Children & Technology

Utilizing Technology to Reach Younger Patrons: A Snapshot of a Public and School Library

With public and school libraries closed for the past several weeks due to stay-at-home orders, our youngest patrons are lacking experiences, resources, and contacts that they may have had on a daily basis. Technology has been a tool to connect when available. While our patrons’ resources vary widely, I wanted to take two snapshots of a public library and a school library to see the role that technology played.

Heather Acerro, Head of Youth Services for Rochester Public Library in Rochester, Minnesota shared ways that her library is reaching out since the building closed to the public on March 26th.

  • Storytime went online. Folk tales and more were recorded and shared to be watched through the library’s YouTube channel which could then be distributed across their social media as well.
  • Instead of sending children around town, the Quarantine Playlist helped children find some fun in their own surroundings. Distributed on their website, this printable board game has activities like “Draw what you see through your window.” or “Cook something new from food you have on hand.” Finishing the game doesn’t result in prizes to be picked up but instead, “serious bragging rights”. 
  • Through their Facebook page, the library encouraged patrons to put a teddy bear in their window. As families took walks around the neighborhood, children could go on a “bear hunt” to make the walk a little more fun. The post went viral and was covered on local news stations.
  • Curbside pickup has recently started so that children (and adults) can request print books in addition to the ebooks and audiobooks available through the library. Patrons can request titles online or by phone.

Acerro shared that the Quarantine Playlist idea was centered around “low tech, hands-on, and creative” activities and that, at this time, a focus was to give children an opportunity to “get off screens”. Technology became the distribution tool and an important one.

Similarly, in my elementary school library in the suburbs of St. Louis, the school library’s outreach is through technology. Since our building shut down on March 23rd, students have had iPads or Chromebooks for at-home learning. Families without wifi access worked with local ISPs or lent hotspots by the district. My outreach with technology has focused heavily on connecting students with stories.

  • Four storytimes are shared each weekday specified to grade levels and following guidelines requested from publishers. These are archived so that students can watch them when their schedule allows. Students, through Google Classroom and Google Meet, have requested genres and titles giving them some ownership of storytime.
  • Weekly library Google Meets give students an opportunity to talk about books. Students share books they’ve read, talk about upcoming releases, and even help curate by giving feedback as I share titles I’m considering for the fall.
  • Individual meetings with students that once took place in the school library now take place online. Talks have turned to support with summer reading, helping students find titles they may want to read and working through obstacles of access to print, ebook, and audiobooks.

Technology will continue to be a critical element for public and school libraries to reach out to our younger patrons. Its most useful element may not be in the bells and whistles, but instead in helping librarians replicate the key services that we provide to children and giving them alternatives to the technology itself.

Tom Bober
School Librarian
RM Captain Elementary School
Clayton, Missouri

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