Story Time an online hit

Published 4:25 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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For years, the storytelling skills of Terry Rollins have kept children enthralled.

The host of Story Time for toddlers, he entertains children every Tuesday at the George H. and Laura E. Brown Library in Washington. With children, and parents, gathered around, Rollins leads them on a literary adventure — an adventure that has moved online since the library closed to the public four weeks ago.

Now Story Time with Mr. Terry is an online hit.

On Tuesday morning, Rollins’ video rendition of the adventures of Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the pig, in “I Really Like Slop!” by children’s author Mo Williams, was posted to the Brown Library Facebook page. He’s had a slightly larger audience than the usual Story Times.

“We were looking at it this morning, and in one day’s time, it’s had something like 1,400 views,” Rollins laughed. “It’s just crazy.”

Rollins has gained a following over the years: parents bring children as young as infants to Story Time, and they grow up with “Mr. Terry” a weekly part of their lives, until they head off to kindergarten.

“There have been, over the years, regular attendees,” Rollins said. “Some of these children go all the time to the library, and it’s their very special time for those children. I think a lot of children are missing their time at the library and by providing (Story Time) online, it’s a way to reach out.”

In addition to the regular attendees of Tuesday Story Times, another group might be missing their library trips: once a month, many local preschools would make a field trip for their own storytelling events with Rollins.

“We’re really reaching out and trying to fill that gap, because Story Time is such a special time, especially for the young children,” Rollins said.

Over the past month, library staff has realized the need to focus programming online, as the demand has grown exponentially.

“Since the library closed four weeks ago, we have had an 800% increase in our Facebook traffic,” Rollins said.

In addition to Story Time videos, the library’s Facebook page is now being stocked with Lego challenges, items of interest for children, teens, and adults and families and links to the many resources to be found on Brown Library’s website. From afar, online visitors are getting to know their librarians better as each posts about what they’re reading, and, as a group, invite the public play games such as “guess which librarian,” in which librarians post pictures of their younger selves to be identified.

Rollins said the closure, due to COVID-19, and the resulting need to focus on online programming, could mean an overall opportunity to reach wider audience.

“We certainly are looking into it,” Rollins said. “There’s evidently a real need there that we didn’t realize was out there.”

Story Time with Mr. Terry videos are posted on the library’s Facebook page each Tuesday morning. Rollins said if they continue to prove as popular as this week’s episode of Gerald and Piggie, the library may increase the frequency.

He recommends parents explore not only the library’s website and take advantage of the resources there, but the many other resources online.

“On social media right now, there are book sellers, libraries, schools, offering so many wonderful things to keep children engaged,” Rollins said.