By Wausau Pilot & Review staff

WAUSAU – Schools, libraries and other educational institutions have been closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Marathon County Public Library staff members found a way to get much-needed books into the hands of area students during the closure.

Stephanie Martell, a library assistant at MCPL’s Wausau headquarters, has arranged for children’s books to be donated to local school districts, as well as to the United Way of Marathon County. The donated books were removed from the library’s collection and would normally have been donated to the Friends of the Marathon County Public Library to be sold at one of the group’s quarterly book sales, according to the library.

“After getting approval from managers, I started calling school districts in Marathon County and was soon boxing up items for districts to pick up,” Martell said in a news release.

The idea for the initiative came from Tara Hornbeak, MCPL’s Youth Collection Development Specialist, Martell said. Hornbeak was inspired after learning other libraries donated their used materials to schoolchildren in their local areas.

As Hornbeak continued to weed out more and more children’s materials from MCPL’s nine locations, Martell arranged for the books to be distributed throughout the Athens, Edgar, Marathon City, Mosinee, D.C. Everest, Spencer and Stratford school districts.

So far, more than 3,500 books have been donated to local school districts. Some districts have handed the books out to families who have visited school lunch pickup sites while others have given the books to students who visit school to pick up other materials.

Another 250 books have been donated to the United Way, which the organization plans to distribute around the area.