Come Corona and the plans of having a dedicated ‘physical’ space, ‘physical’ interactive sessions, access to ‘physical’ books – all comes to a full stop in our little library world. Ironically, one of the reasons WordyWoods Children’s Library was started was to promote reading ‘physical’ books over any ‘digital’ apps. But this year we find ourselves sucked back in the digital-virtual-online world of reading.

As the summer started, there were lot of material and sessions available online. It had digital books that were free or paid, accessed either online or as downloaded file or through an app. Then we had book read-aloud sessions that were free or paid, accessed online or were live sessions to closed groups. The read-alouds were conducted by storytellers, authors, librarians and anyone interested in reading and sharing stories. Sometimes pages were shown, sometimes only the reader, sometimes the dramatic representation of the story. Some shared books and book read-aloud sessions followed copyright protocols, and some didn’t. There were also events with similar combinations. A new addition to this variety was book podcasts and my favorite radio podcast.

In all this, I wasn’t sure what is the place and space of my library and my role as a library educator. Should I do all/some of the above online activities for school and community or none of the above? There was also the question of balancing my time, interest, resources and skills required to provide one or all of the above. In the end, I decided to go for a more passive and digital mode that is heavy on providing a curated online library bookshelf that can be taken further by parents and educators with their young readers.

Next, my dilemma was on ‘what’ to choose from the many online options and ‘how’ to make that available to facilitate continuation of reading among the community I support. So, I created my own litmus test with elements that I personally prefer and created an Online Weekly Library Bookshelf as an extract from all things available online.

  1. Free vs paid – the content needed to be free, as in completely. It should not want the reader to access via some email id or an app id.
  2. Accessibility – the story needed to be accessed by one-click. No pdfs, no subscriptions, no apps, no downloads. Links from Storyweaver, Soundcloud, ReadBrightly, Librivox and Lit2go made the cut.
  3. Focus – the link should not lead to other links, ads and other distractions. To avoid this, we used the ‘embed’ option and VideoNow to ensure that only the selected story is read, watched or heard.
  4. Copyright – the link should be available for public use, so I went only for the content that was shared by the publishers and authors and didn’t require me to get special permission.
  5. Read-Aloud Videos – the book is the central element. I want the reader to see the pages with all its illustrations and text. So, options like flip-along really worked for me.
  6. Radio/Audio Links – I wanted ‘listening’ to be an integral part of online library so audio books and radio podcast became my favorite go to places. I found Buguri radio podcast very unique, relevant and with just enough content to engage the young listeners. The podcast doesn’t require a login making it one of my favorite links.
  7. Structure – the focus of the curated and collated content was to
    • Provide something for everybody – emerging, independent and advanced readers
    • Provide content to read, listen and reflect
    • Integrate with a common theme and
    • Ensure it did not take too much of a child’s screen time.

To balance all these requirements, radio podcast was used as an anchor and the books were selected on similar theme, there was content to watch and listen and there was a ‘play’ section for each story to allow reader to share their response to story.

  1. Delivery/Distribution mode – the collated data needed to be delivered in a seamless, integrated and a no-nonsense manner. Also, I wanted it to be easy to access, simple to use and interesting to interact with. At first, I created a pdf version of Digital Library based on the many school librarian formats that I saw. But it was something that end-user ended up downloading which I personally don’t advocate. So, thanks to feedback from some of the readers, we created a web-based version which was well received and is the current format of delivery and distribution.

Curating, collating, designing and distributing Online Weekly Bookshelf is something I never envisioned myself doing. But it is one of the ways that I make sense of all the free reading material available out there. As I continue to explore relevant content, I will keep enhancing the bookshelf and the experience that a reader can take virtually and independently.

In the end, I request all the readers, parents and educators to support your local, easily accessible community libraries by becoming a member and reading ‘physical’ books as much as possible especially the young readers. I understand that there are many out there who can build their own home library but supporting a community library is a step towards building a shared and more responsible (think 3R! 🙂 ) reading community. As a reader, I have come to enjoy all formats and appreciate their unique benefits be it physical, digital (kindle, epub), audiobooks (audible) or films based on books. But a book in hand is an experience that one should never forget and something that I delight in every passing day.

Thank you for reading our journey. Do support our work by becoming a member of our ‘physical’ library, by following us on Facebook, by reading our Online Weekly Bookshelf and by sharing your feedback.