Library Life, Virtual Learning

Things I Learned About Recording Virtual Story Times

Despite this being a time of great uncertainty, I’m trying to look for the positives and appreciate all of the new learning I have been presented with since starting to work from home. From figuring out new online platforms, hosting virtual meetings, and establishing an at-home office, this has been a learning curve for probably most of us, as we try to establish some sort of new norm. The same goes for trying to figure out a new norm for the library.

​It may sound crazy, but this is a time for libraries to really shine. From my own library at least, I’ve been busier than ever with assisting students and teachers in finding ebooks, accessing databases, and providing copyright information as I have it. Other new territory that I’ve recently been trying to navigate is the world of virtual story times. I’ve seen many libraries doing this already and doing wonderful work. Many have shared what they have been doing and how, but I found figuring out all the logistics of it to be a bit of a struggle. In hopes of shedding some light for the next library professional, I have compiled a list of tips for those also wanting to record virtual story times for their libraries.

Please Note: this is not a post about how-to’s for lighting, editing, and suggestions for making your videos look amazing. These are tips regarding more of the organizational  side of getting started and what you need to know before you begin. For more information specifically on video and filming tips to create an overall dynamic video, refer to this article on School Library Journal by librarian Karissa Fast here and also her blog post here.

Publisher Permissions

​In order to do a virtual read-aloud, you need to do two things: First, you need to select a book. Second, you need to check the publisher permissions of your book. Though publishers have relaxed on some of their normal permissions, most have done this for up until June 30th, everyone is doing things differently. You need to determine what you can and can’t do before you start, and in order to figure that out, there are a couple of resources you can refer to. To stay up-to-date and to determine which books require specific instructions/permissions, see the Library Journal article here and Ontario Library Association GoogleDoc (compiled by OLA member Lynn Goodwin) here.

Please Note: School Library Journal is an American Publication, but we have had similar response from the Canadian branches of some of the publishers. If you are Canadian, just make sure to double-check permissions for a Canadian version.

Private vs Public Platforms

Depending on what book you are reading and what the publisher permissions state, this will help you determine which platform to host your virtual story time. In my case, I am a school librarian who is working to support teachers in their online classrooms via D2L and Microsoft O365 Teams. Because these are private/closed platforms, I record my read-alouds and then post them on a YouTube channel I created. Again, depending on publisher permissions, I may have to post my videos as unlisted, which YouTube gives me the option to do. I can also post private videos if I want. With having my videos collectively kept on my YouTube channel, I can then provide the appropriate links to my read-alouds to teachers, students/parents via our chosen closed platform. For my situation, everything is kept in a private platform and my YouTube videos are posted as unlisted, so everything is set up to satisfy and meet all requirements asked of me by publishers for the books I’m reading.

​This option may not work for you though or you may wish to do a live read-aloud, which in that case, you wouldn’t be posting in a private platform, rather a public platform. Again, to determine if the books you want to read are allowed in a public platform/live story time, you will need to check the publisher permissions. Something to keep in mind though if you are looking into hosting live story times is that not every child may have access to a device during the time you are wanting to go live. For example, a house with four children may only have access to one device and with all children needing to get online at some point for distance learning, a live story time may not be feasible to attend. Not a deal breaker, but just something to consider when weighing your options.

Please Note: If you are very concerned about copyright and publishing permissions, when in doubt, err on the side of caution and keep it private and as locked down as possible.

Recording Tools

Once I found out that I would be working from home for awhile, I started looking online for recording equipment. Though reasonably priced, it was going to take over a month to arrive and I couldn’t wait that long to get started. I began looking around here at home to see what I could use and I’m glad I did, because little did I know, I had all the key pieces at my disposal.

  • Microphone – most computers should have one built in, but I’ve been using my Apple headphones and so far they have been getting the job done. Also, I find using a microphone like this helpful in reducing the amount of white noise when recording.
  • Phone – or a tablet/iPad or your laptop – honestly, whatever has a camera, you can make it work
  • Phone Holder Attachment & Tripod – I had a phone holder 3D printed that would attach to my tripod. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer during this time, you can find files to have this printed on Thingiverse. The tripod is something I already had.
  • Editing Software – I’m not an expert when it comes to editing, but I’ve been using two programs that came free with my computer. I’ve been using iMovie to edit my picture book recordings and GarageBand to edit my audio recordings. There are other programs out there, but since I already had these, I stuck with them. So far, they have been easy to use.

Other Things to Consider

  • Figure out your shot – for me, I established. that I wanted to do an overhead shot for picture books and that I would just do an audio recording for my chapter book read-alouds. I’m camera shy, so the less I’m in front of the camera the better, but you may choose to do your read-aloud for the kids to see you! In that case, make sure that the setup for where you will be reading is intentional. Create a sort of “set” and make it appealing (and fun!)
  • Lighting is everything – if you’re like me and not lucky enough to have actual fancy lighting fixtures for filming, then take advantage of sunny days and use all of that natural light for your shots.​ It makes a huge difference!

I’m going to be honest, my videos are not earth shattering by any means. No special effects, no fade-outs, no background music, but I did the most important thing: I made a virtual story time and I was able to connect with students from a distance to share the love of reading with them. I plan to post a weekly read-aloud, so my hopes is that my editing skills will improve and perhaps I’ll become adventurous enough to tackle adding fancy intro music, maybe even show my face here and there.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below! ​

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