For the past several years, public library systems in New York State have received funds through the New York State Family Literacy Library Services Program, with the theme of Ready to Read at New York Libraries through Public Library Systems – in other words, grant funding for programs and services that center on early and family literacy. During any normal year, this is an exciting opportunity for the Youth Services department of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS) to offer new and innovative workshops and shared resources to the staff of our member libraries. But during the past year, as with all things, finding a useful application for these funds became a new challenge. Zoom-based professional development opportunities were one option we went with (including two wonderful workshops from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art that just wrapped up), but we hoped to offer libraries more hands-on tools to work with through these tricky times. As libraries around the country return to something that resembles normal service, I hope that the following description of how we spent some of this year’s funds helps get others’ program planning gears turning.
SCLS’ Lending Library comprises a set of materials that are loaned out to libraries only (not the public) that can be used to supplement programming of all types and for all ages. These shared materials save our libraries both time and resources. In Youth Services, we’ve created circulating kits that help build and implement several types of programming. We’ve got kits for STEM-based early learning programs and maker-based programs for teens and tweens, as well as sets of sensory toys that can fit into any program and large sets of board books (30 of each title) for circle time with little ones.
These kits are intended to serve as a useful set of tools and materials with which to build out programs. Naturally all of our kits stopped circulating while libraries were closed. Even now that libraries in our county are open, many of the kits are not yet useful due to safety considerations. So for this summer, we created an Outdoor Storytime Kit to aid in addressing the kind of programming needs that we anticipate will arise.
Our Outdoor storytime kit, pictured below, contains: eleven Harcourt Big Books to choose from, a folding easel to help hold the big books while presenting them, a flannel board and set of ten flannel stories to match, twenty-four poly spots to show attendees where to sit, and a portable voice amplifier to help read a story or sing a song with a spread-out group. This kit is built with big spaces (both indoor and outdoor) in mind. Little ones sitting far away can see the larger pictures in the big book. The flannel board is light and can be carried around large crowds. The spots show families where it’s safe to sit while letting them know that far away is OK. And the voice amplifier will hopefully stave off some vocal fatigue!
We were able to create four identical kits with our funds, and they have already started to circulate out to libraries. We’re looking forward to hearing about where and how our kits are used! In addition to the Outdoor Storytime Kit, we were able to add two new board book kits to our lending library – one set of Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, and one set of Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer.
If you were to create your own outdoor storytime kit, what would you add?
Darla Salva Cruz is a co-chair of the Early Childhood Program and Services Committee and Youth Services Consultant for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, New York.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group; and III. Programming Skills.