March 11, 2021

Article at Buffalo Bulletin

Library plans poetry contest for teens

In-person programs making a comeback

Marking its slow return to in-person events as COVID-19 cases decline in the county and residents continue to receive vaccinations, the Johnson County Library is hosting a poetry contest for local teens in honor of National Poetry Month in April, director Steve Rzasa said.

Entry is free for the county's sixth through 12th graders, whether they attend public, private or homeschool. Participants can enter up to three poems, each limited to 40 lines and one page.

Rzasa said the idea to host a poetry contest is modeled after the library's spooky stories contest last fall and was done in collaboration with Kira Wages, Buffalo High School English teacher.

"It's a very professional type of thing," Rzasa said. “These are the kind of guidelines you would find if you were going to submit to any type of poetry contest, even for adults."

Winning poems will be printed in the library's June newsletter with the poet's per mission. Rzasa said he hopes to have them read aloud on one of the local radio stations.

"That'll be a fun exercise," he said.

Submissions are due by March 31, and contest rules are available at the library or on its website at

Other annual events are returning, too. Dates and specifics of some programming remain up in the air, but the library will be closed on March 17 for staff training to solidify plans, Rzasa said.

The library is hosting a Lego building con- test and will display entrants' designs through March 23. It will also celebrate National Library Week, April 4-10, with specific events to be determined, Rzasa said.

The library is also planning its annual Art in Bloom fundraiser, during which local artists, residents and library staff decorate flower pots and sell them in a weekslong silent auction.

Some remote programming proved successful in 2020, Rzasa said, including summer reading for children and teens tracking their reading time.

“It allowed us to actually stretch our programming out," he said. "The goal is that we're going to have a mix of both in-person and reading log stuff for the summer. We don't know quite the extent of the in-person yet; some of that depends on how things are going when we hit May."

Most of the library staff has received their first COVID-19 vaccine, Rzasa said, which gives them the opportunity to start the return to normalcy.

"It's good, but it's weird because we haven't done it for awhile. So, it's digging through your memory going, 'oh, yeah, this is how this goes,'" Rzasa said. 

Rzasa said the library is rolling some of its COVID-19-related restrictions back after the county recently had a variance approved to no longer require masks in public spaces. Book borrowers are still asked to make returns to the drop box rather than inside, and visitors should use hand sanitizer located at the front doors before browsing or using computers.

"We're asking folks to respect others who come in," he said.