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Pickup by Appointment Service a Welcome Option for Researchers

June 29, 2020

Online orders. Minimum contact pickups. Scheduled pickups.

Whether it’s dinner, groceries, or even library materials, the way we get the items we need has changed dramatically in the last several months due to the impact of COVID-19.

Where online ordering and curbside pickup used to serve as a means for convenience, it now is a normal, and at times essential, practice. 

As the Libraries at UW-Madison transitioned into a gradual reopening, the first method of expanding access to users was to launch a pickup service for materials. 

“Like so many of our colleagues around the country, whether at a university or local public libraries, providing an online order system with a minimum contact pickup method was an obvious and critical step as we figure out how to reopen access to our collections,” says Steve Baumgart. Baumgart is head of Memorial Library Public Services. 

While the concept of online material selection is nothing new for libraries, the complexities of a global pandemic created new challenges. How should staffing be handled? Which libraries can offer materials? How can the pickup be organized to ensure limited contact to promote the health and safety of all involved?

“A library is a complex unit,” says Baumgart. “On the surface, it seems simple. Find items, order online, or pick off a shelf, take to a checkout counter, ask a librarian if you have a question, and you’re on your way. The reality of how a library manages to maintain and provide users with materials is far more intricate and requires unbelievable coordination. When you consider the health, safety, staffing, and overall challenges related to a global pandemic, we’ve all had to stretch our creativity to find solutions!” 

The Libraries launched online ordering of some materials in Memorial Library on June 15, with scheduled pickups of pre-bagged materials from four hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Throughout the campus closure, the requests for library assistance have been definite. Once the chance to provide physical materials returned, users couldn’t wait. In just two weeks, 241 pickups took place. 

On June 25, the Libraries expanded access to materials to include Mills Music Library, Kohler Art Library, the Law Library, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. As the gradual reopening efforts continue, the focus on providing access to order materials from even more libraries is a priority.

“This is new territory for everyone, but it has shown us how much people value libraries,” says Baumgart. “We take seriously the importance of helping to support our campus in its effort to restart research activities, and part of that component is providing access to library materials. We are ready to help make that possible.”