As a child, I loved libraries. In elementary school, I would walk the two blocks from Central Elementary to the Tompkins County Library after school, where I would read and do homework. In the summers, I would visit my dad in Princeton, New Jersey. We had a regular routine: we would pack a lunch, load up the car, and drive to the library. I’d make a beeline to the kids section, looking for books I hadn’t read yet. We’d check out a stack of books for the family, and head to the public pool, where I would happily spend the day reading and swimming. Libraries have always been a happy place for me.

Madison’s nine public libraries opened yesterday after more than 14 months of reduced public service, and I’m told over 3,500 Madisonians visited their libraries on reopening day. There’s a great video of clips of some customers visiting the Pinney Library on the Wisconsin State Journal web site. Many of those customers are seeing the new library for the first time since it was open just four days before all libraries closed due to the pandemic.

Madison’s libraries are now open for in-person browsing, holds pickup, computing/printing/copying, and basic desk services, and will phase in other services throughout the summer like seating, study rooms, meeting rooms, and longer-term wifi use. All libraries are open 10-6 weekdays and 12-5 Saturdays, with the exception of Monroe Street Library which is open 10-6 Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

I had a chance to tour the newly-remodeled Hawthorne Library in advance of the opening day, and see the new carpet, laptop bar, and learn more about longer-term remodeling plans that will let in more natural light and replace all the library’s lighting with higher-efficiency LED lighting. I even got to test out the library’s new self-check machine, part of an initiative that put self-check machines and self-serve holds available in all libraries in advance of the library’s reopening. Since the popular, but staff-intensive, curbside service was discontinued with the reopening of libraries, this option allows for a convenient and contactless holds pickup system as customers transition back to in-library service.

Madison’s libraries have shown resilience and creativity in responding to the pandemic. Curbside service, online library card applications, increases in the library’s digital collection that is available 24/7, and service through partnerships like blood drives, in person absentee voting, tax assistance, municipal court appointments, delivery of materials to community centers and day cares, are just some of the innovations that occurred while libraries were mostly closed. Now, some libraries will serve as pop up vaccine sites as Public Health Madison & Dane County pushes vaccine efforts out into the community to reach those who’ve not yet been vaccinated.

I hope you’re able to visit a library soon to take advantage of the many services libraries offer and chat with their friendly staff. Happy reading!

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Mayor's Office and a link back to the original post.