Taking the pulse of the Library
The Library has a new Doctor. Not the kind you can make a medical appointment to see, but you may get to hear a story as well as assistance with your research. Julie Mundy-Taylor, a Research and Learning Librarian at the Ourimbah Library has been awarded a Doctor of Philosophy for her thesis "Storytelling engagement in the classroom: Observable behavioural cues of children's storytelling experiences."
Julie's research was prompted by an unpleasant experience in 2003 during a storytelling programme: "I was in the middle of telling a favourite folktale, The Little Half-Chick, to a group of three and four year olds when the preschool director interrupted. She insisted I stop as I wasn't telling the story 'the way everyone knows a story should be told to children.'"
This led Julie on a journey to discover if there was a 'right' way to tell a story and if there was a means of measuring how engaged children are with a story. Six fruitless months of searching the literature and asking academic colleagues if they knew of systematic studies that examined these questions followed. Finally, Dr Wendy Michaels posed the inevitable question: "If you can't find what you're looking for, why not do your own study?" Julie enrolled in a Master's degree (with Dr Michaels as her initial supervisor) in 2004, before transferring to a PhD in 2007.
Five months in a primary school, 33 storytelling sessions, 41 hours of video footage, 43 different stories, hundreds of pages of transcripts, and hundreds of hours of analysis later the answers began to emerge. Julie determined there is no single correct way to tell stories. Each storyteller develops their own storytelling style, often changing presentation styles to suit a particular story.
Julie says the preschool director actually did her a great service as a practising storyteller and as a librarian.
"When the incident I now call 'Half-chick got burned' occurred, I had been storytelling for over 10 years. While I was by no means complacent, I had neglected my own professional development. Doing a Research Higher Degree forced me to take an objective and analytical approach to an art form I was passionate about. In the process I learned far more than I ever imagined about the art of storytelling, and also gained valuable insight into research practice. I answered the questions I began with and gained research skills I can now share with library clients. This process has greatly enhanced my empathy and understanding of what researchers undertake."