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Digital Storytelling Staff Demo

This morning I demonstrated an iStorytime at the Campbell Library for some of my colleagues.  It did not go completely smoothly, which is good, because it means that I can now make a checklist of things that I need to make it go smoothly next time.  What happened was the TV (it was a large Samsung HDTV thing; not sure of the make but will check back on that later) didn’t seem to register the AppleTV.  Turns out all I had to do was change the channel from within the input settings and it would have worked fine, except that the AppleTV was not able to connect to the library’s WiFi (no splash page to sign in on). So next time I need to make sure I have our MiFi with me. I ended up using our projector and a VGA adapter , which meant that I was tethered to the projector (tripping hazard), but given that there were no actual children in the room (it was a staff demo) it worked fine.

So in this no-tech library I would need to have the following technology for a wireless digital storytelling program on the Samsung TV:

iPad: Contains all content
MiFi: both the AppleTV and iPad have to be on the same network and our AppleTV had trouble connecting to the library’s wireless (could also use an ethernet cable)
HDMI cable: to connect the AppleTV to the TV (AppleTV doesn’t come with it, which I think is odd)
AppleTV: little black box that allows you to project content from the iPad onto screen/TV wirelessly

If I wanted to use the projector (on a book cart in the middle of the room: tripping hazard!) I’d need the following:

Projector (with VGA cable)
VGA adapter 

For music I used the iPad and a Logitech Mini Boombox, which is a teeny little bluetooth enabled speaker. I was a bit rushed, so I wasn’t able to sync both the iPad and my Nexus S with Spotify app. That meant a little more fumbling with the iPad (exit Keynote or  iBooks to get to music icon), but we grooved to Hot Potato anyway.

Digital Storytelling: More iBooks








Yep.  It’s official.  The more I work on this Digital Storytelling Project, the more I realize that a lot of the content I’m going to be using will be iBooks as opposed to apps. There are a few reasons for this:

1. iBooks are closer to “real” books. You can read them straight, just like you would with a book, and ignore any animation, narration or interactivity. Some of my digitally skeptical colleagues report that with iBooks it is more obvious to them that the content is the same, but the format is much more flexible.

2. There’s a lot of good stuff available; I’ve found a number of Caldecott winners and storytime standards like Caps for Sale, Click Clack Moo and Strega Nona. (I’ve been disappointed with app versions of some Caldecott winners; Freight Train is pretty terrible)

3. They load quickly and you don’t have to fiddle with them too much.

Here is my Digital Storytelling iBook Collection so far.  I’ve downloaded a whole bunch in the past few days and I can’t wait to use some of them in my upcoming pilot projects. They’re a little more expensive, but they can be synced to a number of devices, so think of it as 5 books for the price of one!

iBooks in Storytime

I was frustrated trying to find Dan Yaccarino’s Five Little Pumpkins in the App store.  I love the board book and I did it as a rhyme frequently in my Book Babies program. Our Music Together teacher Tricia also does it around October when things get a little spooky. Five Little Pumpkins is not in the app store because it’s not an app; it’s an iBook. What confused me was that’s it’s only $5.99, while other iBooks are usually closer to $11.99.  I got permission to download a few iBooks and I now have a small collection:

Brown Bear Brown Bear
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Duck and Goose
Five Little Pumpkins
Pete the Cat

I foresee that these might be easier to whip out during a storytime, but I’ll have to give it a go and report back.

Storytime Plans go Digital

Back when I was trained by the fabulous children’s librarians at the Stanislaus County Library to do storytimes in my branch library, I was handed a preschool storytime template by the incomparable Carol Blomquist. I have used this template in various forms ever since, with some modifications for class/school visits and younger ages groups. My challenge now is to take a traditional storytime format like this, and to use digital elements which enhance the program.  Part of my job will be to foresee possible technical snafus and make the process as easy as possible for the children’s librarians who wish to incorporate digital media into their ongoing storytime offerings.

I will be presenting programs in a number of different libraries in our system, so to make this pilot project successful I will have to  keep in mind the following factors (some of which are relevant even without the use of high tech gadgets):

  • age of the kids: preschool or family storytime
  • the size of the crowd: 10 kids or 100? the kinds of apps I choose will differ depending on the size of the crowd
  • lighting: can we see what’s projected onto the screen?
  • outlets: where will we plug in the projector?
  • music: can I just plug my ipod into the wall or are they still using CDs and a boom box?
  • space: is there room to wiggle?

