(Picture from March 12th, 2020 DRC Dragon Readers Club, Donnelly Public Library)
My little library serves a population of under 2500. We are two hours from the closest Wal-Mart or McDonalds. We are both rural and small. On March 13th when shut downs began rolling throughout the country, I was at our statewide conference for library directors. As a group of librarians, we began sharing what we were going to do as we sat together and listened to our Governor share the update for Idaho. I returned to my piece of heaven in the mountains and was sad not just for the world, as we were facing the biggest crisis in our lifetime, but I was deeply saddened for my local community. There was no opportunity for explanation, good-byes or anything else. On March 17th, I launched my first online story time.
I really didn’t know what to do. I grabbed Traveling Tom and the Leprechaun from the shelf and attempted to do a fun little St. Patrick’s Day story time. Parents began to sign in and in the comments children began saying hello. I blocked the screen with my hand a couple times because I had a hard time keeping up with the comments and trying to read at the same time. It was a mess, but it was a perfect mess because it was exactly what our kids needed that day: seeing the familiar face of someone they knew —and love.
In the weeks that followed I tried a little bit of everything.
The Week of The Queens: I have several good friends who are local state title holders. I asked if they might be interested in hosting a story time. Miss Idaho USA, Kim Layne was spectacular. We also had several Mrs. Idaho title holders, as well as a former Mrs. of the Americas, Charity Majors.
I am a small enough library that I was able to grant each reader administrative permissions on our Facebook page for the day they were reading. Other than setting up the calendar and granting the permissions, I did very little work.
The week that these ladies ran story time helped me get my grounding. It helped me formulate why I was doing this and what I hoped to accomplish.
Having the Queens grace our social media wearing their crowns and sashes helped increase our social media following, and each comment helped me understand what our children needed. Our kids were scared. They were worried. School had not resumed, and distance learning was not set up yet. Our students needed to see me, their librarian, they needed to see their teachers, and they needed to see each other.
I reached out to several teachers and parents and then together, we planned our story time. Each day we navigated Facebook LIVE, with each other’s help. The teachers read, the students read, the library read. We all embarked on the journey together.
In the beginning the books were backwards on the screen. We had not found that magic button on Facebook that makes it the right direction. We figured it out and yes, that was a lesson learned, but the bigger lesson was that the listeners did not care that the books were backwards. The viewers were engaged with who the reader was. Alice and Clyde made a sign backwards hoping it would appear the right direction in the video. They explained in the video the correction and the reason. Which was not only helpful for the listeners that day, but future readers as well.
We also had the kids briefly do our virtual story time. It was LIVE on Facebook which led to some interesting situations; for example, one child encouraged the use of a blow torch. Not in a negative destructive way at all. It was a completely acceptable way to light a candle in his home. I, however, do not know if every family allows their children to light candles with blow torches. LIVE with kids needs to be a bit scripted and perhaps not a free for all.
In addition to doing story time online, I also watched a lot of other libraries’ story times and I can tell you that if streaming from home, make sure it is naptime and the baby is asleep, assure that the pet is in another room, and lastly, don’t cook while you are telling a story. Smoke alarms are not enjoyable in the middle of the LIVE story.
How To Make It Happen:
JUST DO IT! My biggest fears were overcome by just sitting down in front of the screen. The worst that can happen, may happen. You hit the delete button when it is all over. Failing is o.k.
Admittedly, I did order a selfie light and LOVED the difference. I also recalled Chris Bohjalian, who spoke at last year’s ARSL 2019 in Vermont, speak about “Landing Lips.” He talked about when a female flight attendant puts on lipstick before the final descent. Why do they do this? Not vanity. So the hearing impaired can read their lips in an emergency. I love flight attendants. They have, to quote Napoleon Dynamite, “mad skills.” I loved that he used a Napolean Dynamite reference because I of course am from Idaho. When doing story time, I have tried to remember my “landing lips.” It helps, not just the hearing impaired, but everyone.
Copyright is a scary word. I will start by clarifying that I AM NOT A LAWYER.
I have spent time in a courtroom, however, fighting copyright. I am likely one of the only librarians you will ever meet who has been sued for copyright infringement. Prior to my life as an accidental librarian, I owned a magazine company. I was sued originally for trademark infringement for the use of a hashtag. I will save you the effort of googling it, it is really quite boring: Justia
My lawsuit lasted several years and was miserable. It cost a great deal of money and I was thankful for wonderful attorneys who assisted me throughout the process. That being said, being sued is not the route you want to take. I know the likelihood of a major publisher coming after a small, rural library is slim, and asking forgiveness seems better than asking permission, but avoiding the pitfall is in your control. Go to Permissions Page
Some publishers gave carte blanche freedom, while others are requiring the video to be removed by October 1, 2020. Check the list. Also, review rules on reading LIVE in which the story is not recorded. Each publisher is in control of how the rules work. In some cases even the authors have to get permission to record themselves reading their own work. LIVE is sometimes the better choice, over recorded because you are likely to fall into “fair use” easier.
You have to make a decision for YOUR Library on this particular matter.
3 major things to consider for your Library:
- Permissions Page The one link you leave with.
- Set a policy as to when it is going to be deleted and stick with it.
