Krista Lord opens her eyes wide and yells to the camera: “Outer Space!”
Lord’s eyes are wide as she mimics Maya in “Maya and the Rising Dark,” a book Lord reads aloud on the Lewiston Public Library’s LPL Kids Facebook page. The 12-year-old protagonist is “freaking out” at being suddenly thrust into outer space.
Sitting next to a plastic dinosaur in midroar, Lord looks as if she is competing to make the louder noise.
Lord is a children’s library technician, although her small patrons just call her “librarian.” Lord thinks her title makes it seem like she fixes computers all day, but she and another library technician are in charge of the programming in the Children’s Department.
Like everywhere else, COVID-19 presented a challenge at the library when its doors closed to the public in March and moved toward a contactless borrowing system.
“When the pandemic hit, and everything shut down, I had to reimagine my job,” Lord said.
She created a weekly kit following the library’s summer theme of Imagine Your Story to give families a structure to organize some of the at-home time everyone suddenly found themselves with.
“Each kit had a recommended book list, a sheet of facts, sometimes a joke. And craft projects, or printables to go along with the week’s theme,” Lord said.
Kids who participated in the summer reading also got free books.
Her co-worker, Ivy Moser, started the read-aloud project over the summer, broadcasting a chapter or two of a Percy Jackson book each week on the library’s LPL Kids Facebook page. In October, Lord took up the mantle with the Maya book.
Lord is an established local visual artist and brings her passion for creativity to work with her.
“There is no wrong way to make art,” she said. “There’s a lot of tutorials that tell you to do step one, and then step two, to make an exact thing. But my philosophy is to create an environment where kids can openly explore and be creative and expressive. That is one of the things I miss.”
Eight years ago, Lord founded the wildly popular Gingerbread Day at the library, which transforms the Callahan Room each December into a winter wonderland with a unique theme.
“We’ve done Narnia. We’ve done Hogwarts. We’ve done Arendelle from ‘Frozen.’”
“This year, we won’t be having our annual Gingerbread Bay, which is a big bummer,” Lord said.
She’s also done story time at the library for babies, preschool and school-age kids. Her two children, ages 6 and 10, watch along with the live read-aloud videos from home.
“It’s both weird and exciting for them to see me online. When I walk in the door when I get home, they usually want to talk about the book,” Lord said.
The book Lord chose to read, “Maya and the Rising Dark” by Rena Barron, features a 12-year African American girl protagonist who discovers she is a godling.
The previous book read on the LPL kids page was a Percy Jackson story, featuring a white boy hero. Both books explore mythology.
“It’s important to choose books that can be both a mirror and a window for kids,” Lord said, “especially when they’re underrepresented in children’s literature. African mythology might not be as familiar to a lot of kids reading books.”
“I’ve been learning a lot as I’ve been going along and researching the different character names and what they mean and how to pronounce them. So that’s been really fun for me,” Lord said.
Lord tries to keep each installment to around half an hour, which works out to two chapters. She had expected to finish the book at the beginning of December, but at this point, she is around halfway through the adventure.
“It’s action-packed. There’s something exciting happening every week,” Lord said.
All of the previous chapters are on the LPL Kids Facebook page, but due to an agreement with the publisher, they will be archived at the end of the year. Anyone wishing to catch up, can watch the videos and then follow along with Lord for the second half of the book into January.
For the next two weeks the readings will happen live Wednesdays, due to the holidays, and then will go back to the regular Thursday time slot.