I want to incorporate SOME digital media into the program, but I have to be very thoughtful about where and how.  There are a number of options (yay! more bullet points!):

  • book-based apps
  • ebooks (Axis 360, OverDrive, Ebsco are options, but picture books are few and far between and they’d have to be checked out for a finite period of time)
  • iBooks (expensive, yes, but as my manager points out, when you are able to sync the content among 5 devices, you’re basically getting 5 copies of the book)
  • scanned lyrics, rhymes, photos etc

I’m going to put together some Digital Storytime plans and post them on under the Digital Storytelling Toolkit and I’ll report back on how the implementation of these plans go.

Digital Storytelling: May the Downloading Begin!

I’ve downloaded my first Digital Storytelling iPad apps at the Santa Clara County Library District. We will be running some pilot project storytimes at some of our libraries in the next few months.  These will be special storytimes, not during regularly scheduled programming, probably evening and weekend timeslots. I’ll be using non-digital props as well and using my standard storytime outline (more on that forthcoming).  Next steps for me are to try to locate digital books (not interactive books) through Axis360 or elsewhere (possibly ICDL?) and to play with Keynote and Felt Board.

Here’s what I’ve downloaded so far:

Book Based Apps

A present for Milo $5.99
Bunny Fun Head2Toes $3.99
Blue Hat Green Hat $3.99
Don’t let the Pigeon run this app $4.99
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore $5.99
Freight Train $0.99
Go Away, Big Green Monster $2.99
Monster at the end of this book $3.99
Pete the Cat: School Jam $0.99
Press Here $1.99
Very Cranky Bear $4.99

Other Apps
Felt Board $2.99
KeyNote $9.99

Total: $53.87

Digital Storytelling Collaboration

We have 7 libraries in our library system, all of which have robust early literacy programs and experienced children’s librarians. It’s a big district, though, and children’s staff only gets together once a year (the managers get together monthly).  So the task has been put to me to investigate ways to enable collaboration among all of our children’s librarians.  I had already begun eliciting input from our children’s staff about how they use music in their programs, and I’ve got a running list of apps I’m going to download, so I made it a little more official and added some forms so staff can submit suggestions directly.  Check out the Digital Storytelling Toolkit to see what it looks like.  Anyone is welcome to recommend must-have music or apps for storytime!

Digital Storytelling at Santa Clara County Library

I’m going to be presenting a little bit of digital storytelling goodness at the next Supervising Children’s Librarians meeting at Santa Clara County Library District (They have an awesome new website! Take a look!). I’ve been asked to talk about the following:

What is Digital Storytelling?

Digital Storytelling is a broad term that refers to the use of digital media in storytimes.  What we’re talking about mostly is the use of book-based iPad apps. These can be useful in a number of different situations; when you have a huge crowd and even a large picture book doesn’t do the room justice, or when you have a small crowd and there’s an app with interactive features that can be used with a handful of preschoolers. You could also take a digital photo of a book and project it; some classic nursery rhyme books have interesting illustrations and lyrics presented beautifully on one page (like Jack and Jill).

Part of this project is making sure that each library has the devices they need; we will be ordering new iPads for each library, and we’re looking into other pieces of technology like Apple TVs (to minimize tripping hazards). Apple TVs can hook up to the projector and then receive input from your iPad wirelessly so you can move around the room and not be tethered by a VGA cable. Related to this project is a digital storytime music collection; we’re hoping to develop a collection of storytime music, get each library their own storytelling iPod, and create a collaboration tool to discuss the use of music and technology in early literacy programs.

There are already some libraries in the system that are using digital technology in their storytimes: Morgan Hill uses powerpoint to post song lyrics, Woodland uses an iPod.  This digital storytelling project is more of a focused exploration of how we can use some of these tools in our programming and have all the tools available to all the braches, regardless of their storytime space or headcount. [note: some of our libraries have smart rooms with plug-and-play capability and built-in projectors, and some make do with a wee corner of the library and a cd player.]

Why Digital Storytelling?

But WHY would we want to use iPads in storytime? Why would we advocate for more screen time in this increasingly digital world?

This technology is already pervasive.  How many of you see parents using smart phones during your programs? How often do you go out to a restaurant and see a family with a young child who is playing angry birds or some other god-awful game on an iPad?  Don’t you think they’d like to know where to find GOOD quality digital media for their kids?  There are a number of places where you can go to find out about good apps, but parents don’t necessarily know where those are. iTunes provides a user-generated rating system for apps just like Amazon does for books, but those ratings are not necessarily a true representation of the quality of the product, and they’re hosted by the seller!  Children’s librarians know good content, they know age appropriateness and they know where to go to find more high quality content.  Using high quality digital media in storytime is one way we can expose parents to good quality book-based or educational apps. This is just a fun new kind of reader’s advisory!

