There is a barn in a park filled with children and their families, a gigantic pumpkin and stories…
At Wilsonville Public Library, the Youth Services team that I work with had many discussions, probably very similar to discussions heard in other libraries across the county, how best to bring back in-person storytimes. And probably, like many of the other libraries across the country, we would develop a plan and ready ourselves to implement the plan. But then we would be faced with yet another new pandemic health concern which made us reconsider for the sake and safety of our community. And we would pause on bringing back in-person storytimes. The pause was difficult since we were repeatedly asked by our community for the start date of in-person storytimes. Our community understood and truly appreciated our caution for starting up again, but it was disheartening to say, “not quite yet”, again and again.
Luckily, I work with a creative, talented and resilient group. From the beginning of the pandemic, the Youth Services staff experimented with the filming and production of online storytimes. Even online storytimes that didn’t work quite as we had thought the storytime would, we’d revamp and try again with the full support of our library’s administration. And despite the setback of not being able to offer in-person storytimes in our library’s meeting room this fall like we had diligently planned, my colleagues kept discussing and tinkering and adjusting and discussing some more… Until we had one of those “A-ha” moments when everything suddenly aligns and unexpected bounty appears.
Our “A-ha” moment, started with the support of Wilsonville Parks and Recreation department. The library was able to reserve the Parks and Recreation’s Stein-Boozier Barn in Memorial Park which is just across from the library, for weekly in-person storytimes. This refurbished barn has barn doors that can open at both ends, it’s not heated, but a big space with lot of fresh air circulating throughout. A great space for presenting in-person storytimes.
Earlier in the year, we had been approached by one of our talented local artists, Benjamin Meffard, who received grant funds to carve a pumpkin made from granite for the City of Wilsonville. His inspiration for his pumpkin sculpture, came from one his favorite childhood books, The Biggest Pumpkin Ever written by Stephen Kroll and illustrated by Jeni Bassett. Benjamin, a regular along with his daughter to our storytimes, asked if we would present a pumpkin storytime so he could introduce the community to his pumpkin sculpture. Funds from Benjamin’s grant also afforded the purchase of copies of The Biggest Pumpkin Ever to give away to children attending the pumpkin storytime.
Library staff and several of Wilsonville High School’s National Honor students that volunteer at the library, helped created a pumpkin bulletin board that promoted our pumpkin-themed storytime and the pumpkin sculpture.
Prior to presenting this storytime, we announced our special pumpkin storytime at our online storytimes and on our website. We reminded families to bundle up because the colder weather would be felt in the barn and bring blankets to sit on. We asked anyone 5 and up to be masked in the barn and to physically distance. (This was one of our biggest worries that there could be a possible confrontation about masking which would put a damper on keeping the storytime fun. But at this writing audience participants have complied with wearing a mask.) At the entrance to the barn, we posted signage reminding families, to physically distance and to mask.
And then it was magic.
There is a barn in a park filled with children and their families (physically distanced, of course), support from a community, laughter, delight, a gigantic pumpkin and stories. Wishing you all that magic!
Today’s blog post was written by Josephine Caisse, Youth Services Librarian at Wilsonville Public Library in Wilsonville, Oregon on behalf of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills