During the COVID-19 pandemic, while families and kids remain at home, libraries around the country have turned to virtual programming to help keep kids engaged and entertained, and keep skills sharp, especially over the summer. At The New York Public Library, our virtual Summer Reading programs for children include parent/child book discussions, author visits, cultural programs, virtual summer camp, and an online reading log and activities.
Our librarians were also featured on our local PBS station, WNET’s Camp TV series. The series is designed to support elementary-age kids with fun learning activities over the summer. NYPL’s Camp TV segments feature librarians talking about a book they love and why kids should read it. We also created supplemental videos with children about their thoughts for each book.
I interviewed the staff who coordinated this series of videos, both behind the scenes and in front of the (phone) camera, and asked what they learned from the project and what it meant to them.
What was the best part of working on this project?
“Knowing that we as librarians and as a cultural institution could reach a large audience during such a challenging time for New Yorkers, and hopefully create a positive experience for children across the city.” Kaitlin Weinstein, School Outreach Librarian
“Being able to reconnect with a book that I was already fond of while looking at it more deeply, which grew my appreciation for it even more.” Krystina Humbert, Children’s Librarian
“I also love that I’m getting to connect with kids all over New York, rather than just the ones who walk into the library.” Jennie Mayfield, Children’s Library Trainee
What was the hardest or most surprising part?
“The amount of time it takes to shoot a very short video, especially when you are doing it using the back camera of the iPhone for better quality. Only to make a test video and later realize that you cut off half of your head during a monologue.” Ruth Rodriguez, Children’s Librarian
“The most surprising part was my niece’s initial reaction to my asking her to help me; she’s usually into TikTok, Snapchat (before the shutdown), and she has her own YouTube page (her videos don’t go beyond her page). Plus, she’s a natural with the camera. Despite all of this, she was a little reserved.” Sherice White, Children’s Librarian
How did your work on this project support Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in library service to the community?
“This project used various librarians with various talents, the books portrayed characters with different backgrounds, how they overcame conflict, and almost anybody could read these stories. The learning styles are all reflected in the book selections; for one thing, their formats differed: they came in audiobook, as an eBook, and for visual readers, there were graphic novels as well.” Sherice White, Children’s Librarian
“[We] feature diverse stories with many “own voices authors.” It is both refreshing and necessary to showcase and continue to lift up literature by authors and illustrators who have a lived and shared experience with the characters that they write about. This form of storytelling is also sure to capture the attention of our communities, who of course, come from all different types of backgrounds.” Krystina Humbert, Children’s Librarian
“We are lucky enough to have a diverse enough staff that putting on a call for book talks will automatically have a diverse group of people. Representation matters to all.” Ruth Rodriguez, Children’s Librarian
What did you learn about community partnerships and television production?
“Although I knew about some of them, I wasn’t aware of all the municipal organizations featured on “Camp TV” that had a children’s outreach division, or that offered such varied programs. They were fun to watch, and I’d love the opportunity to collaborate with them in the future.” Annelisa Purdie, Children’s Librarian
“Television production moves quickly! It’s important to be flexible and quick on your feet. The most critical part of any partnership, of course, is a clear, open line of communication about expectations, needs, deadlines – you name it!” Rachel Roseberry, Manager of Youth Literacy Programs
“It is very important to cater to the learning designs of children. Some are visual learners, some learn kinetically, some learn through text, and others learn through auditory means. Then there are kids who need all. Television production taught me to make sure I am catering to all four or more learning styles to ensure that children will be extraordinary learners.” Sherice White, Children’s Librarian
What children’s librarian competencies did you contribute to this project?
“A number in Core Competency III, which focuses on programming skills. I was able to use the technology that I had to help deliver an innovative, interactive program to children across the spectrum of ages and interests. I also left open questions for them to think about as they read the book, that they could carry with them as they interact with others and look around their communities. I also exercised Core Competency IV in highlighting an example of a diverse collection.” Annelisa Purdue, Children’s Librarian
“I think this is a classic example of commitment to our community and commitment to the population we serve.” Kaitlin Weinstein, School Outreach Librarian
“VIII. Administrative and Management Skills. The mechanics of project managing the WNET segments required me to draw heavily on my skills as a former branch manager as well as my proclivity toward organization and communication (as well as those skills of my colleagues). My colleagues and I hosted workshops to ensure participating librarians understood the intricacies of the ask, developed a system in order to evaluate the video submissions, and ultimately were the liaisons between the librarians and other Library parties. Careful management of the many moving pieces of this project was key to ensuring the segments were ready in time for WNET to review before Camp TV aired.” Alexandria Abenshon, Manager of School-Age Children’s Programming
“This was a great readers advisory exercise. I was able to talk about the book and explain the appeal factors rather than providing individual advising since I didn’t know what kids would be watching. Also, finding a compelling section of the story to read without giving it all away was definitely a challenge since the plot in early readers goes so quick.” Jennie Mayfield, Children’s Library Trainee
Do you have any advice for library staff elsewhere considering a similar project?
“Be yourself. Don’t worry about whether your perspective isn’t interesting or valued enough. There are children out there who are looking for a story just like yours, who can see themselves reflected in what you have to share.” Annelisa Purdie, Children’s Librarian
“Not everyone is going to have the same comfort level with producing or recording video programming. It’s important to have clear goals, guidelines, examples, and support ready to go so that all staff feel like they can successfully participate.” Rachel Roseberry, Manager of Youth Literacy Programs
“Take your time with the book and choosing the elements you want to include in your booktalk. Research the author and/or illustrator and their other work, when possible, to get a feel for their style and essence. Then, go for it!” Krystina Humbert, Children’s Librarian
Today’s post was written by Emily Nichols is the Associate Director of Branch Youth Education at The New York Public Library.
This blog addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, III. Programming Skills & IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.