Before the coronavirus pandemic, a normal Tuesday for Sarah Kallile and her daughter Lucy included a trip to storytime at Wright Memorial Public Library. There, Lucy would delight in the music, stories, and playtime led by librarian Karen Mills.
Today, Tuesdays look different. Across town, Mills is in her home, recording a storytime to be broadcast on the library’s Facebook page. Kallile is in her own living room, setting up a laptop so two-year-old Lucy can tune in.
When Wright Library closed its building in mid-March, its librarians began to plot how to move storytimes and other programming online. Mills now leads her three weekly storytimes virtually. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are watching from home with their families.
The consistency has been important for toddlers like Lucy, who cannot grasp what is going on, Kallile said.
“Lucy lights up when she sees Ms. Karen on the screen. She sings along to the songs and follows the gestures. She always shouts "Hurray!" at the end,” she said. “While there are other storytime videos we could watch on YouTube, it makes a big difference for Lucy to see a familiar face singing her favorite songs and reading books.”
Jacqui Taylor, who leads Wright Library’s youth services department, said the Covid-19 crisis demanded imaginative redesigning of how the library achieves its mission. Last year, 4051 children and caregivers attended Wright Library’s storytime.
“Libraries exist in part to create young learners and to stimulate imagination,” Taylor said. “Moving storytimes online is the first of what I hope will be many successes as we try new ways to serve our community.”
Mills said she thought making the switch from in-person to recorded storytimes would feel awkward.
“But because people are taking the time to like, comment, and share the posts, it's easy to remember that I have actual real-live people who are watching,” she said. “While I'm recording storytime, I'm thinking about the children who are usually in attendance and
how they might react to what I'm reading or singing. Being able to still record storytimes seems like the only normal thing I'm currently doing, even though it looks a little different.”
Also lifting Mills’ spirits is a new special viewer of her storytimes: her 4-year-old nephew, Josh, who lives in Indiana.
“Since the Covid-19 outbreak, on days when I don't have a virtual storytime on Facebook, Josh will sometimes ask his mom for an "Aunt Karen storytime" and we'll Facetime together. I think I enjoy our time reading together just as much or more than Josh!”
Kallile said she appreciates the library’s innovation and outreach during the quarantine.
“While we've always known our library to be a special place, it has further established itself as a beacon for our community to come together,” she said. “Wright Library is an invaluable resource for our family and we can't wait to be back at storytime when the quarantine is over.”
n the photos - Lucy, age 2, participates in a virtual storytime with Wright Library’s Karen Mills. Wright Library offers three storytimes a week on its Facebook page. Storytimes are posted at 10:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.
Follow Wright Memorial Public Library on Facebook for storytimes and more. Visit the digital resources.
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The library’s building is closed, but librarians answer phone lines (937) 294-7171 and email firstname.lastname@example.org M-F 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.