Story Box Library’s Client Development Manager for Libraries, Amy Kaldor-Bull, recently spoke with Gabbi Wylie, Children’s and Young Adult Librarian from the City of Ryde Libraries, in New South Wales, Australia. Gabbi coordinates the children’s and young adult services across the City of Ryde’s five branches. 

Collectively with her team, they organise and deliver workshops, talks and activities for children, young adults and families in the community. In this interview, Gabbi offers insights about the range of library programs offered throughout the City of Ryde and the benefits of using digital mediums in delivering library services. 

For more information on increasing library engagement in your community, watch our online event, Ask the experts: Increasing library engagement in a digital age.

The benefits of reading aloud for language and literacy development are known but have you recognised other benefits for families in your community, particularly within the past two years?

One of the biggest benefits other than the usual I’ve found are with our ESL families, particularly where the grandparents are bringing in their grandchildren to our storytime sessions. A lot of the time the grandparents can only speak a little English or none at all. We’ve found that they are learning along with their grandchildren and are so pleased with themselves when they come to our sessions, say hello to staff and sing along with everyone.

How does your library approach storytelling programs for community members who may come from diverse backgrounds or require inclusive practices? What benefits do you feel digital can offer here?

We offer monthly bilingual storytime sessions in a range of languages across our branches. Having online resources in other languages and bilingual could be very helpful as these sessions can be dependent on staff resources and languages they speak. We do have a LOTE online collection that is very popular but not conducive for our storytime sessions and the ages attending.

In a world that is becoming more digital, how do you encourage parents to continue reading aloud and balance this with online resources that offer the same?

Funnily enough I’ve found most of our parents really prefer the physical book, especially for the younger age groups. We have a very large eCollection for both adults and children and our statistics for the children’s collections are a lot lower than our adult collections. This did vary over the last 2 COVID years.

We have also established a partnership with several other Sydney Libraries for the 1000 Books Before School program to instil a love of reading in children and build important literacy skills for them prior to starting school. It also aims to encourage parents and carers to read with their children in preparation for school. We promote this program through our children’s sessions across our branches.

Parents often ask the question about physical vs online, it’s just a matter to talk to them and reassure that it’s not about substituting one for the other it’s about supplementing.

Read more about public libraries and their important work on our blog here.