Deb Isbister, Red Deer Public Library youth services co-ordinator, hosted her first online story time this past Sunday. Contributed photo

Deb Isbister, Red Deer Public Library youth services co-ordinator, hosted her first online story time this past Sunday. Contributed photo

WATCH: COVID-19 doesn’t stop Red Deer Public Library from telling stories

Deb Isbister has been reading stories to children for more than 20 years.

But now, the COVID-19 virus is changing the way she does storytime at the Red Deer Public Library.

With the library’s three branches closed due to the pandemic, programs such as storytime are being posted as videos on Facebook.

Isbister, the library’s youth services co-ordinator, conducted her first online session this past Sunday.

“It’s definitely different,” said Isbister.

“You don’t get the energy off the audience, but you are still able to keep in the back of your mind that they’re there watching it, and you want to be there for them.

“You just have to envision that they’re there, that they’re taking part and they’re joining in. They probably need to see that recognizable face and those rhymes that some of them know, so they can join in.”

The library plans to post a video daily – those posts may be a book recommendation, puppet show, storytime, book reading or activity demonstration, said Isbister.

“We’re sort of working on a calendar, and everyone’s contributing from home the best they can. We think our patrons and would-be patrons are missing that sense of community and the library was always there to offer that.

“We’re trying to still provide that in the best way we can online.”

While she’s new to telling stories to the camera, Isbister is leaning on her experience at the library.

“I’ve recently had a few adults come into the library and say, ‘How long have you worked here? Because I think you used to read stories to me when I was little,’” she said.

“Doing it for that many years makes (storytelling over the internet) easier in some ways. It feels more natural, even if you only have a camera in front of you.”

Isbister said she’s not too worried about adjusting for the camera.

“Kids need to see you make mistakes, too. You’re demonstrating to them that it’s OK to be silly, it’s OK to say something incorrectly and fix it. It’s part of those social building blocks that little kids will pick up on.

“Some of the storytime is actually a demonstration for parents, too. It shows them how easy it is. You don’t need a whole degree to help your kid get those building blocks from conversation.”

But Isbister does miss reading stories directly to children, she added.

“Kids are unpredictable and that’s half the fun of the storytime. They’ll shout stuff out or start something different and you roll with it and it’s fun in that way. You kind of miss that.”

To see what else the library is offering during the pandemic, visit

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