A blog from the Ontario Library Service

Creative Digital and Virtual Programming from Ontario Public Libraries

Ontario public libraries have been dabbling with virtual programming for several years, balancing in-person and online offerings.  With physical library spaces closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, library staff are showing their flexibility and adjusting to the new reality with some very creative digital programming – both passive and active!  As you read through these ideas, remember that every library has to bring critical thinking to the task of ensuring that these online initiatives are in keeping with current staff capacity.

Option #1 – Enhancing Digital Resources

Some libraries have chosen to enhance their digital resources, so patrons have access to more at-home programming.  Examples include purchasing extra titles for their OverDrive collection; allowing patrons to stream more movies through HOOPLA or Kanopy; and adding new subscriptions to e-resources such as PressReader.  To raise awareness, some have altered the first page of the library’s website to remind patrons of these resources.  One great example is the County of Prince Edward Library (also added an ‘events calendar’ for their online programming events).


Option #2 – Compiling Lists of Resources

Some libraries have chosen to compile webpages linking to wonderful resources currently available to the public during the pandemic (this option used in addition to their own original content creations).


Option #3 – Original Programming

And then there are the libraries who have decided to create original content for their digital programming.  What we have found is an interesting array of offerings – from storytimes and crafts to tech-help instructional videos, online readings and live music.  While the lines between these formats are not always clear, here are a just few very creative ideas to check out!

Facebook Live is a popular option for original digital programs.

  • In addition to regular storytimes, the County of Prince Edward Library runs a “free FUNctional Fitness” classes twice a week. Staff are about to launch is an “Historic Houses” tour via Facebook Live, with a staff person working on pictures and text, using materials from their own local Archival Collection.
  • The Virtual Branch of the Blue Mountains Public Library includes programming via Facebook. As an example, the library is offering webinars under the “Artists Profiles Series”, this week with illustrator Jeff Wilson, and a series called Museum Mondays to highlight parts of the local collection (this week, Trilobite Fossils).
  • Carleton Place Public Library is offering various online storytimes through their Facebook page, and one brave staff member has a program called “Baking with Caroline & her Mom” – and it really is with her Mom!
  • Hats off to Alicia from Bibliothèque Champlain Library who is currently on Chapter 40 of the book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, reading a few chapters every day on Facebook Live.

YouTube is the format of choice for some libraries, as it is available free of charge.

  • The Essa Public Library has created more than 40 in-house videos on their YouTube channel, with original content for storytime (English and French), original flannel board stories, fingerplays, drawing challenges but also for ‘Ask the Librarian’ information (e.g. should I return my books?) and e-resources tutorials (e.g. how to use Libby App, how to use Flipster).
  • Haldimand County Public Library has original story times and craft videos on their YouTube channel as well as two videos from staff at the local museum talking about historic families in the Haldimand County area.

Instagram (IGTV)

  • Within the webpage called “VPL at Home: A collection of resources during your stay at home”, the Vaughan Public Library has created a wide range of original content using IGTV – from instructional videos for the Cricut machine to daily storytimes with favourite library staff and craft instruction ideas.
  • The Renfrew Public Library has used their subscription to Kanopy; a staff member’s science background and ongoing patron requests for conversations to launch their Kanopy Video Club. Participants watch Kanopy’s Great Course called ‘The Science of Gardening’ and then set aside an evening to discuss the episode. Information is posted on the library’s Instagram account.


  • Asphodel-Norwood Public Library staff are continuing their weekly Facebook Live series called “Confessions of a Mom-brarian” but now with guest presenters covering topics such as tips for home-schooling and using Zoom for better interaction among participants. Zoom is also used for their virtual online book club!

Website enhancement

  • The Springwater Public Library has added a Virtual Programming page with posted storytime and craft videos. Of great intrigue is a non-competitive Virtual Science Fair.  Participants film their project (something of interest to them), post it on a private YouTube and then request to join the Springwater PL Homeschool Events Facebook page for the display of projects.
  • The SDG Library has a “Library At Home Daily Challenge” (e.g. read a book to your pet, learn how to make an origami crane) that is posted on website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They recently added another online activity called Maker Minute. Every Friday at 3pm, a new Maker Minute is shared on social media with a link directing the person to that week’s activity. Results are then shared via social media.

There are truly so many creative ideas for digital programming, and we want to continue sharing of ideas. In the Professional Resources on the SOLS website, you will find a new guide, titled “Programming, Staffing and Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which was created to collect ideas and information on topics such as copyright and permissions for online readings.  We welcome your submissions to add to that document, so that we can all stay connected.