'A little piece of community' offered online
By Sue Tiffin
Nancy Therrien was adapting library programming to allow for greater physical distancing as recommendations to stay home came into effect before March Break when the library programming was cancelled altogether. Not long after that, the library doors would close. Changes were happening rapidly, on a daily basis, but Therrien and fellow Haliburton County Public 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 us, especially during the March Break, that’s what hit probably the worst, is the fact that there are all kinds of March Break programs scheduled, and 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 everything had 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 March 17, the day after the HCPL announced branch doors would be closed to the public as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic came closer, Therrien’s was one of the first local faces being broadcast into homes, on the HCPL Facebook page, as kids and adults gathered around their devices to watch the programming live. Celebrating Dr. Seuss, Therrien appeared wearing a green wig and wearing an HCPL “Keep Calm and Read a Book” shirt, sang a rhyming song while encouraging kids to join in, read a Dr. Seuss book and, together with Noelia Marziali, conducted a science experiment using materials kids might have in their homes.
“True storytime should have more elements than just the stories, it needs to have the songs and the rhymes and the extra bits and pieces, the visual elements, to make it more inclusive,” said Therrien. “To do it really well, there’s a lot to it.”
Online HCPL programming can also include
Maker Break, Libby ebooks tutorials, Tech Time and BookClub
videoconferencing, while groups like the Algonquin Highlands Writers
Circle can meet via videoconferencing, too.
“The idea behind it was just ... 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 get just a little piece of the community.”
Therrien said different technology has been tested and trialed to determine which app or platform works for each unique need of programming: some can be pre-recorded, for example, some might require more interactive elements.
“The big problem is, we have some people who have nothing, no
internet 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 to
learn 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, she said, everyone including her is working from home. Rob Muir’s Storytime sessions include his cats. Jaime Bilodeau’s Storytime sessions include her daughter, Holly Carpenter.
“It might be easier for her,” said Therrien, of having an actual child participating in the Storytime as they would be in person at the library. And then, laughing: “although she 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 when
physical distancing requirements are relaxed, the library could still
broadcast 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 positive aspect of it and I can see continuing with this easily.”
Though there were some challenges in figuring out how to make everything run as seamlessly as possible, Therrien said she would recommend bringing services and programming online to anyone in the community who is considering it.
“My answer would be, try it,” she said. “Even though you might not understand the technology element, it can only get better. 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 online activities, so we’re just all being pushed forward a little more quickly. Just try it, go for it, don’t worry if it doesn’t work out, just keep on trying, eventually it’s got to work. Problem solving is a big part of any technology, it doesn’t matter if it’s video conferencing going live, or learning how to use your cellphone. It’s all problem-solving.”
Once computers and tablets and other equipment to
make home videos possible were redeployed to staff who needed it in
order to be able to work from home – a bigger challenge than one would
expect, 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 activity,
bringing the library into homes throughout the county and beyond.
“It feels like what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Therrien. “Our focus as a library is to be a community hub, if we can’t do that in person, maybe we can do it virtually.”
Stretching mindfully online
With the sound of a singing bowl reverberating through a room in Blue Sky Yoga Studio in Haliburton, Lynda Shadbolt smiles from a spot on the floor in front of the fireplace and says to anyone who might be watching the broadcast, either live as she films or post-recording, “Rumi said, do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.”
been offering free yoga, meditation and qigong classes on Facebook,
welcoming everyone to join in. At noon, she tapes a meditation as part
of a 100 days of loving kindness program, encouraging people around the
world to meditate for a minimum of five minutes a day, which began May
27 and runs until July 4.
“One of the really cool things is that I have someone from Egypt doing the 100-day meditation, a student from University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a friend from Alberta, people from across Ontario, and some people I’ve never met, as well as friends and students,” said Shadbolt in an email to the Times. “Just am amazed at technology.”
The technology, she said, has been a big
challenge for her. She started posting videos to Facebook because it was
easiest, and would like to try other programs but hasn’t ventured into
doing 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 my
life in every class,” and wanting to support people while they are at
home made her get involved with sharing to the online community.
“I love the connections I have made,” she said. “Friends from all over the world have tuned in and that has felt wonderful. Doing the classes helps me stayed focused and positive, especially when I notice I am becoming worried 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 am generally a quiet person who never in a million years saw herself being filmed 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 world offering classes to support people,” she said. “Performers are doing online concerts to lift people up. In spite of all the challenges that are going on, the goodness is rising and people are forging new ways of being 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 to computers and phones to carry on their music classes with the Haliburton-based teacher, who teaches private and group lessons to people of all ages.
While many of those students were on March Break, McInnes herself was studying, after receiving emails from professional 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.
the March Break week, I watched a few webinars, one after the other,”
she said. “And at first it was just so overwhelming because they were
even just assuming that you knew something. They were talking about
technical stuff that was way over my head, but my knowledge was so much
more basic than I think a lot of people.”
McInnes had used Facetime, and 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 learn before classes began again after March Break, with McInnes at her home and 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 to little tiny kids – a baby-toddler class – on Zoom at one point. “But we did it, and it seemed to work,” she said.
“I’m kind of interested that it’s worked better for the really young kids, you would think that more adults would go for it, but they aren’t jumping on board as quickly,” said McInnes. “I think partly because, I have adults who probably just would be overwhelmed the way I was. ‘Zoom? Online? Forget it, I’m not going there.’ Whereas the younger parents, maybe they’re just more used to technology. Also, they’re home with their kids, and it’s probably good to have some things to do.”
The decision to
continue teaching online rather than just cancelling classes came after
McInnes began feeling the isolation orders might continue for a long
time, 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.”
“But once I reframed it, once I realized that it might actually be good for the students, then I got really keen to do it,” she said. “At first I wasn’t sure. I think it was just the idea that it was going to maybe go on for a long time, and some of these little kids, they’ll forget everything if we don’t keep going. This will keep them remembering what we’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 and something 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 helping to calm my own anxiety about everything that’s going on.”
The music lessons have been well-received by students, who log in and take turns playing the piano, or singing along with McInnes, some in their pajamas, many waving at their teacher and fellow students.
“I couldn’t believe how nice it was, to see the smiling faces come on that screen,” said McInnes. “It was just wonderful. It’s very reassuring ... all the kids smiling.”
McInnes said she isn’t sure that the students would
want 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 an
option when snow days cancel a class.
“The connection works because we’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 completely stop, and I think that’s what’s reassuring. They’re just sitting at their keyboards, ready to play.”
Though she doesn’t always feel the technology is intuitive and has stories to tell about mishaps with computer volume, humbly noting that she has “a lot of learning still to do,” McInnes is making it work.
“We’re all just doing our best,” she said.