By Sue Tiffin
Nancy Therrien was adapting library programming to allow for greater physical distancing as recommendations to stay home came into effect beforeMarch Break when the library programming was cancelled altogether. Notlong after that the library doors would close. Changes were happeningrapidly on a daily basis but Therrien and fellow Haliburton CountyPublic Library staff responded quickly.
“I just thought it would be a way for us to get our programs out to people that can’t come to usespecially during the March Break that’s what hit probably the worstis the fact that there are all kinds of March Break programs scheduledand then almost instantly everything got cancelled” said Therrien.“Maybe 48 hours was the window and then boom everything was cancelled. We had to make a choice pretty quickly … Once I found out everythinghad been cancelled completely then I had to say OK what can we do?”
The result was the HCPL’s Family Storytime being offered online. On March17 the day after the HCPL announced branch doors would be closed to the public as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic came closerTherrien’s was one of the first local faces being broadcast into homeson the HCPL Facebook page as kids and adults gathered around theirdevices to watch the programming live. Celebrating Dr. Seuss Therrienappeared wearing a green wig and wearing an HCPL “Keep Calm and Read aBook” shirt sang a rhyming song while encouraging kids to join in read a Dr. Seuss book and together with Noelia Marziali conducted ascience experiment using materials kids might have in their homes.
“True storytime should have more elements than just the stories it needs tohave the songs and the rhymes and the extra bits and pieces the visualelements to make it more inclusive” said Therrien. “To do it reallywell there’s a lot to it.”
Online HCPL programming can also includeMaker Break Libby ebooks tutorials Tech Time and BookClubvideoconferencing while groups like the Algonquin Highlands WritersCircle can meet via videoconferencing too.
“The idea behind it wasjust … it’s not necessarily going to be better than what someone might put out there but it’s us” said Therrien. “It’s local. People getjust a little piece of the community.”
Therrien said differenttechnology has been tested and trialed to determine which app orplatform works for each unique need of programming: some can bepre-recorded for example some might require more interactive elements.
“The big problem is we have some people who have nothing nointernet at all” said Therrien. “We can’t help that. But for the people we do we can reach out and little by little everyone is going tolearn the technology.”
Ideally she said what the library will offer is “not too overwhelming for someone who just wants to be a participant.”
During the first few Storytimes Therrien went into the library. But now shesaid everyone including her is working from home. Rob Muir’s Storytimesessions include his cats. Jaime Bilodeau’s Storytime sessions includeher daughter Holly Carpenter.
“It might be easier for her” saidTherrien of having an actual child participating in the Storytime asthey would be in person at the library. And then laughing: “althoughshe also has that element of you never know what a child is going to say or do.”
An added benefit of having an online option for programming said Therrien is that participation increases noting that whenphysical distancing requirements are relaxed the library could stillbroadcast live programs for those who aren’t able to attend in person.
“It’s much further reaching” she said. “People that can’t drive for whatever reason they can watch it from their home. So that’s the positiveaspect of it and I can see continuing with this easily.”
Though there were some challenges in figuring out how to make everything run asseamlessly as possible Therrien said she would recommend bringingservices and programming online to anyone in the community who isconsidering it.
“My answer would be try it” she said. “Even though you might not understand the technology element it can only getbetter. We’re just going forward in time maybe 10 years because I think if we had fast forwarded 10 years there would be a lot more onlineactivities so we’re just all being pushed forward a little morequickly. Just try it go for it don’t worry if it doesn’t work outjust keep on trying eventually it’s got to work. Problem solving is abig part of any technology it doesn’t matter if it’s video conferencing going live or learning how to use your cellphone. It’s allproblem-solving.”
Once computers and tablets and other equipment tomake home videos possible were redeployed to staff who needed it inorder to be able to work from home – a bigger challenge than one wouldexpect said Therrien who noted library staff are taking sanitizing and social distancing guidelines seriously – an online programming schedule was put in place and the HCPL Facebook page has seen regular activitybringing the library into homes throughout the county and beyond.
“It feels like what we’re supposed to be doing” said Therrien. “Our focusas a library is to be a community hub if we can’t do that in personmaybe we can do it virtually.”
Stretching mindfully online
Withthe sound of a singing bowl reverberating through a room in Blue SkyYoga Studio in Haliburton Lynda Shadbolt smiles from a spot on thefloor in front of the fireplace and says to anyone who might be watching the broadcast either live as she films or post-recording “Rumi saiddo not feel lonely the entire universe is inside you.”
Shadbolt has been offering free yoga meditation and qigong classes on Facebookwelcoming everyone to join in. At noon she tapes a meditation as partof a 100 days of loving kindness program encouraging people around theworld to meditate for a minimum of five minutes a day which began May27 and runs until July 4.
