When Sarah Okner (MS '09) and her colleagues at Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire, Illinois, learned that the library would be closing to the public because of COVID-19, they started making plans to connect virtually with community members.
The library regularly creates videos featuring songs and rhymes from programs for its Vimeo account. Before its closure, the librarians recorded new songs and rhymes for Vimeo and discussed other ways they could reach patrons during the shelter-in-place order.
"It was important for us to continue to offer our regular storytime attendees routine and familiar faces," said Okner, a youth services librarian. "We also wanted to find a way to reach folks who may not normally attend library programs (because of work schedules, etc.) and who are now looking for trusted educational resources for their children."
Okner and her fellow librarians gathered as many books and props as they could before the shutdown, so they could continue to offer a virtual storytime from their homes.
"One of our youth librarians was already familiar with Facebook Live and suggested that we stream storytimes from our living rooms. After some very silly tests, we decided that this would be the best route. Vernon Area Public Library already has an active Facebook account and following, and patrons don't need an account to watch Facebook Live events," she said.
The library's Streaming Storytime is offered Monday through Saturday from 10:00-10:30 a.m.
"Each librarian takes two storytimes a week," said Okner. "We communicate with participants in real-time during the program. We often ask patrons to share the names of their children and ask questions like, 'What kind of pet do you have?' or 'What do you like to eat for dinner?'"
On Sundays, Okner and her colleagues send an e-newsletter with favorite apps and YouTube channels for youth up to age five, and an early learning tip, as well as links to e-books and Facebook Live archives.
"Our library is working to host a whole suite of virtual programs for all age groups called 'Library Everywhere,' to stress that the library isn't just a warehouse of books. The library is culture, connection, and community. It's a trusted friend, a reliable resource, and is still working for patrons, even while the doors are closed," said Okner.