Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Refreshing Online Engagement in the New Year

For almost a year now, school and youth services librarians have been working hard to teach lessons, create programs, and share those programs online. From virtual storytime and other programming to Zoom book clubs—we have had to change everything we do to suit a virtual environment. At this point in the pandemic, we are all very familiar with platforms like Zoom, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live… and we are all getting a little bored with them too. Need to add a little life into your virtual programming? Check out these virtual tools. 

  • Padlet—Padlet is a simple platform for sharing ideas. It is a great place to do introductions, have discussions, and more. Inspiration for using Padlet can be found here.
  • TikTok—I am sure you have seen the dances and other trends that have been popular on TikTok, especially during the pandemic. Download the app, find a trend, and put a library twist on it! 
  • FlipGrid—FlipGrid allows you to have video discussions with your students. School librarians can read a book out loud and then ask questions for students to answer. Youth Service librarians can use FlipGrid as a “passive program”—model a craft and have patrons create and share their own on the grid. Visit and scroll down to explore the Flipgrid Discovery Library with topics created by educators and organizations from around the world.
  • Discord—Start a book club discussion here or use it for its intended purposes—gaming. 
  • MarcoPolo—MarcoPolo is another way to communicate via video chat. I find that it is more instant than FlipGrid and very easy to use on a device. If you are traveling, it is a neat way to introduce a new location to your patrons. Have them see if they can guess where you are. If you are working in your library building but your patrons cannot yet come in, do a tour of the space—share anything new that has been added or just let them see their favorite puzzles and toys.
  • Loom—Are you recording your programs and then sharing them after a few edits? Try Loom. This is a video editing site that may help you add pop to your recorded virtual programs. It is very user friendly. 

A few important tips before trying something that is social—or that invites your students and patrons to take part online—make sure a caregiver is around and that your patrons/students have permission to be attending the virtual program. If you are a school librarian, talk with your classroom teachers and see if you can gain access to any platforms they are currently using. Use this opportunity to collaborate together—school and youth services librarians are trying to reach the same audience right now—teamwork makes the dream work! Most important is to give yourself grace. Try one new tool every other month or just one new tool this year. Virtual programming will not be going away anytime soon, so try something new—make it fun for yourself and for your patrons!

Valerie Byrd Fort teaches Children’s Literature to pre-service teachers and Children’s Materials to future school and youth services librarians at the University of South Carolina. She also coordinates UofSC’s literacy outreach program, Cocky’s Reading Express.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills

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