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Third graders excited to tell their own stories using an Ollie the Otter theme

Your story matters and over the past year, the Jefferson County Library has been asking you to telling yours. Thanks to all who have already shared your stories online or from our sound booth. In addition to collecting true stories from our Jefferson County community, we have also worked with school-aged kids to gather some fun fiction stories.

Adventures with Ollie. Laura Jones, the children's librarian, explains, "We were looking for opportunities to gather local stories. During 2020-21 book publishers loosened copyright restrictions to make it easier for libraries to adapt to remote storytime. As that comes to an end, we can no longer record many of the collections' books because of copyright. To collect original stories, we looked to our community of young story writers and challenged them to write stories about our mascot Ollie the Otter, to share with friends and family."

Tess Ballard's third-grade class at Culver Elementary School submitted over 20 stories! Ballard explained, "Children are natural storytellers who just need an ear. The students were beyond excited when we told them the library wanted to hear their stories. It made them feel empowered."

"We explained how they would pretend Ollie the Otter went on a trip to their favorite Central Oregon location. We discussed how this was a fictional story because Ollie would do things otters don't do in real life. The students create their stories in the Central Oregon setting of their choice. They used family moments and fun excursions to develop the initial ideas, and their imaginations took flight from there!"

This project was the first "professional" writing assignment for many students. Editing, spell-checking, and changing things in their stories were just some of the lessons learned. Ballard said, "There were several great teachable moments in class for these kids."

"When Ms. Ballard sent us the stories, we immediately started reading them aloud! Those third graders did a wonderful job!" according to Gretchen Schlie, the community librarian. "Ollie visited Lake Billy Chinook, the airshow, and the fair." Jones added, "The best part was that we could record the students reading their tales. We are working on editing them and will return them to the class to enjoy and share with friends and family.

We love this kind of interaction at the library – connecting with our community is why we're here.

Oregon Battle of the Books. The library also linked up with the school district's Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) competition this past month. OBOB is a statewide voluntary reading event for students in 3rd-12th grades. Most of the elementary and middle schools in the 509J school district are organized into multiple four-student teams to compete against one another. The teams answered questions about the sixteen books on the reading list. The teams practiced weekly, and the two top teams from each school moved onto the district competition," explained teen librarian Star Todd. "The questions are hard, and the teams did a great job. Those going on to the regional competition are rereading the books and getting ready."

District Librarian Ryan Dempsey has done a great job coordinating OBOB for our district. He is also organizing the regional competition for grades 3-5 in April. It is a one-day online event on April 23. Crook County Middle school librarian Kris Jones is organizing the regional competition for grades 6-8. It was important for the library to get involved because books are us! You'll find a shelf dedicated to all of this year's OBOB books in our junior section."

We want your opinion! We want to hear what you think about our programs, services, and spaces during April and May and how we can make them better. Our next big project is adding to the existing building; it's your library, and we want your ideas. What does your perfect library look like? Let's make it more than just books! Our survey is available now, electronically and on paper. What are we doing well? How can we improve? What does your ideal library look like? We are asking community members to meet in small groups to talk about programs, services, and spaces. Library board member Tiffany Turo shared, "The library is more than books. The people in the community and the connections we make bring our library to life."

Take a few minutes to complete our survey. Go to our website – – to complete the survey electronically. Pick up a print copy at the library, or give us a call, and we'll mail one to you.

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