Monday, April 6, 2020

Digital Storytime, Screen Time and Intentionality - Oh My

Today's guest post is from Sue Abrahamson, Head of Youth Services at the Waupaca (WI) Area Public Library. In reply to someone hesitant to do digital storytimes because of recommendations on limiting screen time for young children in Storytime Underground on Facebook, Sue wrote : "There is a tsunami of digital resources pressuring families right now. It is not developmentally appropriate for a young child to be expected to sit in front of a screen for a 25-45 minute storytime! The best app at this age is a lap! My staff is concentrating on short poems, rhymes. Less than a minute. To remind parents of ways to engage." We asked Sue to tell us more:

I've been thinking a lot of late about the pressures parents are feeling now during this pandemic.  We are hoping not to add to their stress levels, but still meaning to provide encouragement and support. This leaves librarians in an important position.  

As we sometimes are prone to doing, we take the things we love to do the most and concentrate on that.  I've seen many examples of online story times posted around the Internet.  Seeing your beloved librarian can offer comfort to kiddos who might be struggling with the topsy-turvy world right now. 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
Our library's strategic plan focuses on three main areas: access, partnerships, and inclusivity.  Does the work we do from home still help meet those outcomes? 
  • Access - to information, to books, to ideas.  We have curated a list of the little free libraries in our community, put it up on our website with safety tips on using LFLs, and added great new paperback books that are popular with young readers.  We are sharing out rhyme and song sheets from our Babygarten fun with links to short video clips so parents can see and hear the actions and tunes,  We are challenging our patrons to get outside and spread hope and kindness.
  • Partnerships - I think because we had so many strong partnerships in place before the virus hit, we were able to really rely on our collaborators to work together, spread the word, and make our work more meaningful.  We had a quick turn around in making face shield frames using our 3D printer and knew others in the community who could help.  We found our school partners, teachers and media specialists, in daily communication about ways to help families use our digital collections and established, very quickly, a way for them to get a library card to do so. 
  • Inclusiveness - When you take the time to remember the faces of the folks you saw every day at the library, remembered their names, and remembered how they used the library, it became very easy to imagine ways they might be missing what you provided for them.  Bringing our puzzles, honor books, games to low income housing areas serves this population well.  Laundromats, food pantries, meal sites, are needed more than ever.  Asking how we could partner brought forth a flood of crowd sourced problem solving from our staff.
The caution to take is not to make it about the librarian, but to make it about the patron.  

Developmentally, what is appropriate for you to share and how?  Knowing your audience is the key here.  If your story time crowd is like mine -  lots of 3 year olds - a 30-minute story time online is not appropriate.  My sharing a poem, or a puppet, or a quick fingerplay, might be a better choice.   

The more we throw at parents with the message of "do's good for your kids," the greater the stress and risk of shame we lay on families who are all just trying to do the best they can.  Remove our sense of privilege and try to see the situation from their perspective.  Some parents are still working and having to homeschool their children.  For some, access to the internet isn't a sure thing.  How are we supporting those families?

The other thing to consider is that we are just at the beginning of what could be a very long period of providing virtual library service to children and families.  What plans are we considering to sustain our services well into the summer?  It might require throwing all previously made plans right out the window, and that's okay.  

We need to give ourselves permission to be flexible and take this opportunity to make something new and exciting.  Doing so with those library missions, outcomes and goals in mind will be invigorating for you, your staff and your patrons.

Links to YSS COVID-19 series:
Online Storytimes
SLP & Programming Resources
Re-Opening and Safety Issues
Permissions (Books, Authors and Music)
      Music Permissions? Look No Further  3/27/20; updated 3/31/20
Professional Development
Kids Resources
WI Online Program Data
Friday FAQs with Tessa Michaelson Schmidt
4/10/20 recording       4/17/20 recording          4/24/20 recording        5/1/20 recording               5/8/20 recording
Taking Care of You

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