Sunday, January 24, 2021

Moose - Virtual Storytime


I've had a "moose" themed storytime in the back of my mind for over a year, since back in the before-times when I noticed that there were several cute picture books with moose. Then the pandemic hit, lost my job, yada yada yada, and now I'm in Colorado, which made the theme even more fitting since there are moose here.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Virtual Programming - Let's Be Honest

Is there anybody who really feels they've got this down or that it's really what people want? Does anyone really enjoy it? C'mon, let's be brutally honest here...

I'll be the first to admit I hate it, for so many reasons.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Early Literacy To Go - January


Early literacy kit, storytime at home kit

This monthly early literacy to-go kit was the first type of programming I developed when I started my new position 3 months ago, as this branch had been without early literacy programming for several months, and many in the community either do not have internet access at home or have to prioritize its use for work and/or school for the older children. I have since started doing virtual storytimes on a weekly basis in addition to these monthly take-home kits.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Snow - Virtual Storytime

I guess I always do some kind of snow-themed storytime in January, but I was able to come up with two books I had not used before, so it's somewhat original. The weather is very unpredictable where I am now, for example a week after I arrived here in October a big storm dropped temperatures and 8"-12" of snow on us, after being sunny and 75 the week before, and after a few days almost all traces of snow were gone. I've been told they've had blizzards pop up as late as May, or even in the summer!

Snow storytime
I started with a hello song, introduction, and lead-in song, then read the first book, Pablo In The Snow, by Terri Sloat and Rosalinde Bonnet. A little lamb named Pablo has never seen snow before, and is amazed when "pieces of the clouds" start falling down. He goes outside to explore and discovers lots of fun things to do in the snow. But he stays out a little too long and can't find his way home as new snow has covered all of the tracks.

I chose this book for a few reasons: it shows several snowy day activities, it was a newer book and I had not seen or used it before, and my branch happens to have "Lamb" in its name. I also used it as a reminder that if you get lost or separated from your group, you should stay put and call for help.

Next we counted out ten snowflakes as I put them on my flannel board, and then sang the following while counting on our fingers:

Ten Little Snowflakes

(The snow shower begins:)

One little, two little, three little snowflakes;
Four little, five little, six little snowflakes;
Seven little, eight little, nine little snowflakes;
Ten little snowflakes fall!

(Now it's snowing harder!)

They are falling all around us,
They are falling all around us,
They are falling all around us,
MILLIONS of snowflakes fall!

(The snow shower ends:)

Ten little, nine little, eight little snowflakes;
Seven little, six little, five little snowflakes;
Four little, three little, two little snowflakes;
One last little snowflakes falls.

(The snow is over, time to play!)

When I do a "Ten Little..." counting song, I may not always include a middle verse, but I do always include counting back down from 10 to 1 because it forces them to use their muscles and their brain a little differently, not relying on muscle memory or habit, so they have to think a little more and be more aware of what they are doing and saying and what it means. And of course, counting down is the first introduction to subtraction.

I followed that with a quick little action rhyme about a snowman losing his nose to a hungry bunny:

The Snowman & The Rabbit

There was a little snowman,     (pretend to stack 3 large snowballs)
Who had a carrot nose.            (indicate long nose)
Along came a rabbit                 (hold up two fingers and "hop" hand around)
And what do you suppose??    (hold out upturned hands)
That hungry little rabbit             (hold up two fingers, rub tummy with other hand)
Looking for his lunch                (look around)
Ate the snowman's nose!         (pretend to eat)
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Snow storytime
Then I read one more book, Snowball Fight! by comedian Jimmy Fallon and illustrated by Adam Stower. I was surprised when I came across this book as I had never heard that Jimmy Fallon had ever written a children's book. It is a bit older, 2005, which is probably why I wasn't familiar with it. Though I am generally VERY skeptical about celebrity authors, this turned out to be a really great, fun storytime book. It has very little text and lots of action as the neighborhood kids gather for an epic snowball fight. It ends with the protagonist sneaking out and making one last snowball and storing it in the freezer for "future use!", which is something my brother and I always did as well.

I closed with a goodbye song and the usual reminders about take & make kits, digital resources, and curbside services.

How It Went??

Again, it's hard to say. I am getting more comfortable with our set-up and being live, and I liked the books I chose, but I am still ending up at 20 minutes, which I feel is too long. I am seriously thinking of eliminating the additional songs and fingerplays, because I don't feel that translates as well to a virtual storytime, and that people are likely more interested in the books. 

Once again, I am not getting tons of views and I don't know how many of those "views" really indicate someone watched a significant portion of the storytime or just clicked through it, and I don't have access to any additional information Facebook provides to the administrators, only what it shows to the public. Our branch's page only has like 400 followers, so I wouldn't expect many views, but I would like to know if *anyone* is really watching. I may get a couple of "likes" from patrons, but thus far no comments.

I gave the green screen another try, and was much happier with how it worked this time. I do wish we had better a better quality camera with higher resolution; I think the poor resolution also makes it more difficult to engage viewers. Honestly, the videos I did on my own at home over the summer with my phone and natural light looked much better, imo. Here is a screenshot from the video (I choose not to link to or embed the videos I do for work in my blog as I want to maintain a separation between my employer and my professional activities as an individual):

I don't expect to return to normal, in-person programming until maybe the Fall (though I expect to be told to do outdoor in-person programming before that), so I will keep offering the virtual storytimes and early literacy kits for the time being and hope I start to pick up some viewers and re-evaluate in a month or two. Of course, I appreciate any and all suggestions for making virtual storytime more engaging and/or attracting viewers!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Christmas - Virtual Storytime

 At first I wasn't sure about doing a Christmas storytime, having previously worked in a very diverse, multinational community with a wide array of ethnicities, cultures, and religions where we did not do Christmas programs. However, the library and community where I work now is very different and Christmas celebrations and programs are the norm. There was a wide array of non-Christmas programs available as well, and I made sure the theme was announced in advance so those who preferred to opt out could do so. But with storytime falling just two days before Christmas, and knowing so many in our already economically depressed community have had even more hardship due to the pandemic, I really felt a cheery Christmas storytime would best serve this particular community at this time, plus my manager had requested some type of Christmas program.

(I know this is a very divisive topic in our profession, and I have discussed my thoughts and opinions on the matter in previous articles, here and here, so I prefer not to debate the issue on this post.)

Winter - Virtual Storytime

 After taking a few weeks to settle into my new position and first develop a non-virtual alternative to storytime, I turned my focus to virtual storytime in December. I know many people are reporting that patrons have screen fatigue and interest in virtual programming has sharply declined, but I felt that I had to at least give it a try. Partly because I really didn't know what else to do and felt pressured to do *something*, and partly because I had not done a storytime in 10 months and really missed the performance aspect of reading books aloud. Of course it isn't the same without a live, in-person audience, but it would at least keep me in practice.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Reflecting on 2020 and Looking at 2021


Every new year I like to reflect on the year that has passed, looking at everything I've experienced, accomplished and learned, and set goals for the year ahead. I was about to start this article off saying something like "Well, it's time for my usual new year's post...." when I realized that there was nothing "usual" about it this year. Before I write my annual post, I look at the one from the previous year to see how I did on meeting my goals, and as I read it I found myself thinking, "oh, you poor na├»ve thing, you have NO idea what is coming for you!" 2020 was a disaster of a year, bringing hardships, challenges, and changes that turned our world upside down, and will continue to have ramifications into 2021.