Branch Manager (two branches)
Houston Public Library
MLIS, University of Arizona, 2010
Photo by Ivee Sauls
“The rest of librarianship often discounts what youth services librarians do as ‘just reading books to kids’ or ‘just having fun,’ ” says Cory Eckert, who recently joined the Houston Public Library as manager of two branches. “I wanted to show how much thought, and sweat, goes into planning and providing a story time.”
That’s why in 2013, when she was still the youth services manager at Octavia Fellin Public Library in Gallup, NM, she developed Guerrilla Storytime, a part-training, part-advocacy initiative held informally at library conferences and events that involves taking over a space and putting on an impromptu story time.
It debuted at the American Library Association 2013 conference, where Eckert claimed two spots in the UnCommons for storytelling participants to share best practices, from favorite rhymes to communicating the importance of play to caregivers, and to showcase the value and skills of story time practitioners to non–youth services librarians. More than 100 people joined the three sessions.
Since then, Eckert and her fellow “story chiefs” Amy Koester and Kendra Jones, also children’s librarians, have created the blog Storytime Underground to help librarians plan their own events. Guerrilla Storytimes have taken place in nine states and in Nova Scotia; the blog has had nearly 22,000 views, and the group’s Facebook page has 604 members.
“The idea that we all have a story time skill to teach and one to learn and that the best way to learn is from each other did not originate with me,” says Eckert. “I just came up with the idea to take over the UnCommons with ukuleles, put challenge sticks in a cup covered in glitter, and make an event out of it.”