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Library makes mark on Kelliher readers

Within the Old School Center in Kelliher, lies a hidden gem: The Kelliher Community Library.

Home to over 5,000 books and over 250 movies, the Kelliher Community Library serves as an independent, Kelliher School-owned facility open three days a week for community members to check out books library-card-free.

The community librarian, Nicole Persons, strives to buy new books each month, sort through donations to get the most sought-after titles and films in addition to hosting an annual Summer Reading Program and Kindergarten reading series.

"The location will have been open two years in October," Persons said. "I do my best to get the books to the people. I will even deliver books -- not out to the country, but if I know someone, I do my best to get books into their hands."

Persons runs the library solo, but has additional help in the form of a new volunteer who opens the library on Saturdays.

"I don't have any other people employed," Persons said. "It's just me. I do all the cleaning -- everything."

She added that all of the library's supplies are purchased through the school and that the books are purchased through grant money.

Pending grants, Persons orders new books each month and does her best to take local reader requests and get her hands on recent best sellers.

Because the library is not affiliated with the Kitchigami Regional Library System as many of the surrounding libraries are, all of the programs and books hosted and stored by the Kelliher library must be funded through grant applications or by donations.

Despite that, Kelliher's collection is taking over the classroom-sized space in the Old School Center.

"We don't have any more space," Persons said. Every three or four months, I weed. Everything before 2001, I pull out unless it's a classic. Plus, a lot of people go online, so I don't usually keep the non-fiction."

Persons doesn't give out library cards either. In order to check out a book from the Kelliher Community Library, all one must do is fill out a form and Persons enters the information into her computer. When the book's due date approaches, Persons makes a call reminding the reader that they need to return the book.

"I have a really lax atmosphere here," Persons said. "I just let people take the movies because its a small town." And, she added, when or if they are damaged, she simply throws them away.

The library also has computers for users who wish to surf the Internet and there is a seating area for those who wish to sit down and read.

This summer, Parsons had about 15 children in the 6-week Summer Reading Program between the ages of 5 and 10-years-old.

"That's quite a bit for Kelliher," she said. "Many kids don't live in town and a lot go on vacations this time of year too."

Reading program participants received small prizes for every five books read throughout the summer, choosing from chalkboards, jump ropes, temporary tattoos and other toys.

With the fall starting, Parsons knows that many students will no longer be stopping in for books now that school is back in session and teens and children can access the school's library. But she still has many dedicated older readers who stop in each day.

"This time of year, they're usually older -- 60 and up," Parsons said. "But I have at least five people that come in all the time during the week and at night I get a few kids that come to play on the computers."

To encourage youth to pick up books, Parsons and Kelliher Thrift and Gift owner Diane Mostad started the "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten" program. Every 100 books a child reads, he or she comes into the library to receive a prize and a free book. The program has only been in the works for about six months, but Parsons has already seen a young boy complete the program.

"Any student up to the age of Kindergarten can participate," she said. "There is a new theme every 100 books."

Level one is orientation, level two is "supporting learning," level three is "Print motivation," level four is "print awareness," level five is "letter knowledge," level six is "vocabulary," level seven is "phonological awareness," level eight is "narrative skills," level nine is "is your child on track?," and the final level is "what your kindergartener needs to know."

When the child completes all ten levels and the 1,000 books, the child receives a brand new book of their choice from the library.

For Persons, the amount of books a child reads during the doesn't matter-- they can read one book as many times as they want -- it only matters that the children are reading.

"I told them that even if they like the book and read it more than once, they can write it down more than once," she said. "Even though it's the same book, it's still reading."

The Kelliher Community Library is open Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. and now Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.