Liberty library adds new programs to enhance patrons’ experiences

Liberty Municipal Library's Children’s Librarian Katie Edgell (left) and Bilingual Library Technician Maggie Varela have fun with some of the library's displays.

COVID-19 has practically upended everything over the past year, but the Liberty Municipal Library’s children’s programming is flourishing in exciting new ways. Children’s Librarian Katie Edgell and Bilingual Library Technician Maggie Varela have created online virtual programming that offers enjoyable stories, crafts, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experiments for children and their parents.

The online programs were first developed last April when the library was closed to the public and could not offer its usual children’s programming. Katie and Maggie wanted to offer something entertaining and worthwhile for children to watch while they were confined at home during the COVID shutdown, and the idea for making Story Time available 24/7 was born.

Katie and Maggie do all the production tasks required, including writing scripts, acting, editing, and posting everything to the internet. Maggie supplied the recording equipment and editing is done with Filmora video editing software. The recordings follow the in-house Story Time format with action songs, finger plays, a story in English and a bilingual story in Spanish and English and are accessible on the library’s website and Facebook. Both ladies appear in most episodes.

Later last summer, the duo developed the Craft More with the Liberty Municipal Library program featuring entertaining virtual craft demonstrations that parents can try at home with their children. They have made suncatchers, paper lanterns, puffy paint snowmen, and other seasonal crafts.

In September Katie and Maggie decided to go live with a craft activity, and it went well. This encouraged them to broadcast the Story Time programs live on Facebook. Since then, several new online programs have been added to the lineup or are in the planning stages.

One such program is the Experiment More with Liberty Municipal Library program. In this program, Katie and Maggie present DIY STEM experiments that parents might do at home with their children. For instance, in one of their craft programs Katie and Maggie created a papier mache volcano. An Experiment More with the Liberty Municipal Library STEM program followed several days later with the volcano erupting through a chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar.

Another new program is ‘Let’s Get Grimm,’ a spooky story presentation for older children featuring Grimm’s fairytales. These monthly programs are recorded with a green screen to enhance the shared stories with stimulating backgrounds. The first premiere featured Maggie sharing the Grimm Brother’s The Wolf and Seven Goats in front of a daunting forest at dusk.

A new program for families to enjoy together will be Sleepy Time Story Time and it will premiere soon.

Katie says producing the live programs has been fun, exciting, and scary at the same time because there is no back button when you are live. She edits the non-live, or recorded, programs and uploads everything to Facebook and YouTube. Maggie updates the city website and features links to their programs there.

Maggie records the programs and supplies all the technology required, including cameras, tripods, a laptop, video capture cards, lights, and green screens. “Depending on what we are doing that day, I set up the cameras to my laptop and use special software to connect to Facebook and live stream. This is where the nerves start kicking in.” She has plenty of speaking roles but confesses she has a bit of fear when talking before a crowd or a camera.

“My favorite part is actually off stage. We have a couple of our Story Time kids who come in and tell us that they watched our videos. I had one patron who told me that he and his mom missed the beginning of a live Story Time but were able to watch it later on Facebook. He also let us know that he does the crafts with his grandmother. When the kids and parents tell us they enjoy our videos, it makes the equipment hauling, nervousness, shaking, and shortness of breath worth it.”

Katie agrees that all the hard work is justified when their young friends and parents tell them how much they enjoy the programs.

To watch the Liberty Municipal Library’s online programs, go to Liberty Municipal Library’s Facebook and YouTube by typing @Libertymunicipallibrary, and the library’s website https://liberty.ploud.net/.  Recorded programs can be accessed any time. The library also has an Instagram presence, and both Katie and Maggie are responsible for keeping all the social media up to date.  The Instagram page can be found at https://www.instagram.com/libertymunicipallibrary .

For more information, please contact the library at 936-336-8901. The library is located at 1710 Sam Houston Street in Liberty. The library is fully open, and hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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