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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oxford Public Library finding vital new roles

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Southern Valley High School senior and artist Ashley Grossnicklaus is creating murals for the library's new homework tutoring center.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Gazette)
OXFORD, Nebraska -- The kids come in their PJ's.

They curl up with stuffed toys and munch on popcorn.

And, while their parents are watching a grown-ups' movie at the Granada Theater next door, youngsters at the Oxford, Nebraska, Public Library are enjoying a G-rated kid-friendly movie on their own big screen, helping the library fulfill its mission to be a vital, vibrant educational, entertainment and social hub of the community.

Danielle Burns has been director at the library for seven years. When weather or illness prevents patrons from getting to the library, Danielle will make home deliveries of books and materials.
"We've done movie night all winter. It has become very popular," says library director Danielle Burns, who has, with her teen board, board of directors and "Friends of the Library," created other new programs and activities that are keeping the public library in residents' minds and hearts.

"The library has lots of support and lots of volunteer time and talent from the community," Danielle said. "My patrons are an enormous help. This keeps the library vital for the community."

Help with homework after school is part of the library's new "strategic plan" developed this year, and retired teacher Jan Anderson volunteered to help by offering tutoring. "It's free to the students, and has been very successful," Danielle said.

The Oxford Public Library.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Gaette)
Danielle has transformed a corner of the library into a homework and reading center, and Southern Valley High School senior and artist Ashley Grossnicklaus is designing and painting wall murals -- one, a stack of books, and another the "Hobbit" "Smaug" dragon.

The Oxford Thrift Shop donated $500 to help with the creation of the tutoring corner.

The community's Oxford Foundation provided funds for an XBox game system and television. The library also has a variety of DVDs available for check-out.

Young Oxford, Nebraska, Public Library patrons -- working on homework at computers one afternoon recently -- are, from the left: Trenton Wray, Billy Cayou, Gloria Cayou, Dakota Coppedge, Dusty Roeder and Clare Craig.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Gazette)
"We feel very fortunate that we have so much support from the community," Danielle said.

The library's computer center was funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technology Opportunities Program "BTOP" program (designated to expand public libraries' broadband capacity and upgrade public computing resources in libraries) and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We got nine computers with web cams, desks and chairs," Danielle said. "The kids can do their homework online here and send it to the school."

With a child at each computer in the computer center one recent afternoon after school, Danielle said the library is kid friendly. "We know all our kids by name. They're comfortable here," she said.

The library is a "No Bullying" zone as well. "They have to follow the rules and be courteous. It's a safe environment," Danielle said. "We have no problems. This is a great group of kids."

The computers are, of course, also available to adults. "We have a lady doing her ancestry research," Danielle said. "She has learned how to use a computer, and comes in every day."

The library maintains a "book request" book in which many adults suggest books they would like to see on the library shelves. "So far, I have been able to fulfill all requests and stay within budget," Danielle said.

To further involve young readers in the library, Danielle has created a five-member board of teens who are freshmen through seniors in high school. The board makes suggestions and recommendations of books of particular interest to teens and kids, and helps set up and clean up on Movie Night. "They're very, very helpful," she said. "And it helps them feel useful and part of the library."

There are so many teens who use the library, it was difficult to select board members. "I looked for teens who read a lot, and are interested in more than just the computers in the library," said Danielle, who found she had to limit the board to five students.

Teen board members are: Gloria Cayou, Dillon Burns, Sean Skiles, Shawn Basnet and Jose Olivas.

The library's board of directors includes Kelly Gillen, Renae Brooks, Sue Sheneman, Joyce Schoenfelder and Jen Wasenius.

Danielle is creating a new "Friends of the Library" board, made up of library patrons with a deep commitment to the library. "It's very exciting for us," Danielle said. "This board will be so helpful with any activity, and especially fund-raising. I have a lot of interest within the community."

Dawn Sladky will be the director of the "Friends" board; other membership is pending.

Because Oxford's library, board of directors and director maintain their accreditation and obtain the required continuing education hours, the library can apply for grants -- like the BTOP and Gates grant -- and some state funding programs.

With accreditation, the Oxford library can access an inner-library book loan system and audio books, and can borrow a die-cut machine, which is handy for teachers and scrap-bookers, Danielle said. "There's an endless supply of resources," she said. "It's important to stay accredited."

The Oxford Public Library is located just north of the downtown business district, at 411 Ogden. The phone number is (308) 824-3381.

During the school year, the library's open Monday through Thursday, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.; on Friday, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.; and Saturday, from noon until 4 p.m.

If Danielle can swing it in her budget, she would like to try to open weekday mornings through the summer. She has a summer reading program, open to readers of all ages. She would like to start a preschool story hour, maybe in the fall, when the older readers go back to school.

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