Three local librarians have turned into video hosts and are on the loose, popping up all over the county, reading stories, interviewing and featuring all types of places.
"It's like Coffee Cuppers for Kids," said Jefferson County Library Community Services Librarian Gretchen Schlie.
She had heard about a Librarians Out and About program, where librarians visit places in town to engage children with their community. She mentioned the idea to Laura Jones, assistant director and youth services librarian.
Tune in to Librarians on the Loose
Library website: www.jcld.org/librarians-on-the-loose
YouTube: Jefferson County Library OR
Facebook: Jefferson County Library District
Jones liked the idea and immediately thought of it more like a video program with episodes.
"The best way I can explain it is like 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' when he would go out and say, 'We're at the bakery,'" she said. "Instead of having the kids come to us, let's take them about town and let them see – just as long as you're practicing social distancing – there are still places you can go, and there are still things that you can do, so you don't have to feel like you're cooped up at home."
Librarians on the Loose made its online debut Thursday evening, July 30.
At 5:30 p.m. each Thursday, Jones and Spanish Services Librarian Adriana Arizmendi read a portion of a children's book during a two- to five-minute video podcast.
"We stop at the climax and invite them to come to the library and check the book out and take it home and find out how it ends," Jones said.
The next day, at 5:30 p.m., they air a five- to 10-minute video podcast featuring an interview and visit to a related local business or organization, along with some "funny and quirky" things the ladies have done.
Families can tune in on the library's website, the Jefferson County Library OR YouTube channel, and the Jefferson County Library District Facebook page. The recordings remain online so viewers can watch them any time.
State regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have made in-person library storytime for children nearly impossible, so local librarians were searching for an alternative way to reach families with small children.
Jones said the Summer Reading Program had a really good following, but once the online programming concluded, their participation numbers dropped.
Librarians on the Loose was the answer.
The library received a $3,000 grant from the Library Services and Technology Act, a COVID-19 Response Grant through the Oregon State Library Board. It bought a higher-quality camera, microphones and editing software.
"We wanted to present a bilingual front since our community here is bilingual in English and Spanish, so I'm the English element, and Adriana is the Spanish," Jones said, adding that everything they record takes a little bit longer because they say it in both languages. "We wanted to reach out to our Latino community and engage them as well."
Library Circulation Supervisor Swan Liu is the third Librarian on the Loose, but you won't see her on camera.
"When we found out she had a master's degree in animation, we said, 'Hey, Swan,'" Jones said. "Overnight, she became a director, a cameraman, a lighting person, a sound person and editor. She took it all on."
The trio spent several long days filming storytime and interviews, and then Liu got busy with the editing process.
"Our first ideas were a little bit crazy and hair-raising," Jones said.
They visited an alpaca ranch – where they were swarmed by curious (and hungry) fuzzy animals. Then, they went to the airport to chat with a fellow who teaches flying lessons.
"He said, 'I'll take you guys flying in a little teeny airplane,'" Jones said. "It was a lot of fun. We learned a lot. I was the only one who got a little bit sick."
Librarians on the Loose has also featured the aquatic center, a dance studio, a bakery, the police station and the fire station. They've also gone out biking and have a few other ideas up their sleeves.
They hope to continue the popular program through December, depending on if they can get permission from publishers to read books online.
They're also looking for ideas of places to visit.
"The only thing I request is we're not going to go bungee jumping. I know lots of people would love to see librarians go bungee jumping, but I'm terrified of heights," Jones said. "Just as long as it's not death-defying, we're pretty much open to go visit everywhere and anywhere."
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