April 5, 2020
West Vancouver, B.C.— As families look for places to connect and learn online in the midst of a pandemic, West Vancouver Memorial Library (WVML) has been hard at work to bring some familiarity to these new routines: through Live Storytimes and innovative technology programming for kids.
March 16 was the last day the Library facility was open. But, beginning the following week, the Library’s Youth Department became the first in the region to present Live Storytimes on Instagram. These virtual storytimes mimic the kinds of interactions families would have inside the Library—with a recognizable puppet, a familiar story and the friendly faces of the three Youth Librarians they know and love. These 15-minute segments composed of songs, rhymes and a story garnered close to 150 family views each in the first week—an astounding number when an in-person storytime usually accommodates about 60 people. The Live Storytimes have also inspired other much larger library systems across the Lower Mainland, with several asking about West Vancouver’s model in order to launch a similar service in their own community.
Parents have emphasized how much this new initiative means to their families:
“You three are what is giving my family a lot of calm… the storytimes are bringing so much normalcy to our lives. Poppy sings along, warns Shannon that her tea is hot, and gets cozy for the story. Thank you so much!”
“Storytime is the daily highlight for us right now and I love how interactive it is, coming from a family who does no screen time for our kids.”
“My kids love your storytimes. It’s so good for them to see their local librarians when they haven’t been able to go to the Library for a couple of weeks now.”
“Librarians’ jobs have really changed in the last few weeks. We don’t have a library and we don’t have physical books. How do we maintain our connections with the hundreds of families that used to come through our doors every single day? One answer to this was to set up Instagram Live Storytimes,” says Youth Services head Shannon Ozirny. “You can find content for kids everywhere on the internet—that’s not hard to come by — but what we think our families need right now is consistency, simplicity and routine. And with these virtual storytimes, we are reaching five times the people that we have at in-person programs.
“And it’s not just young children,” Ozirny adds, “We’ve rapidly adapted our virtual services for school-aged kids, too.”
The Library’s facility closure sparked an expansion of the technology programming for which WVML is so well known. Virtual programs like Extreme Room Makeover, which uses augmented reality to turn kids’ spaces at home into something inspiring, fun or magical and Virtual Escape Room, where kids work in teams to solve clues, are stretching the boundaries of traditional programming. There is also Tell Your Story—a program inviting youth of all ages to submit one-page creative responses to what they’re experiencing right now. These will be published as an ebook anthology in the Library’s digital collection this summer.
“Just as we empower kids to choose the books they read, we also want to empower them to choose how they spend their leisure time in our current reality,” Ozirny says, “while helping foster digital literacy and creativity skills along the way.”
The Library recognizes that during this difficult time, social isolation means human connections are more important than ever. The Library is still operating through LibraryConnect for patrons of all ages who have questions, need support or simply miss their librarians.
About Shannon Ozirny, Head of WVML Youth Services
Shannon Ozirny is truly passionate about her area of work and is extremely active in the field. She has volunteered on several awards juries (including the BC Book Prize, Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books Committee and the ALA Odyssey Award), worked as adjunct faculty teaching the Materials for Children class at UBC’s iSchool, moderates children’s and teen book events at the Vancouver Writers Festival and has reviewed regularly for The Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire.
Sarah Barton-Bridges, Communications Coordinator | 604.928.2197 | firstname.lastname@example.org