From the Field: Svetha Hetzler, Library Director, Sun Prairie, WI

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Sun Prairie is a suburb of Madison, WI. Population 34,000. We worked with Sun Prairie in 2018/19 on a development plan for their foundation, including advice on a potential capital campaign.

Like many libraries they have found it necessary to shift priorities in a landscape of dual pandemics – COVID and systemic racism. Here is what they have found.

We’ve learned a lot during the pandemic and have adjusted some of our priorities. The expansion project is still in our strategic plan but is not the immediate focus of attention.

The library’s focus is:

1) Safe reopening

Besides equipment and supplies and opportunities to work remotely, we have adjusted our services to more contact-less services. This includes curbside services and digital services. We expanded our Overdrive and Hoopla collections. Our digital usage has significantly increased, and our trend line indicates we may double digital material circulation by the end of this year. Digital library cards and curbside appointment software are helping these efforts.

2) Services to those most affected by pandemic

This list continues to grow as we work with patrons that are facing financial, medical and housing insecurity and uncertainty. In addition, with the Sun Prairie Area School District’s decision to remain physically closed for the first quarter, we will certainly be offering our support to families, students, faculty and staff. We recently put into place a Librarian’s Choice form to help with material selection while our stacks remain closed. In addition, virtual programming and digital databases to support learners of all ages will continue to be an important piece in all we do. As of July 31, we had over 12,000 patrons participate in programs which is running only 15% lower than other years. What we have also been able to take advantage of is bringing in presenters from other parts of the country with our enhanced capacity to accommodate virtual events. Our teen participation has been strong and steady. Virtual participation eliminates the barriers associated with transportation and schedules around extra-curricular activities for our teens. There have been some unseen benefits!

3) Racial literacy

The Library Board recently adopted a Racial Literacy Plan that includes five areas for internal and external work: 1) staff development, 2) review of policies and procedures, 3) collection development, 4) programming, 5) representation. We’ve been able to do a lot of work remotely in the area of staff development through webinars and we have put into a place a new book club for our community, Urban SUN: Black Voices Book Club. The first one kicks off next month and will be led by two African American Sun Prairie residents. They chose to read and discuss Becoming by Michelle Obama for our first meeting. I’m very excited for this and we will continue to remain very intentional with the work included in this plan.

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