PITTSBURG — Area library representatives met in Iola last week to share ideas, network, and coordinate summer programs around the theme of “A Universe of Stories.”

While some libraries are interpreting the shared theme as being related to astronomy and outer space, that is not a strict requirement, according to Kim Rutter, library consultant with the Southeast Kansas Library System (SEKLS).

“Every library does their own thing using the artwork and the shared programming ideas” based on theme, she said.

Attendees at the SEKLS Summer Reading Workshop on March 5 in Iola included representatives of public libraries in Girard, Arma, Hepler, Walnut, Fort Scott and Chanute. Although no one representing the Pittsburg Public Library attended the workshop, Pittsburg’s library is nonetheless participating in the universal theme, Rutter said, although none of the libraries have to stick to a set program and can come up with their own ideas for how to incorporate the theme.

“Library staff attending the workshop were able to network with others from the surrounding libraries and share favorite summer ideas in a lightning round question and answer session,” according to a press release about the event. “Research indicates that summer reading programs in the library help children and teens retain and enhance their reading skills.”

Southeast Kansas libraries are not the only ones cooperating to promote a space theme this summer. 16,000 libraries nationwide, in fact, will participate, according to the Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Network website.

The shared summer library theme effort, known officially as the Collaborative Summer Library Program, is funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as the State Library of Kansas.