- LIVE vs recorded
youtube.com: Do you monetize? If you do, you are likely violating some copyright laws. That monetary exchange for your channel may make it more difficult to plead for forgiveness on copyright violations. If you are a staff member running the YouTube channel, check with your director if you should be monetizing. If you are a director this is worth a discussion with your board. If you answer in the affirmative to the question do I monetize, YouTube may not be the best choice for you for story time. The moment you get money or a financial incentive (perhaps even marketing) you are violating the spirit of Fair Use YouTube Monetization
Facebook: LIVE vs. prerecorded I personally, in Donnelly, Idaho, preferred LIVE because we could immediately react to our patrons, primarily children. The difficulty of that in a larger library system is that you potentially would not know the children by name. In our case, it was typically the children using the parents’ account to check in and I had to know the family to identify them. In a larger area that would be increasingly difficult.
Instagram: IGTV is new and on the rise. Although I feel personally IG is the best resource for social media, I found it difficult for story time.
Vimeo: Vimeo offers more privacy options than YouTube. Their privacy settings allow you to make videos public, private, or unlisted. You can also share videos only with users you follow. If you want to have more control on who watches your videos, then Vimeo is a much better platform for you. As you grow your story time and perhaps utilize it for YA and even adults, you may want to privatize it a bit and Vimeo may be the better choice.
In April, I began our middle school book club via ZOOM and I loved it. It was a success I had not seen coming. It came on strong and then it fizzled. ZOOM burnout is a pitfall that if addressed early can be avoided. Weekly may be the problem, day of the week may be the problem, or a host of other things. In the COVID experience I have learned the best way to avoid pitfalls is be ready to adjust. Read your situation and prepare to adjust.
We stopped our online LIVE story time in June, and many people have asked why. The truth is for multiple reasons, but the biggest is that we began in person programming. Our Farmers’ Market opened and we began children’s programming there. It was an outlet that was available to us and we utilized it. Many community groups in our town had begun to utilize online story times as well and we were seeing a drop in viewers. Our county population is about 10,000, we have three different libraries and two school districts. In May all three libraries were doing online story time, and two of the three elementary schools had their PTO Facebook doing online story time. In addition, two rec districts, the after school club PLCA, the Payette Children’s Forest, and MOSS were all online. That is ten local options in addition to the countless great online options, like Lunchtime Doodles with Mo Willems, Storyline Online, and let us not play around, you cannot out read DOLLY. Seriously, Imagination Library is my jam. If others have mastered it, hit that share button and don’t fall into the pitfall of reinventing the wheel. I begun sharing some of the other story times offered in my community. On Arbor Day, 7 local places read the Lorax. I love the Lorax and it is in my top 10 children’s books, however by the end of the day it would seem like suffering to some listening to the same book over and over.
The platforms we use for online promotion are the very platforms we are using for online story time. One must remember that when using protected resources like written work, efforts should be taken whenever possible to restrict access and further distribution of the story time to the general public, limiting it to your patrons. That is HARD, because it is on the very media platform you are using to reach the general public to promote your Library. There does remain a growing consensus among copyright experts that posting online story times to continue mission-driven library and educational services during the coronavirus emergency is a fair use. (including online academics) I repeat, I am not an attorney and I also do not work for the CDC. I can not tell you if or when CoronaVirus will end and or tell you if copyright forgiveness and open fair use will continue throughout its duration. Myself, nor any of the others in this panel can offer legal advice.
Counting Your Numbers:
This is Patrick’s area of expertise. I will tell you though your qualitative is more than your quantitative during this pandemic. Your human interactions with isolated people are important. That local check in is vital. The library just up the road, McCall Public Library , talked about earthquakes and read a book on earthquakes. It was a brilliant story time because we, in addition to being in a pandemic, had 1000 little earthquakes and one pretty major one. Reach your community. Remember you’re not the worldwide librarian, you are your community librarian. I have to remind myself of this all the time.
Your numbers game is also going to be very different depending on what platform you have chosen to use. YouTube, Facebook, IG TV, Vimeo, etc… Check with your state when the time comes on how they want numbers tracked and if different platforms have different reporting criteria. For example, Facebook your analytics show reach, engagements, comments, shares, and your views; all of which have their own sub analytics. We started with our first online story time on March 17th and I have had anywhere from ten views to 3700 views. The numbers game will be difficult to track, even with wonderful access to great analytics offered by the different platforms. The analytics are designed for businesses and not libraries. That being said, remember your impact is more than a view.
- The GO TO PERMISSIONS PAGE: SLJ COVID-19 Publisher Permissions
(This is a google doc. that has been updated frequently throughout the Covid Crisis. Many publishers set time limits, and upon expiring they have renewed them. This is the most comprehensive list I have found.)
School Library Journal just posted a new article With Remote Learning Still the Norm, Publishers Extend Permissions for Read Alouds UPDATED
School Library Journal also has a wonderful COVID Updates subpage. This subpage is full of great information about read aloud story times, and more.
2. Public Domain: Children’s Public Domain
3. Articles Worthy Of Reading:
5. Don’t forget the teens: Web Junction’s Guide To Online Teen Programming
Great Story Times:
Obviously, follow the four of us on Facebook:
The following links are in addition to the super cool links listed in avoiding pitfalls.
If you have not read James and The Giant Peach you have missed out. The fantastical children’s classic by Roald Dahl, is read cover to cover by a stellar lineup including Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nick Kroll, Ryan Reynolds, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Cara Delevingne and others, and directed by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi—who is currently working on Roald Dahl projects for Netflix. Total run time is a little over 17 hours. Tune in together for a watch party.
Can we talk about Mondays with Me, Michelle Obama (This is a real thing!)
You are a great reader, but be honest, Michelle and Barack Obama, now that is a story time! PBS is really a great link that you cannot go wrong connecting your patrons with. PBS YouTube
Jbrary A librarian’s blog and it is terrific. The link connects you to their list of several libraries who have online story times.
In the end remember that you need to make the best choice for your Library.