Libraries make summer reading donations to schools


When staff at the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library imagined what the summer learning program would look like this year, they knew they’d have to make some changes.

The COVID-19 pandemic and library closures put a dampener on the annual summer learning program this year. Normally, local libraries would be bustling with activity as children and patrons attended a flurry of themed programming and checked out books to complete the summer reading challenge. This year, however, programs were canceled, and patrons seemed hesitant to come inside the libraries. The question became how to engage patrons and encourage participation. The answer was a community giveback program.

“It was something we had talked about doing for a while,” said Library Director Christine Golden, who oversees the libraries in Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper.

The library issued a challenge to patrons. If patrons read 2,500 books over the course of the summer learning program — which spanned June and July — then the library would donate a total of $2,500 to the school libraries in its coverage area. The community far exceeded the goal, Golden said, and read about 5,000 books.

This month, the library presented four checks worth $625 each to the four schools it serves — Greater Jasper, Holy Trinity Catholic School, Northeast Dubois and Southeast Dubois.

The funds come from the library’s gift fund, which uses donated dollars to support programs like the summer reading program. In previous years, the library used the funds to purchase completion prizes, which Golden described as little $2 to $3 trinkets given to everyone who completes the reading challenge. This year, though, library staff reallocated those funds to launch the community give back.

“One big gesture goes a lot further than small completion prizes,” Golden said.

They chose to donate to the schools because that seemed like a good way to have an impact over the library system’s entire coverage area. Although school librarians only just received the funds, they already know what books they want to add to their collections.

At Holy Trinity’s Central Campus, Judy Buechlein plans to purchase the latest books in several series that are popular with preschool through second grade students, such as the “Dog Man” graphic novels by Dav Pilkey, the “Magic Tree House” chapter books by Mary Pope Osborne and the “Pete the Cat” picture books by James Dean and Eric Litwin.

“I try to stay up to date on those,” she said. “The kids are checking them out all the time.”

At Holy Trinity’s East Campus, the students are excited to get new books early in the school year.

“I usually don’t buy books until closer to the end of the school year,” Librarian Anna Rolwing said. “With the library donation, I plan to fulfill some student requests for titles they have asked me to add to our collection.”

The fifth grade language arts teacher also challenged the students to read 30 books in different genres this year, so Rolwing is going to purchase books to support that program, too.

At Ireland Elementary, Susan Gossett plans to purchase some scary books at the request of her younger students.

“I definitely listen to my kids about what they want,” Gossett said.

Some of the scary titles hitting Ireland Elementary’s shelves will be the “Sophie and the Shadow Woods: series by Linda Chapman and L.A. Weatherly. The students also like Lauren Tarshis’ ”I Survived” series, a historical fiction series about history’s tragedies. The series is being adapted into graphic novels, so Gossett wants to add those to the collection.

Jasper Elementary students will soon find more Coretta Scott King award-winning books on the shelves in their library. Librarians Emi Donato and Sabrina Peters try to create a collection with titles that cater to the diverse student population at Jasper Elementary, including books about diversity and inclusion, kindness and accepting yourself for who you are. They also purchase books about Hispanic countries and historical figures to make sure their Hispanic students can see their heritage recognized.

“We’ve got all sorts of students, and we need to celebrate all the different cultures we have here,” Donato said.

The librarians all thanked the library for thinking of them for the community giveback program.

“We value our public library and the relationships they have made with all of the school libraries in the county,” Rolwing said. “I was very excited when I saw this donation was a part of their summer reading program and proud that they are willing to give back to the schools they serve.

Golden said the library plans to keep the community giveback part of the summer learning program. Each year, they’ll look at community needs and determine how to allocate the funds.

Although the completion prizes may not make a comeback, Golden said the grand prizes will stay. Last year, 100 grand prize winners took home a $50 gift card to a Dubois County business of their choice.

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