Some of these women have driven two hours on dirt roads to come to the library. The branch may be small compared to city libraries but its offerings are huge; not just the collection, but a child friendly place to connect with other families in the district.
Like other libraries servicing young families with storytimes and rhyme time sessions, you can never be sure how many will turn up because of sickness. However, for rural and remote communities the weather and season also play a key element for attendance. In the wet season cyclones may reek havoc and roads may be closed for weeks due to flooding. And then there’s the spectre of breaking down and having to change a tyre on the four-wheel drive when it’s 45 degrees and you’ve got couple of toddlers on board.
Children are often home-schooled so they come to the library with their baby brothers and sisters. Together with the few young families who live in the township these are my people for Rhyme Time. I am told it’s a big turnout. Everyone is excited. The branch librarian and her assistant feed them home made cakes and most of them will stay for storytime as well.
In big libraries storytime caters for the 2-5 year olds but I am told the whole school is coming to my session, 18 kids between 5 and 12, plus the toddlers from the first session. I change my programme to suit and am reassured that so few things happen in the town, the school didn’t want to miss out. And no they don’t. I am a storyteller and I work to whoever is in the room, so they get stories appropriate for older kids.
Everyone has a good time. Roman and I leave a CD and Peep-bo baby booklet for the library and now it is time to move on to the next branch, further down the road.
We have managed to not run over any wildlife, get a flat tyre, break a windscreen or sink in the bulldust and we have shared stories, sung songs, played music with kids and their carers and taught new rhymes to mums and bubs. All in all a successful storytelling tour. Part 2 looks at the role of library workers as educators and mentors for children and parents.
Photo by Roman W. Schatz