Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries

Virtual Storytimes – Standing Out in a Sea of Online Programs

It seems that almost everyone is stepping up to the plate to deliver wonderful virtual storytimes and other content in the face of these uncertain and unprecedented times. Everytime I hop on social media I get the pleasure of seeing peers, colleagues, and authors from across the States sharing virtual stories with patrons, families, and friends. It has been a little ray of light for me, but when I consider my own contribution I wonder – how do I stand out in a sea of virtual storytimes? What can I do differently? What does my community want and need in these times? What about a virtual program for older kids about a topic I love?

When I was thinking over these questions, it occurred to me that now was the chance to share something that doesn’t fit the model of a traditional storytime while still connecting my community with the library. Having a background in biology and ecology, I’ve often wished I could take my young patrons for a nature walk out in the rural area where I live. Suddenly, through the power of online sharing I realized I could! Using a few props I had at home (beaver skull included) and video shots from my family’s afternoon walk, I was able to pull a short video together highlighting a common character in our neck of the woods – the beaver. The process was exciting, and it felt good to make a connection – however remotely – with the community I work in, building off skills and expertise I had to share.

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While a quality video could easily be made in one take, I wanted to challenge myself and experimented with iOS video editing software to make my video. Though I uploaded it to my own Youtube channel, ultimately the video was disseminated by our PR department directly uploading the video file to the library’s Facebook page where it saw lots of movement and shares. I tried to use the video to make connections to some of the databases the library subscribes to so viewers could learn more on their own, though the jury is still out on how successful that attempt was.

After going through this process, I made a short list of my biggest tips if you’re thinking of doing something similar:

  • Use a headset or headphones with a microphone to ensure that your voice comes through loud and clear, or at the very least a quiet closet or room.
  • Make a script – you don’t have to stick to it but thinking through what you want to say may help you relax and nail it on the first take.
  • Learn a new skill, or refine one you haven’t fully explored by trying to edit your videos. iOS systems typically come with a video editor already installed and there’s some quality ones for other operating systems. Watch a few online how-to videos and play around with it.
  • Ask for help! Are you at home with your family, pets, or roommate? This process can be fun, and another hand to function as videographer, puppeteer, editor, or audience can amplify that.
  • Talk up your library by wearing a shirt with their logo and making connections to resources families can still access remotely like databases, ebooks, and audio books.
  • Plan your video around where you want to publish it. If it’s going on the library’s social media or website, ask the appropriate person about any constraints or requirements ahead of time.
  • Tell your friends, patrons, and community connections about it. Videos can easily get lost in the constant stream of 24/7 information. Make a personal effort to ensure your video gets seen.
  • Channel your inner Mr. Rogers, talk slowly and give your young viewers time to process what you are talking about.

Hopefully this gave you a little inspiration to continue to think outside the box in these strange times. I really look forward to the continued creativity of our community, and can’t wait for more ideas from everyone – especially any that may bridge the digital divide!

(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)


Headshot of Jacqueline (Jacquie) Kociubuk, author of Virtual Storytimes piece
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Jacqueline (Jacquie) Kociubuk. Jacquie is a Youth Services librarian in northeast Ohio where she works with underserved children and families. She also serves as Researcher and Project Coordinator for Project VOICE, an IMLS-funded grant focused on public library outreach efforts for young children and families in underserved communities. Her research is centered around inclusive experiences in children’s literature and library programming, non-traditional learning environments for children and youth, and public library outreach.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Programming Skills

4 comments

  1. Halle Henderson

    Just wanted to say, “Way to go, Jacquie!” I am Halle in Chattanooga, TN. While I do not have a degree in anything bio-related, I am a TN Certified Naturalist, and I love incorporating nature into programs, too. I had the same thought about this time—hey, I could finally bring the nature to the kids! If I do decide to do a nature program, I would love to comunicate with you for tips on the technical side of things, if you were open to that. But mainly, I wanted to say–truly awesome job. Your script-work paid off. I love that it was a succinct and compact lesson, and so full of visuals. Score!

    1. Jacquie Kociubuk

      Thanks so much Halle! I’d definitely encourage you to do a nature program if you can! In terms of technical things feel free to reach out, though I’d highly recommend browsing Youtube how-to videos…they’re what I use!

  2. Regina

    Awesome job with the video! It was definitely inspiring to this veteran outreach librarian. I am quite comfortable in front of an audience or camera, it’s just the editing that I need to tackle. Thank you for posting!

  3. Kary Henry

    This was amazing! Thanks for helping me think outside of the box….I’m already trying to figure out what else I could provide other than my storytimes and craft videos!

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