Downtown Gladstone is quiet on Wednesday morning, except for the corner of Dartmouth and Portland Avenue, where people are waiting for Gladstone Public Library to open. Just as the doors unlock at 10 a.m., people of all ages start to pour in. There are a few returning books, or headed to the computers to find their next read. then there are a dozen or so little people and their guardians coming downstairs for an interactive reading, playtime and jam session.
The kids are back to take part in weekly storytime, led by children’s librarian Heather Hoffmann. Hoffmann is finally back reading stories and playing the ukulele in front of a live audience after COVID-19 restrictions meant the library staff had to pivot to find new ways to provide enriching learning options while social distancing.
“The pandemic was definitely a huge challenge for us in figuring out ways to still serve the literacy needs of the families in our community,” Hoffmann said.
First they started by offering prerecorded songs and activities on the Clackamas County YouTube channel. (These videos are still available on the library website.) Then they partnered with the Friends of Gladstone Nature Park to give families a fun outdoor literacy activity by creating a Storywalk — which is a story told through a series of panels, in both English and Spanish, that children can read as they walk along the trail. Finally, the Gladstone librarians offered virtual storytimes via Zoom so kids could participate in storytime from the comfort of their living rooms.
“Nothing quite compares to in-person storytime, but it was great to have some options we could offer for our families,” she said.
Hoffmann, who has served as the children’s librarian at Gladstone Library for the last five years, has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Clarion University and a bachelor’s degree in art from Colorado College. She said a career as a librarian became her goal after her mom started working at her high school library before going back to school for her master’s degree.
“I would sometimes help her out with her homework and realized that being a librarian would be a great career for me too,” she said.
During a typical storytime, Hoffmann gathers the kids together to listen to stories, dance, sing, pop bubbles, do crafts, juggle scarves and more. The interactive sessions are a chance to develop social and early literacy skills.
“Storytimes introduce children to new vocabulary and concepts as well as new perspectives,” she said. “They also give children a chance to engage and interact with their peers and learn important social skills that will help them later when they start preschool and kindergarten.”
Join us for storytime
Clackamas County operates both the Oak Lodge and Gladstone Public Libraries. They are part of the Libraries in Clackamas County System (LINCC), which provides services to the 13 member libraries.
- Join Heather every Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. at the Gladstone Public Library, 135 E. Dartmouth St., Gladstone OR 97027
- Join Susannah every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Oak Lodge Public Library, 16201 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Oak Grove OR 97267
Learn more at www.clackamas.us/lib