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By Erin Schwager

County librarians share happenings with county commissioners


The Antelope County Library Association presented its annual reports and review to the Antelope County Commissioners at the June 14 commissioner meeting at the Antelope County Courthouse.

Cindy Simeon, current association president spoke first. She represents the Raymond A. Whitwer Tilden Public Library. She noted that the library’s numbers are increasing in stats, programming and visitations and returning back to normal since the pandemic. She explained how county funding helps meet the needs of the community.

“We are not asking for an increase in funding but only that you continue your current support, so that we, in turn, can help our community members, especially those who are struggling and who are going to need our library services and materials more than ever,” said Simeon.

Barb Bode and Dianne Gunderson, co-directors of the Elgin Public Library, presented handouts with statistics to commissioners. They are in the midst of the summer reading program, which usually takes place in June. On average, 20 to 30 kids are participating. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the library offers story time. Activity time is held on Thursdays for the older kids. Antelope County Extension office intern, Skylar Reestman, presented a program and 30 kids attended. The co-directors explained the Lego League the library hosts every third Monday of each month during the school year. Approximately 40 to 50 youths attend. The Elgin library also hosts book club and send books to the daycares.

Bode said she would like to emphasize the new addition to the library.

“A couple years ago, we wrote a grant that we received. The Shirley Kreutz Bennett Grant, but it has just kind of been sitting there because of COVID ... They got started on it this spring in early April and it’s done except for wiring up our air conditioning,” Bode said.

Elgin Public Library also received a grant for excellence, and are developing a makerspace that has crayons, markers, magnetic tiles, Legos and more.

Charlotte Tracy, director of the Lois Johnson Memorial Library in Oakdale, took the floor next.

“(With county funds) We have been able to purchase new books and supplies for the library. The money you have given us has played a key part in keeping the library open to the public,” Tracy expressed.

She noted the Oakdale Library has been used for other things people do not think of immediately, like finding legal documents, making real estate purchases and going through the job search process.

Kathy Feusse, director of the Clearwater Public Library, talked about how the library is trying to recuperate from COVID. She said in the past, the library averaged 20 kids for the summer reading program. The average has been around 40 children this year.

She noted that she continues to work with the daycare in the community and makes activity kits that include a learning skills for children preschool through second grade. These kits work on colors, numbers, math and reading. During the pandemic, she started make-it and take-it craft kits at the grocery store in town. They became so popular that she now makes about 20 kits every 10 days.

“With our school moving to Summerland, now we have our ESU students in town and that has been a huge blessing to us. They visit our library weekly and they come check out books and do activities. Once a month, I do a craft or another kind of activity with each of those kids,” Feusse said.

She also noted the library handed out 100 trick-or-treat bags and more than 50 kids attended the Old Fashioned Christmas crafts.

Clearwater Public Library used American Rescue Plan Act funds for the lending library, where Feusse places discarded books, so the public can access to them.

Amy Baker spoke as director of the Neligh Public Library.

“We continue to improve our facility to meet the needs of our patrons. We add technology and create different areas to make our patrons feel comfortable,” Baker explained.

She mentioned that there have been some staff changes, but the library continues to provide excellent services to the public. They offer after-school programs, story time, book club, writer’s group and a program once a month for patrons at The Willows. She noted it also hosted the annual bike rodeo that had more than 120 people in attendance.

The library started its summer reading program with six different programs covering the “Oceans of Possibilities” theme. Approximately 84 individuals, grades PK through 12th grade, are participating.

The library also gives career opportunities and does pop trivia to engage the community.

“We appreciate all the support you give us throughout the year. We value the opportunity through your support to serve our community,” Baker said.

Donna Hamilton, director of the Orchard Public Library, was the final librarian to speak. She started by thanking the county for their funding as there are financial constraints on the library.

“You’re the ones who help put books in our library and I greatly appreciate it,” Hamilton said.

She touched on the fact that patron numbers have almost doubled since last year. She mentioned how the usage of computers has increased.

Circulation numbers dropped “just a little,” but she thinks it has to do with people finally coming out of lockdown, school starting, kids being able to spend more time outdoors.

The Orchard Public Library’s summer reading program began in June, and in July, there will be three extension office programs for kids to attend. Approximately 45 kids have registered for those programs. Lego Club also takes place at the library, with six to 12 kids in attendance each time, but they seem to be different kids each time. The Lego Club does continue throughout the summer as well.

Since 2020, the makerspace has been getting much more use. Students of St. Peter Preschool Academy checked out books weekly this school year and that helped with circulation, according to Hamilton.

“Orchard has purchased the school house, and next year, I’m thinking next year, they will move the library up to the old schoolhouse. There will be some changes, but also the preschool will be moving up to the school, so I will have them down the hall from me. I will see them more often,” Hamilton said.

She said approximately 150 kids attended trunk or treat.

She also said that the library is a meeting place for an English and Spanish class that meets every week. A local book group meets there monthly and kids are also encouraged to play some of the library’s board games.

“Your continued support makes a difference in our life right now. We really do appreciate it, thank you,” Hamilton said.

The Antelope County Commissioners will make a decision on funding at a later date.


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