We’ve learned a lot in the last year about being flexible and working remotely. As we gear up for the second round of virtual visits, we reached out to Children’s Librarians at the King County Library System to hear what they’re planning. Thanks to Jenn Carter (JC), Sharon Chastain (SC), Jennifer Duffy (JD), and Mie-Mie Wu (MW) for sharing their experiences and ideas.
What’s one of your favorite in-school visit memories?
- (JD) There was one year when the power went out at the school I was visiting. Luckily, that library had large windows, and we opened the doors on both ends of the room, so there was still some natural light. I told the kids something like “well, you know what Doesn’t need electricity? Books!” So we chatted about books for the whole period and had a great time. I remember one kid saying “that was fun!” as they left.
- (MW) The wonderful, fundamental read-aloud with students and teachers. Any kind of read-aloud, storytelling, reader’s theater that allows kids – and teachers! – to jump in or be part of the action.
- (SC) My favorite thing about big group assemblies (online or in-person) is the energy I can feel coming from the kids. They are excited and engaged and it’s always fun to share books with them. The energy is much easier to feel in an auditorium WITH the kids (but zoom has its own buzz).
- (JC) My favorite is when the kids would come into the library after school and RUN up to the desk and say “You came to my school! Do remember me?” How could I tell them that I saw 1,000 kids today?
How are you planning on promoting summer reading to your schools this year?
- (JD) This year, we’re going to take a more group approach to produce something to send to our schools that’s district-specific.
- (MW) Collaborating with the KCLS children’s librarians who work with the same school district to record short videos is our plan too. We’ll record booktalks, summer reading game explanations and demos, as well as a general “hello” and “we miss you!” from KCLS. We’ll consolidate all this summer reading info in one place to share with students, families, and teachers. A handful of teachers or classes might want a live visit and I’m happy to schedule a time to see them live virtually.
- (JC) This year is all online. I’ll have an email and system-produced video for the schools. I’ll do social media plugs on Facebook and Instagram.
Are you doing anything else differently?
- (MW) Yes! 1) Recording short video snippets, approximately five minutes long, and thinking about snappy, catchy, digestible booktalks that appeal to kids and can hopefully be easily incorporated into a teacher’s planning or classroom schedule. (2) Thinking like (a) a radio or TV producer to put the aforementioned together in a compelling way or (b) a viewer to see what can be successfully communicated in these videos — with me wondering, What is a viewer’s ‘tolerance level’ or attention span for watching something and why? (3) Working collaboratively with local KCLS librarians on branch and regional programming is not uncommon, but since COVID, we’ve specifically taken a regional approach to working with our school district on summer reading. Local school visits prior to the pandemic were much more focused on the individual KCLS librarian working uniquely with their schools. (4) Since implementing this regional virtual approach to working with our school district, I’ve been communicating more regularly with the district-level technology department.
- (JC) I’m recording 30 second #BookToks for TikTok as an experiment. I’m not sure this is going to work or that children are even allowed by their parents to be on TikTok (I wouldn’t let my kid on that!). I just read about #BookTok in a NYT article and thought it would be interesting to try.
Is there anything you like about doing virtual visits?
- (JD) One thing that can be nice is that generally there are fewer kids in each class (since they don’t all show up), so it’s easier to spend time on a question someone has, or a book they want to talk about.
- (SC) The one thing that these online sessions have in common that the in-person ones don’t is the ease of presentation. No commuting or loading stuff in and out of the schools. Still, I can’t wait to see everyone in person again.
- (MW) Access to teachers and students! Interacting regularly with kids! During COVID I’ve done more school outreach than I normally would because providing a school visit was so much easier during WFH than working in the branch or within the confines and context of a daily branch schedule. During Mock Newbery (October-January) season I saw six 5th grade classes on a weekly basis for read-aloud and discussion time and we hosted two Mock Newbery author visits with all participating schools.
- (JC) I like learning new things so it has been really fun (and a little scary) to learn about social media marketing to children. There’s a lot libraries can learn from the commercial marketing world in terms of new media. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about lighting, sound, and editing video which is all new for me.
Whose support was key to scheduling time at your schools?
- (JD) The school librarian has served as a gatekeeper for me at each school, some more welcoming than others. Most seem overwhelmed, at least in my area, and collaboration with me is not on their front burner. I feel like I spend more time chasing them down than I actually do with the kids.
- (MW) Teachers and school librarians. I’m lucky to have worked with many of the same school librarians and teachers for several years and while they’ve been extremely busy adapting to remote learning (and re-adapting to hybrid/in-person learning) they still champion and promote KCLS with a smile. I try to keep my communications as compact and spaced out as possible so they don’t feel yet another layer of being overwhelmed or under pressure.
- (SC) I’ve been working closely with my schools throughout the pandemic. The teachers have been my contacts. In normal times I work with principals, a couple of the library staff, or the Dean of Students. It depends on the school.
- (JC) The Operations Managers at my branches. I think that translates to the Branch Manager in other library systems, but the local manager is the one who has to buy-in. Regardless of whether you are managed centrally from off-site or not, you have to have local branch buy-in.
This blog post addresses the following ALSC Competencies: III. Programming Skills.
Writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee is Angela Nolet. She is an Online Library Services Librarian at King County Library System. This commentary reflects her opinions and thoughts, but does not officially represent KCLS. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.