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South Jordan Journal

Library Creates Virtual Story Time

Jul 15, 2016 08:07AM ● By Tori La Rue

Stephanie Anderson, youth services librarian for Salt Lake County Library Services, plays the part of Little Miss Puppet in the library’s virtual story time. – Salt Lake County Library Services

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Usually Vern Waters spends his days managing Salt Lake County Library Services’ jail location, but occasionally he said he gets to take a break from that duty and step into the persona of General Fiction, a character in the library’s new virtual story time.

“It is a different outlet,” Waters said. “I get to be creative. I get to be a character. I get to be silly.”

Each Salt Lake County Library location offers story time sessions, which focus on interactive learning, such as talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. The purpose of Story Space, the online story series, is to bring a similar experience to parents and children—wherever they may be.

“We want to reach kids and parents who aren’t able to attend story time—whether they can’t come in that day because their kid is sick, or they can’t ever come in because they have transportation issues,” Nyssa Fleig, library program manager, said. “Whatever the barrier is, we wanted to be able to reach them.”

The library services held auditions for online storytellers. Waters and three other librarians made the cut: Annie Eastmond, from the Millcreek Library; Paula Burgon, from the West Jordan Library; and Stephanie Anderson, from the South Main Clinic Reading Room. The librarians designed their own costumes and became actors and actresses, instead of merely reciting their lines, Fleig said.

“It’s a fairly common concept—the online story time, but I think we have kind of taken it a bit above and beyond what has been done on other systems,” Fleig said. “There was just a lot of thought that went in behind the scenes.”

In the first episode of the library’s online Story Space series released in May, Miss Annie, played by Eastmond, reads “Two Girls Want a Puppy,” written by Evie and Ryan Cordell and illustrated by Maple Lam.

The camera shots zoom in and out of the picture book, and Miss Annie appears inside the book and begins interacting with the illustrations. Earnest Bourne, the library’s web developer who produced, edited, directed, and filmed the video, created the special effects, because he didn’t want Story Space to be just another recording of someone reading a story, Fleig said.

“When we started talking about it, we kind of wanted a feel like ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ meets ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ meets ‘Reading Rainbow,” Waters said.

After the story reading, the 12-minute clip continues with a dog-themed craft led by Fiona Fairy, played by Burgon. The Story Space webpage,, contains printable cut-outs, so viewers can build their own craft while they watch Fiona construct hers. Fiona uses magic to make General Fiction Appear.  He plays the banjo while singing a two-minute song about a dog named Banjo to the tune of the traditional children’s song “Bingo.”

“My favorite part was when we got a good take,” Waters said as he laughed. “It took a long time. I was there for most of one whole day for my whole song, so it is time-consuming, but it is so much fun.”

Although Waters has read stories to children at libraries numerous times, he said Story Space presented a new challenge because there wasn’t an audience. He usually responds to what the kids say during the story time, but he couldn’t during Story Space.

“Having only the camera as an audience made it intimidating, but I think I’ll get used to it as we continue,” Waters said.

At the conclusion of Captain Fiction’s scene, Little Miss Puppet, played by Anderson, recites a nursery rhyme with puppets. The nursery rhyme is intended to help children notice repetition of sounds, which builds awareness of how words are formed, according to the website.  

“Everything was a deliberate choice to focus on hitting early literacy concepts,” Feig said. “The songs, crafts, everything selected and put together was to support those.”

Waters, Eastmond, Burgon and Anderson will make guest appearances as their characters at branch story times this summer. Right now the library staff is excited about the initial episode, according to Fleig, and although it might be awhile, she said they look forward to producing more episodes in the future.