very adaptable. A lot of what we’ve developed in recent weeks and what we’re planning for the future comes from the staff, and they’re thinking, talking to each other, gaining information from other libraries. That has made it much easier to just have the staff take ownership of these different areas and components we’re trying to develop.”

AT A GLANCE

Shawano County Library system

PHONE: 715-526-3829, Shawano; 715-449-3120, Birnamwood; 715-758-2267, Bonduel; 715-489-3333, Mattoon; 715-535-2194, Tigerton; 715-253-2936, Wittenberg

EMAIL: sha@shawanolibrary.org, Shawano; bir@shawanolibrary.org, Birnamwood; bon@shawanolibrary.org, Bonduel; mat@shawanolibrary.org, Mattoon; tig@shawanolibrary.org, Tigerton; wit@shawanolibrary.org, Wittenberg

WEBSITE: https://www.shawanolibrary.org

FACEBOOK: @shawanocountylibrary

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com