The Storytelling and Folk& Fairytale Collection in the Children’s Department contains both circulating and historic reference books that beckon children, parents, caregivers, students, and educators. It is a vast resource for anyone interested in a fascinating story. Our department has picture book folk and fairy tales, collected tales (both circulating and reference), books on storytelling, and historic volumes that are significant to the history of children’s literature. The stories are from around the world and reflect diverse cultures and traditions. They are all there just waiting to be shared and enjoyed.
In fact, when the Children’s Department was young and just beginning to serve the children of Pittsburgh, storytelling was a vital part of reaching their young audiences. Frances Jenkins Olcott, the first head of the Children’s Department, wrote in The Organization of the Children’s Department: 1898 – 1908,
“As the children’s librarian’s time is limited it has been thought best to select the material for the story hours from great literature, carefully preparing the stories before hand and telling them to the children, drawing their attention at the same time to books containing the stories. Two story hours are held weekly, one for little children at which legends, myths, folk-tales, and other imaginative tales are told, and a story hour for the older children, one subject being selected for each year and stories told from that subject. Duplicates of the best books containing the stories are supplied freely, and in this way literature which has not been popular with children, in fact scarcely read at all, has been made exceedingly popular.”
These year-long, theme-oriented story times were called story cycles. Topics ranged from King Arthur to Norse Mythology. Later on in the 1920’s Miss Nesbitt’s Storytelling Course at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Training School for Children’s Librarians presented a vast array of folk and fairy tales and how to best retell and share them with children.
Over the years the Children’s folk and fairytale collection has changed and continues to grow to meet the needs of the children and adults we serve. There is always an undiscovered story or the latest translation of an old favorite just waiting to be added to the collection. We weave these tales into our programs and outreach visits.
In addition, Storytelling Alive Presents … The Art of Storytelling for Educators is offered monthly during the school year for adults who work with children or are interested in learning more about telling stories to children. This group provides a supportive environment where participants can share and practice their stories and learn new skills to become better storytellers.
One of the Ms. Olcott’s goals was “to place good books in the hands of all the children of the city, and to devise methods by which children could be led to read…” Storytelling was a major part of that effort. The exciting part of this legacy is that we still tell stories, and children who come to storytime or see us during outreach visits still listen and love to hear these tales.
The quotes and historic information used in this blog post were found in the archives that are housed and maintained in The William R. Oliver Special Collections Room. By using finding aids, important moments of the Library’s history and heritage can be shared.