A few years ago, when I heard that the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) Student Association was opening a daycare on campus, the former children’s librarian in me wondered if I could suggest holding storytimes in the library. It was a fleeting thought and I didn’t follow-up, thinking that it was probably outside of my current work mandate as a Liaison Librarian and Collections Coordinator at a post-secondary institution.
Then, last fall, a BCIT librarian received an email from Sue Allen, a manager at the BCIT Student Association Daycare. She said she knew it was a long shot, but was there any chance that the kids could come to the library for an occasional storytime? The daycare is situated on the far south end of the campus, near some beautiful nature walks, but the closest public library is a bus ride away. When my colleague forwarded the email request to library staff, it was met with great enthusiasm from many people, including me.
For storytimes to actually happen, we need support from administration. Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem, as James Rout—BCIT’s new Library Director and AVP, Education Support and Innovation—was on board. Rout came to the BCIT Library last spring, and one of my favourite things he said upon arriving was that he sees the library as the students’ living room. He supports and encourages us to host all kinds of events in the library. While a storytime for three- and four-year-olds in an academic library, which does not have a children’s literature collection, may seem odd, it fits with our vision of the library as a welcoming, responsive, and inclusive community hub.
Our first, trial storytime took place last November. All of the library staff were invited to come and many did. One of our students with a child in the daycare had a break in her class schedule and joined us too. It was a rainy day. Everyone helped the kids take their coats off. The adults sat around the outside of the circle of children and, off we went. It was a lot of fun. Allen, the daycare manager, sent a note the next day saying:
“I just wanted to thank you so much for yesterday’s library time!!! The children loved it!! The teachers loved it!!! It was such a positive experience all around. All afternoon we heard the children chatting about their special library time. 🙂”
Storytime at the BCIT Library went so well that the kids are now going to come in twice a month. We’ve had a workshop for staff who want to learn how to deliver storytimes. Some of them will partner up to do the events together, adding to the fun and reducing the pressure. We are inviting occasional special guests from the BCIT community to come in to read books to the kids. Our first guest will be Zaa Joseph from Aboriginal Services. One of our staff members is taking a children’s programming class this term. This will be a perfect opportunity for her to deliver storytimes, including the one that she develops for her class assignment. We are delighted to expand our services to include the youngest members of our community!
Lin Brander works at BCIT Library where she liaises with programs in the School of Energy, and is Collections Coordinator and Open Education Librarian. She is the Incoming Treasurer on the BCLA Board. Lin was formerly a Children’s Librarian at VPL.