Champaign Public Library adjusts for community


Ryan Ash

Business Librarian Madeleine Wolske helps a patron of the Champaign Public Library on Wednesday morning. The library has recently reopened limited in-person services.

By Jenni Kallenback, Staff Writer

The Champaign Public Library has been offering curbside pickup of library materials, electronic resources and online webinars since it closed last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the decrease in the region’s COVID-19 positivity rate, the library opened for grab-and-go service on Feb. 1 and will continue to offer virtual educational programming.

Patrons can now browse and check out books at the library and use computers for an hour per day. People can still make use of the curbside pickup option or request a book bundle for children and teens, where librarians gather a personalized set of books for pickup.

“Our whole philosophy during the pandemic has been to provide as much service as we can, safely, because we want to keep our staff and our public safe, so that’s been our balance,” said library director, Donna Pittman.

The use of curbside pickup and electronic resources was very popular while the library was closed for in-person services. Pittman said the library saw more than 5,000 pickups just in Dec.

Patrons can access ebooks, movies, music and other e-resources through the library’s website using apps such as Libby and Kanopy. The library also offers virtual programming nearly every day of the week for children, teens and adults.

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    “One of our major missions is literacy. Lifelong literacy has to start someplace,” said Mike Rogalla, children’s services manager.

    Rogalla said programming for babies, toddlers and preschoolers is based on best practices in early childhood education. Storytimes for children are streamed on Facebook live on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then archived on the library’s YouTube channel.

    “There’s a lot of things we can do and a lot of things we can model that’ll make entering school, whether it’s at preschool or kindergarten, that much easier for a child,” Rogalla said.

    The library also offers programming for aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners and job seekers. Madeleine Wolske, a business librarian, helps connect people with library databases that contain information on market research and trends, for example, and holds webinars that are currently focused on marketing.

    “(Because of the pandemic), a lot of people are trying to transition their brick and mortar business to the web,” Wolske said.

    Webinars can explain how to create a website and market a business to its target demographic.

    Wolske is also on a small and diverse business council that connects minorities with small business development resources. She says a library’s role can be to sort through all of the information that is available to people and give them a place to start.

    “My goal is to connect anyone and everyone with library resources so everyone can succeed,” she said.

    Jordan Neal, a career librarian, helps people apply for jobs, create resumes and cover letters and connects them with professional development resources. She sees virtual programming and other services as an equalizer within the community because anyone can access them at no charge.

    “We serve a really diverse audience and we can’t make a lot of assumptions about the resources they have access to or who they’re connected with, we just try our best to fill the need,” Neal said.

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