Madison’s very own public library is (in my opinion) one of the best, but potentially underused resources in our community. The building itself is new, modern, and bright, while the resources and opportunities are plentiful and “forward-thinking”.
Plus, the majority of what they offer community members is absolutely free!
I recently met Melanie Thornton, the Director of Public Relations for the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library system, and I was hungry to learn more from her about how my family and our community as a whole could better utilize everything the system has to offer. She is a delight and was thrilled to share more about the ins and outs that make the HMCPL system as exceptional as it is.
For starters, Madison’s library is part of a much larger system that spreads throughout the county, which includes 10 branches. Thornton shares that the greatest benefit to this is having shared resources throughout all branches.
“If there’s a book that you’d like but it’s only available in downtown Huntsville, you can put a hold on it and have it delivered to the Madison library within a day or two.”
The HMCPL system also shares a substantial list of shared online resources, which are always free to users with a valid HMCPL card (see below for how to snag one!)
Hoopla, a digital streaming website and app, is one of their most popular resources. Thornton shares that Hoopla has thousands of audiobooks, movies, animated books, and more that are available for instant download. Each library card permits five downloads per month, so if each member in your family of four has a library card, then you’re able to download up to 20 titles per month!
“I highly recommend signing children up for their very own library card for this reason,” shared Thornton. She says that children especially love animated books and that parents have really enjoyed downloading titles to tablets for their little ones to enjoy.
She says that audiobook fans are also crazy about this service!
Another streaming service that is available complimentary with a library card is Kanopy, a moving streaming service that is the newest to the HMCPL system.
“With Kanopy Streaming, you are going to get a lot of documentaries, independent films, and other really great titles that film connoisseurs especially will find really neat.”
Kanopy is an app that can be streamed on most devices and smart TVs.
Inside Madison’s library, visitors will find not only thousands of books available for check-out, but also an open-floor plan children’s area, several conference rooms, tables and chairs to gather, an auditorium, and more.
“When our community group gathered to discuss planning the library, parents asked us specifically to make the children’s area a separate space,” shared Thornton.
This area is full of natural light, color, and books from wall to wall for children and youth of all ages and interests. It also includes areas with a few toys, a handful of desktop computers loaded with interactive children’s media, and more.
Beyond the exit doors from the children’s area is a “backyard” patio with tables, chairs, and a Children’s garden, which was sponsored and paid for by the Rotary Club of Madison.
“Something that our library has that no other library in our system does is our outdoor movie screen. When the weather is nice, we enjoy hosting movie nights for the community.”
Thornton shares that children’s programming has resumed heavily this month with many storytime opportunities not only available during the week, but on a couple of Saturdays per month as well!
Sewing class options are also available. For a full calendar of programming options, please click here.
As aforementioned, there are several conference rooms at the Madison Public Library that are able to be reserved in advance for a small fee. There are also two auditoriums that can be opened up to one large room, which is a fantastic option for those looking to host a large group.
Complimentary WiFi is available both inside the library as well as outside at the tables scattered throughout the outdoor patios.
Laptops are available to checkout as well for use on the library property. Laptops are not available for take-home rental.
Thornton shared that the HMCPL system has seen a “definite increase” in book holds being placed online.
“All you have to do to find the book you’d like is to search our online catalog. Then you’ll place a hold, and if it’s on the shelf, you’re welcome to come by and pick it up or request curbside pickup.”
She says that if the book is especially popular, it’s common to wait a few weeks for a copy to become available.
She says that visitors still love coming to browse the shelves for reading inspiration just like they always have. She says that it’s common to see parents and children visit the library together and browse through the shelves.
All of these amenities and more are available to HMCPL card holders. To apply for a library card, please visit this website and fill out the registration form. Here is the link to register for a card for youth ages 15 years and under. Proof for residency in Madison County is required. There are remote verification options, or an applicant is welcome to visit the library and show a picture ID or utility bill.
When asked what Thornton personally loves about working for the HMCPL, she shared that she loves talking as often as she can about how amazing our library system is.
“One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is that people think this is a stand-alone library, when it’s in fact part of something much bigger. I’ve lived in several places, and this is one of the best library systems in the country.”
She continued to share that the HMCPL system is also the busiest in the state and believes the success is due in part to our diverse population and HMCPL working hard to meet the needs of all community members.
“We are always evolving and making improvements, and I want people to say ‘Wow! I want to be a part of that too!'”
Madison Public Library in Madison, Alabama
142 Plaza Blv, Madison