It started, last year, as Storytime on the Bridge. This year, the Allen County Public Library will host Storytime at the Bridge and Storytime at the Park.
Mary Voors, the Children’s Services manager at the ACPL, described the programs as “a great opportunity for our young customers to enjoy the outdoors while also savoring great stories.”
This year, the outdoor story time will take place on Mondays at 10:30 a.m. – but only three of the meetings will be on the historic Wells Street Bridge. Due to construction in the area, the remaining meetings will be at the Headwaters Park West Amphitheatre.
Each librarian has her own style of leading story time. Voors explained that sometimes, there will be a theme such as lions or dinosaurs – so all the stories, songs and rhymes will be about that one idea. Other story times may feature favorite tales that are not thematically related.
No matter what the librarian’s style, one thing is certain: the librarian has to be prepared for large or small crowds, and participants of almost any age. “[You have to] recognize what your audience is looking for,” Voors explained. “We generally don’t promote book titles because [they] could change [based on the audience].”
For example, families with younger children may find some stories more appealing than families with older children. So, depending on the age groups who show up, the story may change.
Weather, too, plays a factor in the preparation for outdoor story time. If there is rain, Voors affirmed that the event will be held inside the library. And when it’s windy, they might use a microphone.
The ACPL is the organization that holds the programs. But Storytime on the Bridge was started as a partnership between the ACPL and Riverfront Fort Wayne, a part of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department.
Megan Butler, who is the program and events manager at Riverfront, said that the idea of joining with other organizations to promote events at the river or at another venue is something that is happening across the United States. “You see this in cities – especially in the Rust Belt,” she said.
Places such as New York City, Pittsburgh and San Antonio hold programs to re-energize old industrial areas that have fallen to the wayside. For example, New York City has Friends of the High Line, a program that works to give new purpose to an old raised railroad bed that cuts through the city. Butler said, “It’s really a metaphor (for creating a new self).”
Riverfront Fort Wayne “strongly believes in partnerships,” Butler stated. And story time was the perfect venue to engage the public with the river. “It’s easy to drop in on a story time… Everyone likes to be read to… even grown-ups.”
This is a thought that Voors echoes when talking about the outdoor story times that she has led. “I wish I could do every single one,” she exclaimed. “It’s so much fun, and it’s such a beautiful setting.”