By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 22, 2020 at 1:32 PM

Back in November, I put on my mask and physically walked into a public library and spent five minutes checking out the recent arrivals. I was thrilled to find two books I didn't know I wanted to read – Debby Harry's autobiography (meh) and Tom Acitelli's book on the history of pilsner (great!).

It all felt so ... normal.

But since Thursday, Dec. 3, that's been over as Milwaukee Public Library shifted back to curbside pickup only at the Central Library and the branches.

Here is the library's Dec. 2 statement in full:

Beginning tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 3, Milwaukee Public Library will shift operations at Central Library and all neighborhood branch libraries from in-person service to curbside materials pickup only.  This is a result of the 7-day rolling average positive case rate for COVID-19 exceeding 15% in the City of Milwaukee.

To ensure the health and safety of patrons and staff, MPL will remain in a curbside service model until the positive case rate remains at or under 15% for at least 7 days.  MPL will continue to offer robust virtual programming for all ages, and complete online resources including e-books and periodicals, homework help, and hundreds of databases and information sources.

Patrons can request materials online or by calling Ready Reference at (414) 286-3011.

Patrons are encouraged to stay connected to mpl.org for updates and follow MPL on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) for the latest information on programming and other virtual offerings.

On Dec. 22, MPL announced that contactless pickup will remain on the books until Jan. 19, after the scheduled expiration of COVID order #4.3 from the Milwaukee Health Department.

In related news, MPL also announced on Dec. 1 that it has received a $100,000 grant from Impact100 that will help allow it to get 225 more hotspots for its loan program that helps boost internet access for Milwaukeeans.

Up to 10 devices can connect to the MPL wi-fi via a single hotspot.

Hotspots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis to card holders 18 and older at all Milwaukee Public Libraries. They cannot be held or reserved, nor can they be renewed in a 21-day period. If a hotspot isn't returned on time, it is deactivated.

“MPL is honored to receive this very generous award, and to partner with Impact100 to address the alarming disparity in internet access in Milwaukee,” said Library Director Joan Johnson, in a statement Tuesday. “In the City of Milwaukee, less than 40 percent of low-income households have internet access at home. This population is suffering setbacks in multiple areas more than ever given the transition to online environments for school, work, medicine, finance, and the legal system as a result of the pandemic.

"The mission of MPL is to help residents read, learn and connect, not just to our resources but to each other and the world beyond. Thanks to the generosity of Impact100, the expansion of our Hotspot program increases our ability to do that.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.