Looking ahead with Larry Oathout
Portage County Public Library Update
By Taylor Hale
For many, it’s a home away from home.
When the county’s libraries closed their doors, as COVID-19 began its way into the state, Portage County Public Library Director Larry Oathout knew his team had to adapt if they wanted to continue to serve their community.
“We are trying to take it all in a whole new direction because we know that past normal isn’t normal anymore,” Oathout explained.
Since reopening their doors to the public in June, the county’s four branches have seen roughly 55 percent of their former visitation and rentals.
The system’s online audiobooks and ebooks rental services have also skyrocketed since COVID-19, reaching over 14,000 additional checkouts from the previous year.
“That’s pretty darn good considering everything,” Oathout said.
The shift to online content and clubs has allowed the library to stay active. All reading groups, social clubs, and other library-based groups have been moved to an online format. While meeting rooms in the Stevens Point library now serve as a quarantine staging area for returned materials.
“We keep all returned materials isolated for 24 hours,” Oathout explained.
With a new offering of online groups and activities, Oathout is excited to kick off 2021.
Library Loot Bags
Get “Fired Up” with the library’s newest adventure. Staff is assembling take-home loot bags for area families this winter. January’s theme is Fired Up. Each bag is tailored to each registrant and includes a library book and additional goodies to keep.
More info will debut on the Portage County Public Library website on Jan. 8, featuring additional details about the month’s theme and future boxes.
The loot boxes will be available to kids in sixth-12th grade. Online registration is required.
Adult Winter Reading Challenge
This year’s online Winter Reading challenge is 80s themed. Participants will have a chance to read literature and log their progress for a chance to win prizes from downtown businesses.
Registration opens on Jan. 11. The challenge runs through Feb. 28.
Oathout sees the challenge as a way to stay engaged with literature throughout the cold winter months, offering locals a fun outlet.
Online Book Clubs
While many are stuck at home, online book clubs offer a way to stay social and find a new favorite book. The Portage County Public Library System provides several groups in which to participate.
To learn more about online book clubs available to Portage County residents, visit pocolibrary.org/library-book-clubs.