The COVID-19 pandemic forced the City of La Crosse to make budget cuts after lost revenue.
Quality of life services like Parks and Rec and the La Crosse Public Library received the largest reductions.
Losing more than $500,000 of its budget, the library looked towards its biggest expense– personnel.
“We had already laid off 11 staff members and then eight staff were furloughed for the summer,” said Barry McKnight, the La Crosse Public Library community engagement coordinator. “The rest of us have to take some intermittent furloughs through the end of the year.”
Since the announcement was made, community members have been outspoken in their love for the library.
Employees say it speaks to the widespread use of its facility.
“This is really one of the only places where you get a real cross-section of the community. People from all walks of life…come in and use our services,” McKnight explained. “This effects everybody. It effects families with little kids through seniors, [and] the most vulnerable in our community.”
Looking to evolve programming to be consistent with reduced staffing and COVID restrictions, the library has re-opened its main branch for pickup of materials–previously available by curbside appointment only.
“They can come to the library, they can just stop in, give the staff their library card or their name and they can retrieve it for them,” McKnight said. “It speeds it up a little faster and also makes it less staff intensive.”
There is still no access to the shelves for browsing and all returns are quarantined for 72 hours.
Additionally, masks are required while inside the building.
Computer services are available again by appointment only and staff say the cleaning of the devices are rigorous.
“At the beginning of the day and then after each computer use the computer, the mouse, the keyboard, the headphones– those are all cleaned by staff before they’re made accessible to the patrons again,” McKnight said.
The La Crosse Library is the only public place where community members can print and make copies.
The library also offers free Wi-Fi from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.