“One of the really cool things is that Ihave someone from Egypt doing the 100-day meditation a student fromUniversity of British Columbia in Vancouver a friend from Albertapeople from across Ontario and some people I’ve never met as well asfriends and students” said Shadbolt in an email to the Times . “Just amamazed at technology.”
The technology she said has been a bigchallenge for her. She started posting videos to Facebook because it was easiest and would like to try other programs but hasn’t ventured intodoing so yet while also making maple syrup and helping with her parents – who are 86 and 91 and live in their own home almost four hours away.But missing her students “and the positive energy they bring into mylife in every class” and wanting to support people while they are athome made her get involved with sharing to the online community.
“Ilove the connections I have made” she said. “Friends from all over theworld have tuned in and that has felt wonderful. Doing the classes helps me stayed focused and positive especially when I notice I am becomingworried or fearful.”
Still from in-person to on-camera has been a big leap.
“I am still learning to be comfortable on camera” she said. “I amgenerally a quiet person who never in a million years saw herself beingfilmed and on the screen.”
But Shadbolt overcomes that to be part of a greater community in a time of immense need.
“There are yoga meditation qigong fitness teachers all over the worldoffering classes to support people” she said. “Performers are doingonline concerts to lift people up. In spite of all the challenges thatare going on the goodness is rising and people are forging new ways ofbeing and connecting. It is very inspiring.”
Shadbolt’s classes are posted to haliburtonyoga.com and are also on her Facebook page @HaliburtonYoga.
Making music virtually
Lauren McInnes’s bright smiling face greets students as they log on tocomputers and phones to carry on their music classes with theHaliburton-based teacher who teaches private and group lessons topeople of all ages.
While many of those students were on MarchBreak McInnes herself was studying after receiving emails fromprofessional associations she belongs to that offered webinars courses and tips for teaching online so that music lessons can continue despite a global movement to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Inthe March Break week I watched a few webinars one after the other”she said. “And at first it was just so overwhelming because they wereeven just assuming that you knew something. They were talking abouttechnical stuff that was way over my head but my knowledge was so muchmore basic than I think a lot of people.”
McInnes had used Facetimeand Zoom – which offers video conferencing capabilities – in the past“so I had at least heard of it” she said but still had a lot to learnbefore classes began again after March Break with McInnes at her homeand students at their homes.
“It seemed to work” she said. “I had a few glitches but it seemed to work.”
She did note that she couldn’t believe she was teaching a music class tolittle tiny kids – a baby-toddler class – on Zoom at one point. “But wedid it and it seemed to work” she said.
“I’m kind of interestedthat it’s worked better for the really young kids you would think thatmore adults would go for it but they aren’t jumping on board asquickly” said McInnes. “I think partly because I have adults whoprobably just would be overwhelmed the way I was. ‘Zoom? Online? Forgetit I’m not going there.’ Whereas the younger parents maybe they’rejust more used to technology. Also they’re home with their kids andit’s probably good to have some things to do.”
The decision tocontinue teaching online rather than just cancelling classes came afterMcInnes began feeling the isolation orders might continue for a longtime as well as considering her own income though she said she knows “that’s going to take a hit no matter what everyone’s is.”
“Butonce I reframed it once I realized that it might actually be good forthe students then I got really keen to do it” she said. “At first Iwasn’t sure. I think it was just the idea that it was going to maybe goon for a long time and some of these little kids they’ll forgeteverything if we don’t keep going. This will keep them remembering whatwe’ve learned so far.”
McInnes said she also thought it would be supportive for parents.
“I thought it would help calm some anxiety. If you have some routine andsomething to concentrate on I’m thinking of the kids here and possibly the parents too I think it helps to calm anxiety. Maybe it’s helpingto calm my own anxiety about everything that’s going on.”
The musiclessons have been well-received by students who log in and take turnsplaying the piano or singing along with McInnes some in their pajamas many waving at their teacher and fellow students.
“I couldn’tbelieve how nice it was to see the smiling faces come on that screen”said McInnes. “It was just wonderful. It’s very reassuring … all thekids smiling.”
McInnes said she isn’t sure that the students wouldwant to continue lessons online rather than in person for months on end but that for now they’re working – and in the future might be anoption when snow days cancel a class.
“The connection works becausewe’ve already had the connection in real life” she said. “It’s the fact that we have real-life connection and it doesn’t have to completelystop and I think that’s what’s reassuring. They’re just sitting attheir keyboards ready to play.”
Though she doesn’t always feel thetechnology is intuitive and has stories to tell about mishaps withcomputer volume humbly noting that she has “a lot of learning still todo” McInnes is making it work.
“We’re all just doing our best” she said.