ALSC’s Children and Technology committee has been reflecting on the past year, about our roles and practices in our learning environments. This is the second of two posts we created that share our experiences. Today, we are focusing on some of the public librarians in our group. Rita Christensen is a Children’s Librarian at the Orem Public Library in Utah. Tina Bartholoma is a Community Engagement Senior Librarian/School Liaison at the Salt Lake County Library in Utah.
What is the top digital tool or strategy you are taking from the pandemic?
Rita: Podcasting. The Children’s Department looked for new ways to connect with children and families beyond Online Storytime. One of our talented storytellers, Amy Carr, enthusiastically volunteered to develop thoughtful and meaningful storytime podcasts on a monthly basis. I researched numerous podcast creation and hosting apps–the cost, ease of use, platforms, audio tracks available, editing tools, publishing options, distribution methods, and podcast analytics. I chose Anchor by Spotify and we have had great success. We record podcasts on the desktop or mobile app. We build a podcast with a library of music and sound effects. There is no need to edit a recording in complicated audio software as we can cut and splice a track right in Anchor. We upload our own artwork, number our episodes, and create titles and descriptions. After publication, Anchor distributes our podcast to seven different podcast platforms that range from Apple Podcasts to Radio Public. I love the podcast analytics that are displayed in a simple infographic style. I can see that our Little Learners Storytime Podcast has had a total of 325 all time plays and that most listeners are female between 35-44 years of age. I can see that our podcast has reached listeners in numerous countries: United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, Qatar, Denmark, Turkey, Taiwan, Iraq, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Palestine, Russia, and India. And then nested within the geographic location data I can see that in the United States we have listeners from 31 states and 46% of those listeners are from Utah. And in Germany, 100% of our listeners are from Bavaria. Did I mention that all of these services are free? Yes, the recording, application, publishing, and distributing is all free. Due to the success of our storytime podcast we recently created a monthly Check It Out! Podcast to review our favorite children’s books. Podcasting is definitely a digital tool that we will keep using once library services are fully reopened. Any children’s department can create a successful podcast–all you need is a cell phone and passionate librarians willing to tell a tale, review a book, and sing a song. Anchors Aweigh!
Tina: It should not be a surprise that the digital tools that allow us to connect have been the most valuable. For me, those have been Slack instant messaging—used internally with my teammates and colleagues in our 18-branch system—, Zoom and WebEx. I think these tools make the top of my list because they allow for instant two-way communication. If I were creating a longer list, the second tier of digital tools would be those that allow for asynchronous mass communication (including quick video recording tools and social media.)
What is the top digital tool or strategy you are glad to leave behind in 2020/2021?
Rita: Online Storytime. My Children’s Department transitioned our storytime sessions online during the pandemic due to building closures. Initially, we joined the Utah State Library’s initiative where libraries across the state joined together to stream Cabin Fever Storytime for kids every day on Facebook Live. Our most loved Cabin Fever Storytime was Reading With Police that hit over 4,000 views in 24 hours! After the Utah State Library initiative ended we continued to produce storytime through Facebook Live and pre-recorded videos. We recorded our storytellers in our Kid Zone area which provided oversized building blocks and a whimsical storytime chair as a backdrop. When Utah County counts of the virus became high, our storytellers had to record their sessions at home. Our tellers became weary of recording without their favorite fans. They missed the one-on-one interaction with our little ones and watching their development and confidence grow. Our plans for the summer are to transition our Children’s Storytime program outdoors to the covered Stage at the Orem City Center Park. We certainly learned a lot about publisher copyright permissions of performed works, video/audio technology, and how to reach an audience through digital applications. But we have been connecting kids to storytimes virtually for over a year now and we are ready to renew face-to-face connections with our kids, families, and community.
Tina: What I will be the most glad to leave behind is the exhaustion that occurs when you are doing everything digitally. I’ve seen—and presented at—some great virtual meetings, webinars, and virtual programs this past year, but, no matter how good they are, afterward I’m left feeling mentally and physically drained. It’s a very different feeling from the emotional high mixed with tired but limber muscles that can come after completing a successful, interactive, in-person program.
Rita Baguio Christensen can be found tending to her large garden of books, weeding and growing titles, every afternoon for the children’s collection at the Orem Public Library. Her favorite experience that came out of the pandemic was creating a storytime video, Dog Tales, with her daughter and two poodles, Charlie and Cosette.
Tina Bartholoma read her first manga at the age of 36 and now reads over 400 teen manga volumes every year. Twitter Handle: @TLBookarian