Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries

5 Tips for Filming Virtual Storytime

Programming librarians everywhere have added yet another hat to their already extensive collection: the video producer’s hat. Since storytime has moved online for many communities in the United States, we find ourselves having to consider production value alongside the usual preparations.

Whether you are filming at home or in the library, pre-recording or live streaming – here are five tips to consider while preparing to film your program:

  1. Hello, Sunshine!

Take measures to ensure that your face is well-lit from a bright light source. The easiest way to do this is to film during the day and face a window, even on a cloudy day. Drawing sheer curtains or blinds will help soften the light if the sun is too direct and strong. As a rule of thumb, ; this will put your face in full or partial silhouette, preventing children from seeing your eyes and facial expressions. If you have a nighttime program, situate a bright lamp to shine in your direction. You may need to play with the lamp’s angle to adjust for brightness and shadows. The importance of this step cannot be overstated, considering how mouth movements contribute to early literacy development, or how some members of the deaf community rely on lip reading during storytimes.

Picture illustrating that ensure that your face is well-lit from a bright light source

Picture illustrating what happens when there are bright lights or windows directly behind you

  1. Consider Composition

Avoiding unnatural angles can also help hold children’s attention online. Keep the camera you are filming with at your eye level. Although you may be used to looking down at cross-legged children during storytime, filming from below will not translate well on the screen. Similarly, filming from above will feel just as unsettling to your viewers.

Illustration of what viewers see when filming from a low vantage point

  1. Horizontal is Best

Many of us are used to filming our day-to-day lives with our smartphones, and we often do so in the vertical orientation. Despite this habit, filming horizontally is recommended for a video product delivered online. This orientation will be the most compatible with online video hosting services, such as Facebook live, Zoom, or YouTube, and will ensure the best experience for the majority of viewers who will be watching through many different devices.

Illustrationof what it looks like if you film horizontally

  1. Easy Audio

Of course, clear audio is immensely important for a successful virtual program. There are easy measures to take to achieve good audio without ever touching a piece of equipment. Sitting too far from the device will not only reduce the volume of your audio, but will likely create a reverberating effect (especially if you are in a larger room) which will make it harder for little ones to actively listen.

  1. Say it loud!

Project your voice the same way you would to a room full of attentive faces. While it might feel like you are speaking into an empty void, your participants are out there, and they will pick up on your energy and enthusiasm – as with any program. This will also do wonders for the quality of your audio and the overall value of your small, yet mighty, production.

For those of you who are now “experts” at filming virtual storytimes, what hints would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)

Headshot of Chelsea Rizzolo, author of post with hints for improving Virtual Storytimes
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Chelsea Rizzolo. Chelsea is an MLIS student at Rutgers University. She is a Children’s Library Associate at Rahway Public Library in New Jersey and an Instructional Assistant at Rutgers School of Communication and Information. She is currently completing a Public Services Internship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Albrecht Music Library. In a past life, Chelsea studied Film and Video Production at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and worked as a freelance videographer and photographer.

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

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency:  Programming Skills.



  1. Rosie Francis

    Hi Chelsea, Thanks for these great tips! One tip that I have is to ensure there is no glare or bright light reflecting off the book, especially the cover. At our library all book covers are covered in plastic and this really obscures the cover if there is light reflecting on it. Tilting the book slightly to the front helps tremendously.

    1. Chelsea

      Great point! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Beckie MacDonald

    Thanks! These are great! Something we have added to our live stream story time is someone behind the camera with a whiteboard (any size) and marker to write the names of the kids saying ‘hi’ in the comments to let the storyteller know to do a shout out to those kids by name who are watching. The kids love it!

    1. Chelsea

      What a wonderful idea! That makes it all the more personal. Thank you!

  3. Christine Wilson

    i have had trouble being able to show the pictures in a book at the resolution i would like, so kids can see the details. The best thing for me has been to check an electronic copy of the book i’m reading out from the library, and use the share screen function. That way, the book is all that is on the students’ screens, and I can still read over the Zoom or Google meeting. I also don’t have to worry about how i’m holding the book when i’m pointing to specific pictures.

    1. Chelsea

      That’s a fantastic option if you’re using a platform with screen-sharing. Thank you for the tip.

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