Storytimes are a central pillar of many libraries’ work to promote literacy, reading development, and engagement with young children and families in the communities they serve. During and since COVID-19 related closures, storytimes – along with other library services – have been increasingly offered online.

However, libraries have not always had clear guidelines about their ability to organise storytimes without needing to seek permission or pay remuneration to rightholders. IFLA considers that libraries should not face any unnecessary legal barriers or doubt in the delivery of storytimes, through digital media or otherwise, when such storytimes are presented on a non-profit basis. Allowing storytimes to take place online is simply a continuation of the mission of libraries in a digital environment, opening up possibilities not just to serve existing users in times of lockdown, but also to reach previously under-served groups.

In order to fulfill their mission to support literacy and reading development, libraries need to benefit from an adequate legal framework to provide storytimes on a non-profit basis, offline and online.

To summarize: IFLA recommends that governments should ensure that storytimes on and offline remain legal and do not count as a restricted use under copyright law, or are covered by an unremunerated exception. They should provide guidance to this effect, not impose obligations of compensation or additional payments, and ensure that retention periods for recordings should not be unduly limited. Libraries and Library Associations in turn should engage with governments to obtain clarifications; recognise the author, illustrator and publisher at the time of presentation of the work (or in any accompanying text); and consider a limited or controlled distribution of storytime recordings.

IFLA is very grateful to the Copyright & Legal Matters (CLM) advisory committee and Libraries for Children and Young Adults section for preparing the statement, which was approved by the Governing Board in March 2022 and is available in full below.

IFLA Statement on Online Storytimes

Traditionally, storytimes have taken place in a physical space where reading professionals interact with their audiences and users. However, the rise of digital technologies has created new possibilities to offer such services at a distance. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries have become dep...