Madison Public Library says concerned staff led to further delay in opening – now hoping for late May return

MADISON, Wis. – Those in charge of Madison Public Library say while they had hoped to return as soon as April 19th, that plan was met with concern from staff members who felt it was too soon.

The members of the board began receiving emails and many of them, from staff, expressed concerns because they had not yet been vaccinated,” said Board President Eve Galanter. “And their position requires them that they be public facing, interacting directly with the public, they hoped we could put off the decision until more of them could get the vaccine.”

Galanter says she’s unsure what portion of staff have already had a chance to get the vaccine, but says she’s hopeful the newly proposed return date of May 24 offers more time.

Our decision was based on having the assurance that both our staff and the people who will come into our libraries will be as safe as possible,” she said. 

The board met April 1 to discuss possibilities around reopening. Library leaders say they got roughly a dozen emails from staffers urging the date be pushed back further.

I think the most important thing is that we have a plan, the plan is safe, once the plan is approved we’re really anxious to invite people into our space,” said Tana Elias, Digital Services and Marketing Manager for Madison Public Library. 

Elias says even when libraries do return, they’ll follow restrictions set by Public Health Madison Dane County. Due to some of the library locations being smaller, she says after opening, they’ll likely only be able to serve seven to 40 customers at once, with the library’s central location being the exception.

When we looked at waiting months to waiting weeks (for staff to get vaccinated), I think that changed the conversation for some people,” Elias said.   

The library board will meet once again on May 6 to finalize a plan moving forward.