MONROE — The Monroe Public Library’s summer reading programs look different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of in-person reading challenges and events, the library has had to adapt to programs that allow for social distancing.
Thanks to a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction grant, Monroe’s library has had the opportunity to engage readers in an online format this year.
The $327,000 grant was used by the DPI to enter a three-year partnership between all Wisconsin Public Libraries and Beanstack, an app that allows the customization of reading challenges where users can track progress and complete activities, according to a DPI press release.
The grant, given through the federal Library Services and Technology Act, was not a COVID-19-specific grant, the DPI’s decision to offer all 380 public libraries in the state with a three-year Beanstack partnership came after libraries throughout the state expressed concern over how to offer summer programs if they weren’t able to open their doors to the public yet, said DPI Youth and Inclusive Services Consultant Tessa Michaelson Schmidt.
The Monroe Public Library is one of 320 libraries in the state to have opted into using Beanstack services, Schmidt said.
Multiple programs and app options were looked at before Beanstack was decided on, but the unique opportunities for people of all ages offered drew positive responses from libraries throughout the state.
Typically, the library’s summer reading program is open only to youth. This year, the program through Beanstack has options for people of all ages.
“It’s such an easy way to get adults interested in what we’re doing here,” Monroe Public Library Youth Services Director Andrea Schmitz said.
Users can access the app or mobile site to track reading or follow challenges and activities. After completing a challenge or activity, the user is rewarded with a “badge,” which can then be used as a drawing entry for prizes.
Beanstack is also unique in that it allows year-round challenges instead of just in the summer.
“The bread and butter of reading challenges is really for youth in the summer, but reading happens year-round and by people of all ages,” Schmidt said.
Though the library has not seen as much involvement in the summer reading program this year as in past years, the opportunity to use Beanstack has allowed the public to make use of the library in ways that they hadn’t before. It also allows library patrons and staff to maintain social distancing.
While still offering programs online, the Monroe Public Library has opened its doors to the public with revised hours.
“We didn’t go away just because of the pandemic,” Schmitz said.
The library also released a survey July 14 that will be available through July 31.
The purpose of the survey is to further develop a strategic plan and to hear public opinion on the function of the library. Neither the survey nor the plan is COVID-19 related, as the library conducts a new strategic plan every few years, but they are anticipating hearing about the public’s reception of how the library has handled the pandemic, Monroe Public Library Director Suzann Holland said.
The library has had to make multiple changes since early spring, but the public perception has been overwhelmingly positive, Holland said. “I think people are just happy to have their library back.”
The survey can be found at https://uwmadison.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4TlYmpjZu3cspoN or on the library’s website at monroepubliclibrary.org.