ANCHORAGE, Alaska – All it takes is a few words from a storybook to connect kids over the crackle of an AM radio station. It's not 1950s entertainment, but a nostalgic way children in even the most remote Alaska communities – many with unreliable internet – can overcome further isolation brought on by the coronavirus.
The public library in the small town of Homer got creative when it had to close during the pandemic, partnering with a radio station to bring a popular story hour to preschoolers stuck at home.
Youth services librarian Claudia Haines reads some children's books – chosen to appeal to older kids or adults listening in, too – Thursday mornings on KBBI, which serves the town of 5,000 and surrounding villages.
“Radio has such a storytelling tradition,” Haines said. “It's nice to see it put to use.”
The program is among ways libraries nationwide are adapting during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Public Library Association. Like the Homer library, they have expanded online services.
They're also contributing to their communities. The El Dorado County Library in California is getting help using its 3D printers to make face shields for hospitals and other facilities. The St. Louis County Library in Missouri partnered with a diaper bank to provide emergency diaper services at four branches.
In Alaska, the radio story hour, which is also live-streamed on KBBI's website, has dance breaks to let young listeners burn off some energy. The program ends with time for kids to call in.
“They were really happy to call and say hello and have me recognize them,” Haines said. “The spirit of the first program was, 'Hey, we've been apart while the library is closed and we're all staying home, but we're still here together in our community, and this is a way to stay connected.'”