Online Storytime During COVID-19

Offering storytime during Social Distancing can help both library staff and communities feel a sense of normalcy, connection, and comfort. In response to COVID-19 many authors and publishers have temporarily altered policies to allow for online streaming or video uploads of book readings. However, it is important that while restrictions have been eased, there are still some guidelines and best practice to follow.

Below is information and resources for you to evaluate when considering moving to virtual programming.

Publishers & Temporary Access

  • Many publishers have eased copyright restrictions. Follow this link to learn more about each publisher’s temporary guidelines in using their books.
  • It might work best to pick 1-2 from the list and use their works only. This way you will not have to keep track of the special requirements for 9+ publishers.
  • Authors who own their own content (some do not and also have to get permission from their publisher) have granted permission for virtual read alouds.

Basic Guidelines

  • Always state at the beginning of your recording or live stream that you are reading the book with permission from the publisher [state the publisher’s name] and/or author [state the author’s name].
  • Preference is that the storytimes are published on a closed platform.
  • If streamed/published on an open forum (Facebook, You Tube, etc), videos must be deleted after a certain amount of time. Check with each publisher for the exact delete by date (some say 24 hours, some 30 days, and some list June 30, 2020).
  • If you are uploading recorded videos of readings to You Tube mark them as unlisted “Unlisted.” Instructions for this can be found here.
  • If a publisher asks for a completed form, email, and/or social media tags, please comply.
  • While picture books may be read in their entirety, most publishers prefer that only 1 or 2 chapters are shared from a chapter book.
  • This exemption from copyright law is temporary and extends to June 30, 2020 for most publishers. Some do not yet list an end date.

Public Domain

Books in the Public Domain are free to use without restrictions but will need to be vetted for content as some may not be socially appropriate. Generally, works published before 1925 are considered Public Domain. Project Gutenberg has several lists including:

Fair Use

It can be interpreted that libraries do meet the 4 requirements for Fair Use for conducting storytimes virtually. Read more:

Other Ideas

  • Write your own story
    • If you’re using Facebook, you can solicit story ideas in the comments from your storytime friends
    • Give your storytime friends a writing prompt each day and then share the story you wrote using that same prompt
  • Use nursery rhymes, finger plays, flannel boards, and songs in the public domain
  • Incorporate a recording of an author reading their own work

Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t have the camera too close. You’ll want to be sure that books and props fit into the frame too.
  • Project your voice. Some microphones are better than others.
  • Watch this quick tutorial!
  • If you are streaming live, have a coworker moderate the comments.
  • If you don’t see permission to use something, reach out to the author/illustrator/song writer and ask!

Additional Resources

-- posted 23 Mar 2020, updated 03 Apr 2020
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