Many of our patrons here in Silicon Valley already have this kind of technology in their homes and they just need good recommendations for apps to use with their kids. On the flip side, there are also pockets of the county where the digital divide and the app gap are alive and well.  As you well know, some people still don’t have computers in their homes, let alone iPads. Kids in those homes are not developing the digital literacy skills they will need in school; textbooks are on tablet computers now.  They will be at a disadvantage in school if they are not familiar with this kind of technology.  Using iPads in storytime is one step toward bridging the digital divide for parents with young kids.


Big Green Monster
Blue Hat Green Hat
Someone in my garden

Digital Storytelling Bookshelf

Most children’s departments have a storytelling shelf where they have pretty copies of storytime books that are pre-selected for age group, size/quality of illustrations, props, participation and general storytime awesomeness.  Well, my colleagues and I at the Santa Clara County Library District are building just such a bookshelf, only it’s for apps.  I’ve got some technical issues to work out so we have not started downloading all the apps yet, but I’m working on a list of apps I’ll download once I have the devices and money to do so.  Right now I’m making a list from various sources, and I’m starting from the March/April Horn Book. I’ll be looking at the Cybils, Kirkus, Touch and Go and Out of the Box next for app recommendations, then add them to the storyshelf and conscript my storytelling colleagues to try them out with their communities and report back.  That’s how we’ll begin to create a community of knowledge around digital storytelling. This’ll be an ongoing collection development project (all collections require upkeep and love!) but right now it’s a mad rush to develop a core collection and figure out what our collection development guidelines are for apps.  Keep your eyes peeled for more app reviews and digital storytelling tips and ideas as we expand our collection and knowledge!

Special Needs Digital Storytime Conference Proposal

A few weeks ago I received an email from ALSC asking if I was interested in partnering with a Tess Prendergast, a doctoral student from the University of British Columbia‘s Department of Language and Literacy Education, and a children’s librarian and the Vancouver Public Library. Tess’ expertise is in Special Needs Early Childhood Education.  I told her about my Digital Storytelling project at Santa Clara County Library District with Megan Wong. We corresponded a little bit about our areas of interest and decided to create a panel discussion with Carrie Banks from the Brooklyn Public Library.  Carrie is the founder of The Child’s Place at BPL and a 2012 Library Journal Mover and Shaker.  I love this quote about her from the Mover and Shaker article:

Carrie understands that it is not enough simply to open the doors to the branch and hope people drop by. Rather, it is closer to an imperative of the public library to ensure that people receive services no matter where they happen to be.

Tess put together an awesome panel proposal for ALA 2013 in Chicago. The program will be sponsored in name only by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) and the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA)

Digital Early Literacy for Everyone: How Digital Tech Supports Inclusion for All Young Literacy Learners

Far from predicting the dreaded end of print and paper, four presenters will explore different facets of digital early childhood literacy. Digital technology will be placed in a context from which children’s librarians can make good decisions on behalf of the young children and families in their own communities. Participants will learn how digital technology has been enthusiastically embraced by libraries to help meet the literacy development needs of young children, especially those with disabilities.


The general goal of this program is to present current research and practice about digital early literacy in the context of children’s library service to all young children, including those with disabilities who have been underserved in the past.

  • Participants will be presented with an overview of digital early literacy learning research with emphasis placed on the role of digital technology in the literacy development of children with disabilities
  • Participants will hear from three children’s services librarians who will share their experience and insight on how digital tools (e-books, apps etc.) can be integrated into existing programs, services and collections for all children in their communities.
  • Participants will be encouraged to thinking critically and creatively about how digital tools can be used in inclusive children’s library programs, services and collections
  • Participants will be provided with extensive resources from which to adapt and build their own programs, services and collections that meet the needs of the young children in their communities, including those with disabilities.
  • Participants will be encouraged to consider the possibilities inherent in digital literacies that can lead to participation and inclusion of those whose needs have not been met in the past.


Our target audience is children’s services practitioners/children’s librarians in both public and school libraries, children’s services coordinators, branch heads and library managers and directors, and library school students.


Carrie Banks has been the Director of Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) The Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs since 1997. Carrie has written about and presented on the topic of services for people with disabilities for many years and most recently began using assistive technology in inclusive family programs at BPL.

Cen Campbell has been designing and implementing storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers since 2007. She serves on the Association of Library Services to Children’s Children and Technology committee and runs

Tess Prendergast is a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library as well as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia where she is investigating early literacy in the lives of children with disabilities. Her research interests include parents’ thoughts about their children’s engagement with early literacy and how communities, especially libraries, can best support these families.

Megan Wong is the Virtual Library Manager for the Santa Clara County Library (SCCL) located in the heart of the Silicon Valley.  Megan manages SCCL’s online presence and resources and is leading the library’s web redesign project. She is specifically interested in eReaders and gadgets and how these things can move libraries forward.