Libraries across Kingston have been closed down in response to the coronavirus outbreak… but staff quickly found a way of providing their usual ‘rhymetime’ and story sessions to children online.

Kingston librarians set up a livestream on the Kingston Library and Heritage Service’s Facebook page, and reached almost 10,000 people last week.

And it’s not just storytime sessions for children, this week the library service has started book reviews and tutorials to help residents while they are self-isolating.

Marion Tessier, Development Officer for Events and Digital and Innovation told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the team started brainstorming what would happen in the event of a closure a few weeks ago:

“When we saw what was happening with other countries, we had a hunch that something would happen here, and that we would have to close the libraries quite soon. Right away we jumped on a digital programme,” she said.

“Last Wednesday (March 18) was our first rhymetime. We said, ‘OK, we’re going to do a test session with something that we manage really well.’ We do regular rhymetimes in the libraries when they are open. We did this when the library was closed as a test session to see the response.

Surrey Comet:

“It was hugely positive, everyone really liked it. We had people writing that their kids were completely fascinated by the video, which was quite cool.”

Now library staff run daily e-book reviews from their homes at 3:30 in the afternoons, with other sessions such as rhymetime scheduled throughout the week.

Marion said that next week they hope to organise presentations showing different apps residents can download and use in their homes, covering everything from children’s entertainment, to health and creativity.

There will even be a daily storytime for adults with professional storyteller Richard Neville.

Many of the sessions are also kept on the Facebook page for people to replay if they miss the event.

At the moment the team only use copyright-free rhymes, but they hope to work with publishers to use their books with authorisation from next week.

In these circumstances, the stories and rhymes will only be livestreamed and not available for replay.

“We are still trying to build an audience and trying to build a group of people who will come back everyday or every week. That is why we are trying to schedule some regular sessions. I guess we’ll see. We’re doing that this week and next week and then we will review that and see how we can modify it,” said Marion.

She hopes the livestream sessions may become part of the library’s service in the future.

“That is a decision we are going to have to have with the whole team, but I think we are reaching new people we have never seen before, especially people who are more home-bound,” she said.

“Maybe in the future we can continue the events like rhymetime and storytime in the libraries but you can also livestream them at the same time. We will probably continue in some form or another.”

To watch rhymetime sessions and see next week’s schedule, visit Kingston Library and Heritage Service’s Facebook page here.