‘What’s your story?’ Kilgore Memorial Library offers fun summer activities for all ages. This display of kids’ projects is one example.

NEBRASKA — Summer brings to mind lounging in the sunshine and diving into the local swimming pool. But libraries across Nebraska – and locally – have been making going to the library a part of summer, too.

This year’s summer reading program theme is “A Universe of Stories,” focusing on all things intergalactic. Themes are voted on by librarians from across the nation, said Nebraska Library Commission Coordinator of Children & Young Adult Library Services Sally Snyder.

From there, libraries collaborate via “The Library Commission pays… dues to the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) for all Nebraska public libraries,” Snyder said. By paying these dues, libraries have access to materials – from clip art to craft ideas – that coincide with the theme. “The Library Commission also purchases a manual for each public library,” she added.

Past summer reading program themes have surrounded subjects like animals, learning about different cultures and sports. Next year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story,” which will incorporate fairy tales, mythology and fantasy.

“Summer reading is usually one of the highlights of public libraries,” said Scott Childers, Executive Director of the Southeast Library System (SELS). Twenty counties in southeast Nebraska – including York County -- receive consulting and training from SELS, which also partners with the Nebraska Library Commission.

Childers said summer reading programs come with challenges. “Now kids have so many options in their communities,” he said. “It’s hard for any program to have the draw they used to.”

Snyder seemed to agree. “I think because communities have a lot going on in the summer finding a time to bring their kids to the library can be difficult,” she said.

As libraries jostle for participants, creative scheduling and programming are paramount.

Heartland Community Schools’ Library is getting in on the act by hosting activities, story hours and prizes for participants. Weekly prizes will be awarded for every 100 minutes read, with a grand prize for kids reading five weeks out of the six-week period.

Special guests have been visiting Exeter Public Library to help kids learn about subjects like constellations. Crafts and stories augment the participants’ learning experience.

Libraries’ summer programming is not necessarily tied to themes, however. “It’s really up to each library whether they use the theme or not,” Snyder said.

One library going off the beaten path this summer is Kilgore Memorial Library (York). Brown bag lunch story times, free movies, gaming on the big screen and other activities span the summer at Kilgore.

This was out of necessity, due to changes in staff and funding, said Kilgore Memorial Library Educational Outreach Coordinator Carol Baker. “It’s just what happens when things get cut. Hopefully next year we’ll be back and have even more activities,” she said.

Kilgore’s kid visitors can keep a reading journal, in which reading time is logged. For every reading milestone, the reader gets entered into a drawing for a grand prize at the activity’s end. This summer videogames on the big screen and offering popcorn and a movie are also among the offerings.

However, Childers said, libraries are much more than summer programming:

“Summer reading is one of the things people often remember, but let’s not forget many libraries have activities for teens, children and adults throughout the year.”

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