Do your young ones miss their local St. Louis Public Library (SLPL)? Well, they miss you too, so SLPL has come up with a way to bring the Library home to youngsters missing their storytimes and library friends.
Thanks to funding from the St. Louis Public Library Foundation, SLPL launched its first two online episodes of “Off the Shelf,” a monthly web series composed of enthusiastic Library characters who welcome children into the Library for adventures, songs, and stories.
The web series “Off the Shelf” was born from the need to stay connected to our youngest library users and make virtual learning fun. The series engages young children and readers from pre-k to roughly second grade, or, really, anyone who wants to enjoy a little Library fun! And now it is easier than ever as “Off the Shelf” comes right to you!
In conceptualizing “Off the Shelf”, SLPL staff wanted to create a physical space that would remind kids of their experience at St. Louis Public Library. SLPL’s Manager of Community Engagement, Aarya Sara Locker is at the helm of “Off the Shelf.” Aarya incorporated the use of recurring characters, music, and of course, storytelling to create a show that children will find friendly and familiar.
Meet the Cast of Characters
For “Off the Shelf,” Locker used a veteran group of actors to play the show’s quirky characters. Many of the actors have worked on SLPL productions of Storytime Theater and most are teaching artists. Because of their teaching backgrounds, Locker and the cast are able to use their acting skills to create teaching moments for young audiences.
Locker wanted the recurring cast of characters to resemble real people you might find in the Library. “We are trying to maintain that connection kids have to the Library,” says Locker, so “Off the Shelf” stars the show’s head librarian Ms. Bumbleshoot, played by Locker herself, Tielere Cheatem as Tielere the artist, Eleanor Humphrey as the Maintenance expert Gage, Janelle Pierce as Feliz the mail carrier who delivers packages that reveal each episode’s theme and Shane Signorino as Groundskeeper Greenbean.
“Off the Shelf” features a professional staff from St. Louis such as set designer Andy Cross and costumes by Samantha Michelle Hayes. The production of “Off the Shelf” is brought to you by SLPL Creative Experience staff Mary Meyer and Dwayne Ferguson who use the Library’s video and editing equipment to assemble each episode. This equipment is also available to the public at Creative Experience tech spaces in Barr and Central Libraries.
Fun For All
With an eclectic group of characters, “Off the Shelf” aims to connect with children in St. Louis. “We wanted to have characters that are representative of our city and representative of the kids watching”, said Ms. Locker. “It was important to figure out a way for the kids to feel seen, especially during this time of isolation and make them feel represented.”
“Off the Shelf” intends to connect young ones with St. Louis Public Library through storytelling and fun activities. The show also introduces new vocabulary, foreign languages, art projects, and lessons on the environment to make learning fun.
“Off the Shelf” characters encourage interaction and creativity from its viewers. “Be free, mes amis! Be creative! You are an artiste. Be bold! Let your imagination go wild!” exclaims Monsieur Tiélere, the show's resident artist. Each episode asks kids to submit art they created at home to be featured on future “Off the Shelf” productions.
All episodes end with a storytime from a real-life SLPL staff member. These enthusiastic storytellers had performed storytimes at Library locations and childcare centers around the City before the pandemic, so many children recognize them. By offering a familiar face, “Off the Shelf” hopes to welcome kids watching at home virtually into St. Louis Public Library.
New episodes of “Off the Shelf” are available on the first Wednesday of every month. Stay posted about new episodes through SLPL social media. Past episodes are found on SLPL’s Youtube channel and are continuously available so young ones can view them over and over.
To learn about how you can support early childhood programming at St. Louis Library, visit slpl.org.