Summer full of activities at Ashland library | Latest News

Summer full of activities at Ashland library |  Latest News

By Suzi Nelson The Ashland Gazette

ASHLAND – If last week’s attendance at the wildlife presentation at Ashland Public Library is any indication, the library is going to be busy this summer.

Library Director Tanya McVay and Caitlin Henry, the youth services library assistant, have put together a busy schedule of activities to bring young and old to the library this summer.

Many of the activities planned this summer were requested by the public. One of the most popular summer events in the past few years was the weekly music series last held in 2018. McVay has brought this program back, calling it Community Night.

“We want it to be known that it’s welcome to anyone,” she said.

Every Tuesday night at 6:30 pm in June and July, the library will host Community Night. Events range from concerts by Omaha Street Percussion, David Marsh and the Judds Family to a magic show, bingo and trivia nights. Some events will be held on the lawn north of the library, while others will take place inside the library.

People are also reading…

On the morning of June 2, the library’s community room was packed as children and adults enthusiastically enthusiastic the animals presented by Kip Smith of Wildlife Encounters. It was one of the first events planned in June and July by the library.

“We had no idea what to expect,” said McVay, who said that they will likely schedule an additional show with the popular animal rescue group for next year to handle the crowd.

The Wildlife Encounters show was one of the Thursday morning programs geared towards children. The schedule includes 4-H presentations, shows about bees, science and more wildlife and movies.

Other events for children throughout the summer include Tot to Play on Monday mornings and Storytime on Tuesday mornings for the pre-kindergarten age group. Children of reading age are invited to Read to a Dog on Monday mornings. Signup is required so Rosie the service dog and her owner, Tanya Keith, can be scheduled.

Henry said they have created activities for the older elementary/middle school and high school age groups. While the two-month period, Tuesday afternoons will be dedicated to the fifth and sixth graders, while Thursday afternoon activities are scheduled for kids in grade 7 to 12. The activities will range from crafts, games and technology to Oreo taste tests and making sushi out of candy.

“We’re trying to keep their summer fun and interesting,” said Henry.

Youth in these age groups are also invited to join book clubs. Two Wednesdays each month, the seventh and eighth graders meet at 1 pm to discuss what they are reading. The high school book club meets one Wednesday a month, but there are other activities for this age group planned in the summer. The first activity, which took place on June 1, was a Murder Mystery Night that was well-attended, Henry said. The teens participated in a tea party where they found clues in each course they were served.

“Giggles and laughter could be heard throughout the library,” McVay reported.

The Chess Club meets on Wednesday afternoons as well. It is for children in fifth grade up to adults. McVay said the first meeting on June 1 had five players, and she recruited another player to make things even.

The wide range in age will be good for all players, said McVay, who learned how to play chess by competing against adults.

“I loved playing chess with adults older than me that could beat me,” she said. “I learned from the experience.”

Adult activities also have a place on the schedule this summer. McVay and Henry have become certified Geri-Fit instructors and will lead classes on Monday and Friday afternoons. The program provides muscle-strengthening exercises to help reduce falls, a major factor for older adults.

“Tanya and I are trained as coaches to make sure things are done safely,” said Henry.

Geri-Fit is not just for the elderly, however. The program offers three levels for all abilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults were stuck at home and were not able to exercise, so this will offer them an opportunity to work their way back into exercise, McVay said.

The adult readers have had their own book club for the last few years where they all read the same book and discuss it. But this summer the library has added something a little different, called a Book Chat.

“It’s a time for them to come and talk about what they’re reading and get recommendations from others,” Henry said.

The adults will also continue to meet once a week for Coffee Chat, where the subject matter does not have to be about books.

Adults and children are invited to participate in the Summer Reading Program. Over the years, this program has been a summer staple for children, but it seems this year it has generated a lot more interest from all ages, according to McVay.

“So far it’s exceeding expectations,” she said. “That’s great, that’s what we want to see.”

Audio books, ebooks, educational podcasts and other reading materials are included in the program for adults, McVay said.

“We’re really trying to open up the definition of what reading is,” she added.

Participants in the Summer Reading Program are eligible to win prizes throughout the summer and in a raffle at the end of the program. Prizes are geared towards the age group, McVay said.

The summer will wind up with a carnival for the younger kids on July 28.

“It’s a nice, fun outside thing to celebrate the end of the Summer Reading Program,” said McVay.

For youth in grades 5 to 12, their final summer fling will be Harry Potter Day on July 29.

While the library operations are funded by the city’s half-cent sales tax, McVay and Henry had to be creative to provide extra programming this summer. They combined bigger events that cost more, like the Community Nights and Thursday morning presentations, with simpler, cost-effective activities like movies and book clubs.

They also promote grant money. The ARPA Youth Grant for Excellence from the Nebraska Library Commission was awarded to provide technology and coding equipment for the home school group, McVay said, but the equipment can also be sued during the summer. The Nebraska Library Commission also gave the Ashland Library money from the ARPA Formula Grant for the Geri-fit program.

Businesses and organizations in the community also donated money. Azria Health provides raffle prizes for the Summer Reading Program and coffee and treats for the Adult Book Club. American Legion Post 129 gave money for summer activities through its Youth Activities Fund.

McVay also noted that the Ashland Public Library Foundation is also a resource they can turn to when funds are needed above and beyond the regular budget.

Suzi Nelson is the managing editor of The Ashland Gazette. Reach her via email at


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