Storytime goes online

When most people think of storytime, they think of children sitting cross-legged in a circle, watching excitedly as an adult reads a book.

Storytime still works that way at Catawba County libraries, but with the help of grant funding, the system will put a 21st century spin on an old favorite.

The Catawba County Library System received a $300 mini-grant from the state Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office to help the system's storytime programs go digital.

Richard Griffin, Sherrills Ford Library branch manager, said the grant will help library staff film storytimes and upload those videos to the county's website for residents and their families to enjoy.

"We want people to look at the library and be able to use it, even when it's not open," Griffin said.

County library hours were cut during the budgeting process for fiscal year 2010-11. The online storytime allows anyone to access the library's popular storytime sessions, even when libraries are closed for the day.

"We hope to get local folks in the community involved," Griffin said.

"This is something we hope will attract people to our website."

The county's mini-grant funding will help purchase a video camera with computer capabilities, as well as other equipment needed to videotape readers and upload that video online.

The mini-grant program was created by the state Youth Advisory Council in 1977. The council receives an annual appropriation from the N.C. General Assembly and the N.C. Youth Endowment Fund.

The deadline for 2010-11 grant applications was in October.

"(The council) reviews and deliberates on the applications, and they decide who to give the grants to," said Cynthia Giles, of the N.C. Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office.

Giles said, this year, the council had more than $6,000 to distribute among grant recipients.

Griffin said the project won't be technologically demanding and only requires someone willing to read a story for children and another person to film the reading.

"It's all low-tech," he said. "We're trying to keep it pretty simple."

The online storytime plays off the library's popular story and music opportunities for children. County branches hold the events for children and their parents as a way to spark an interest in reading and encourage family involvement.

"It's something parents can do with their child instead of watching TV," Griffin said.

The library system heard in December that it received the grant, and Griffin said he expects to receive the funding soon. Then, it's simply a matter of shopping for the video equipment.

Since the program is new, Griffin said library staff are developing the idea step-by-step.

The library system hasn't decided if the online storytime sessions will be available for everyone or only members of the system. Also, Griffin said Kim Wetmore, Southwest Library branch manager, helps secure permission from children's book authors to use their books during online storytime.

While many children's books are in the public domain and don't need permission for their public use, some newer children's books require permission before being broadcast online.

Griffin said anyone willing to film a storytime reading is welcome to contact the library. Because of the equipment's portability, the online storytimes can be filmed practically anywhere.

Griffin said he's also interested in having county leaders and elected officials take part in the project and volunteer to read a story for the website.