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Mother Goose stays with Friends

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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As long as Mother Goose on the Loose is run by the library, Friends of Lincoln Library plans to support the popular children’s program. That’s according to Friends president Karen Jarrell last week. She said the nonprofit organization’s mission is “to support Lincoln’s public libraries.” Mother Goose on the Loose is an early childhood literacy program that teaches rhythm and rhyming along with reading, according to previous News Messenger reports. Friends of the Lincoln Library currently provide the city with $7,500 a year to fund the program, according to Jarrell, which she said “ensures that the library is open for an extra three hours each week on Thursdays.” “The rumor was floating around that the Friends no longer wanted to fund Mother Goose on the Loose so therefore it would have to be taken over by the city,” Jarrell said. “I talked to Jon Torkelson last Tuesday to assure him that is an incorrect rumor. Mother Goose on the Loose is a top priority of the Friends.” Torkelson is the city’s interim library director. “We wanted to make sure that Jon understood our position on Mother Goose on the Loose from the Friends,” Jarrell said. “However, should Mother Goose on the Loose be transferred to parks and rec, it is no longer a library program. Therefore, the Friends do not support parks and rec programs.” If the recreation department took over the program and charge for it, Jarrell said, “it’s our feeling they will lose people participating.” “Our mission is to support library programs and reading initiatives, not parks and rec, where they charge for them,” Jarrell said. “The Friends, of course, would not like to see it go over there. We think it is a free program that is beneficial to mothers and kids,” Jarrell said. “We believe if you charge for Mother Goose on the Loose, you will lose participants because they may not be able to financially pay.” During the Dec. 13 Friends of the Lincoln Library meeting, a list of goals and objectives for Torkelson’s first six months was passed out. One of those goals/objectives reads “explore options for the city to fund Mother Goose on the Loose with minimum support from Friends of the Lincoln Library.” The News Messenger asked Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak why that item was on Torkelson’s list. “All this was is a preemptive strike to say if the Friends are not able to continue their fundraising at the levels they have been in the most recent past,” Jatczak said. “Since Mother Goose on the Loose is such a popular program, we should be looking for a safety net should that funding stop.” The News Messenger asked Jarrell for a comment in response to Jatczak’s statement. “I would assure Anna, just like I assured Jon, that funding Mother Goose on the Loose is the No. 1 priority of the Friends of the Lincoln Library,” Jarrell said. Last week, Torkelson told The News Messenger that “no specific plan has been made” to turn Mother Goose on the Loose over to the recreation department. Finding an alternate option to fund the program “was if the Friends couldn’t support it on an ongoing basis,” Torkelson said. “They (Friends of the Lincoln Library) are doing a great job supporting it,” Torkelson said. “In the event that wasn’t possible, we would need to explore other things. We have to be aware of the fact that we have to support the programs we have, and depending on available funding, we have to work with what we have.” Jatczak said there are no current plans to have the recreation department run Mother Goose on the Loose but listed it as an option if funding through the Friends does run out. “We would offer it through the recreation department as a library program on fee basis in lieu of it not happening at all,” Jatczak said. Jatczak said she was “just trying to think ahead.” “There’s going to be, as the times get tougher, a lot more demand on people to continue to donate,” Jatczak said. “There are more and more nonprofits out there having their funding or support cut by government agencies.” Former elementary school teacher, reading specialist and longtime library advocate Shirley Russell listed the benefits of the popular children’s program, saying it teaches children how to sit and listen, as well as rhyming and rhythm skills. “In my opinion, you won’t have 200 kids and adults a week if it’s a program that’s being charged for,” Russell said. “There are all those kids out there that could use that program.” City Councilman Stan Nader, who serves on the Library Advisory Committee, said the library is not “set up to charge” people for the program. “It would seem like it would be better to set up a mechanism for the library to charge for the program rather than send it over to a department that I’m not aware of has people qualified to do the program,” Nader said. “I question whether there are staff on the recreation department that are qualified to do the program.” Councilman Gabriel Hydrick, who also serves on the Library Advisory Committee, said he doesn’t “anticipate (funding from the Friends) going away.” If funding did drop, Hydrick said moving Mother Goose on the Loose to the recreation department is “maybe an option.” “I’d still look for other options and look to keep it with the library, because it still comes out of the General Fund,” Hydrick said. “If it goes to parks and rec, my concern is that it would be something you have to pay to attend.”