Even though the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) closed its physical doors due to coronavirus on March 16, it has continued to provide a critical resource for local communities, offering free digital books, compiling reading lists, holding essay competitions for teenagers and connecting with its youngest patrons over virtual story time.
Just like the in-person story times are one of a kind performances – the virtual ones are ephemeral, so you really should tune in. Due to copyright issues, BPL tells us, they cannot keep a collection of storytimes available on-demand for families looking to engage their little ones – the videos remain up for just 48 hours.
Here is one from this morning from the Kensington branch, by Miss Chelsey, with some help from George, who read Penguinaut by Marcie Colleen, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss and Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems.
BPL broadcasts a storytime live from the FaceBook page of the local branch that is hosting, usually either in the morning or afternoon. Each story time is 20-30 minutes long, and a mix of reading from picture books, singing, and sending emoji of appreciation. Local librarians call out and say hi to their regulars who identify themselves in a comment – it feels incredibly friendly and accessible.
“Story times are among our most popular programs in the branches, so we moved very quickly to a virtual platform to be able to serve our youngest patrons and to continue our mission to promote literacy and help children develop a life-long love of reading. We’ve found our virtual story times are really popular, too,” Abby Garnett, Library Information Supervisor at Cypress Hills shared about what it’s been like to connect with the youngest readers online, and just online.
“I think all of the librarians agree—whether at Kensington or Cypress Hills or any branch— it is so heartening to see families we miss sending waving emojis during the [FaceBook] Livestream and parents messaging to say their child clapped or sang along with the video,” Garnett said. “In fact, many parents have expressed that the child is most excited to see their favorite librarian and have that real-time connection and we hope it has helped families continue some semblance of their routine pre-quarantine. They can still “attend” their morning storytime and be greeted by the familiar, friendly face of their local librarian.”
There are challenges, too.
Of course, we are limited to what books we have at home,” Garnett said, “but it has been an enjoyable challenge to create storytelling props from whatever is lying around the apartment! We have put on storytimes in English and Spanish, generally for ages 0-5, but anyone is welcome.”
Even though the story is broadcast from a branch page, anyone in the world can still tune in.
According to Garnett, in the last week, BPL storytimes reached 14,000 people, and BPL’s Family Facebook page (which also includes videos for Drag Queen Story Hour, arts and crafts and science projects) saw a 4700% increase in followers the first week the library buildings closed.
Anyone interested can sign up for email alerts, or follow BPL (or your local branch) on social media where they post all upcoming events and live streams, or just check their website.
One parent wrote to the Cypress Hills Branch – “I am impressed by the work the Brooklyn Public Library is doing to keep the kids busy at home. My little one loves the virtual storytime!!” Garnett shared. We could not agree more.