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Nearly 300 people turned out Wednesday to a sneak at peek at some of the unique animals of Australia that have found a home at Kentucky Down Under, a privately-owned park in Horse Cave.
The animals that stopped by included Mirrhi, a baby kangaroo; Merlin, a cockatoo; Hunter, a blue-tounged skink; and Forrest, a python from the Australian rain forest.
The show was part of the rewards for taking part in this year’s Owen County Public Library Summer Reading program. Following the program, guests were treated to snow cones and cotton candy.
“What an amazing turnout for our summer reading grand finale program with Kentucky Down Under,” Jennifer Chancery, adult services librarian for the Owen County Public Library, said.
“Thank you to everyone who participated in our summer reading festivities this year because the events could not have went any smoother. I was absolutely impressed with the record turnout and could not have asked for anything better,” Chancery said.
The library staff is encouraged by the turnout for their programs.
“That is an outstanding number of attendance for Owen County,” Chancery said. “During our program last week with Yurtfolk, the presenters mentioned that they were surprised that we had two shows for such a small community. They quickly understood as kids kept rolling in to learn all about yurts and how to sing and dance from countries around the world. With lots of audience participation, the kids and adults alike had a blast.”
When the summer reading program was full swing, Jennifer Nippert, director of the Owen County Public Library, said the library saw the number of children’s books being checked out in June more doubled over last year.
“While many libraries’ programs measure minutes or number of pages read, we designed our program to encourage children and adults to read at their level and read books that interest them,” Nippert said. “The goal for children who are reading on their own was five books over the duration of the one-month reading program. For children not reading on their own, we asked that a parent or caretaker read 20 books with the child over the one-month period. We had 3,496 children’s books checked out in the month of June this year versus 1,744 during the month of May.”
Once these goals were met, the participants were awarded a free pass to the Owen County Fair for one night, Nippert said.
“We partnered with the Owen County Fair Board last year, and decided that we’d like to do it again this year,” Nippert said. “The passes definitely motivated the participants to read, and we were glad to use the grant money from the Ohio Valley United Charities to support another local endeavor. Last year, we awarded nearly 300 fair passes, and although we haven’t finished our final count yet, we will award at least that many this year.”
As the world becomes more interconnected in the digital age, Nippert said learning and the ability to gather information quickly is vitally important to young people.
“I really felt that the theme of ‘One World, Many Stories’ was particularly apt this summer,” Nippert said. “While we continue to celebrate our own culture and values, it has become increasingly important for people to have awareness and access to information about the events going on in the world around them. The library offers free access to that information, and equal opportunity for those to wish to improve themselves by accessing our collection and our community’s resources.”
But as the program expands, Nippert said some of the shortcomings of the library’s current location become more apparent.
“The only regret that I’ve had about the program this summer is that we had to move two of the four big programs out of the library to accommodate the number of people who wanted to participate,” Nippert said. “The intent of the summer reading program is to give our community the opportunity to explore what we have to offer, but by moving the programs offsite, we haven’t been able to showcase our resources like I would have wanted. I am very grateful to all of the caretakers and parents of children who have braved the crowds over the years to make sure that their families are receiving the benefits that the library has to offer.”
But soon, the library’s space problem will be a thing of the past.
“After years of preparation and planning, the library board has advertised for bids on a new 12,000 square foot facility to be built on Highway 22 East,” Nippert said.
Plans for the new library are available for public inspection at the library and construction bids will be accepted July 19 at 2 p.m. at the library.
If a bid is awarded, library staff expect a formal ground-breaking ceremony will take place in August.
“A new facility will allow us to continue to serve the needs of the community with expanded computer space, collection space and meeting spaces,” Nippert said.
The library staff would like to thank the Ohio Valley United Charities for helping fund the library programs; the Owen County Fair Board; Owenton City Council member Larry Dale Perry; Richard Hampton, News-Herald Editor John Whitlock, OCPL staff, and the citizens of Owen County.