8:45 am, Madison Public Library – Central


Fourteen people stand outside the Madison Public Library’s central branch on South Hamilton Street and wait for 9 am to arrive and the doors to open on a warm, safe place to read or use a computer. For now, they stand in a single-file line in the rain.

Heather Welch, dressed in a sweatshirt, windbreaker, baseball cap and wool winter gloves, says she waits here for about 20 minutes every day. When asked about her favorite part of the library, Welch beams. “The books!”

Like Welch, the others in line say they visit the library daily, especially on days with poor weather.

Deane Dahl, who waits next to Welch, says he enjoys the computers and wi-fi. People can check out a computer and use the wi-fi for two hours each day. Many waiting in line say they spend most nights at a local homeless shelter and congregate outside the library each morning before it opens.

– Meredith Lee

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