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Art of Storytelling, Miami-Dade Public Library System

Miami-Dade Public Library System

Innovation Leader: Lucrece Louisdhon-Louinis, Assistant Director, Outreach, Programming and Special Services, louisdhonl@mdpls.org

Problem Statement

The unique needs of Miami’s multicultural, multilingual community demanded an innovative approach to literacy and special programs for families and young children. MDPLS wanted to explore storytelling as a means for librarians to get parents/caregivers, teachers and more residents involved with the library, impacting their lives in a positive way.

Innovation

MDPLS created The Art of Storytelling (AOS) as an innovative program to highlight the important role that storytelling plays in education, culture and entertainment. Since 2000, the library system has partnered with libraries in Jamaica, Ghana, Ireland, the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Brazil, France, Colombia, Canada, and, in 2010, Argentina, to explore the creative ways in which storytelling is used in various cultures. Librarians and administrators from the MDPLS visit libraries in these countries for a week of exchange through presentations, workshops, storytelling, and site visits; in turn, delegates from exchange countries do the same when they visit MDPLS for the week of the Art of Storytelling Festival. These extraordinary partnerships offer all Library staff and area educators the opportunity for professional development through library services workshops, staff training, brainstorming discussions and visits to area libraries. They also allow MDPLS to introduce Miami-Dade County to some of the world’s finest storytellers, authors, musicians, dancers and cultural icons. AOS plays a vital role in enriching the lives of residents by encouraging them to embrace diversity and to share their culture and history through storytelling. Each year, the library system offers a series of storytelling workshops for adults, storytelling camps for children, and an International Festival, attended by thousands, at the Miami-Dade Cultural Plaza. The festival culminates with a popular tradition: A Bahamian Junkanoo band leads everyone on the plaza in a joyous, cathartic procession through the first floor of Main Library, dancing and shaking maracas.

Progress

Since the program’s inception in 2000, over 1,600 educators, librarians and parents have learned how to use the power of storytelling with their students, patrons and children through the Library’s Art of Storytelling workshops. An equal number of elementary and middle school students have attended Art of Storytelling Camp during Miami-Dade County Public School’s spring break week. An estimated 60,000 residents have come to the International Art of Storytelling Festival Day. This number does not include attendance at a full schedule of related yearly events such as Storytelling under the Stars, AOS Mini-Festivals, Story Slams, and more. These efforts have led to mutually beneficial relationships with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Parks and Recreation and other County departments. MDPLS has maintained ongoing relationships with an international network of public library systems, who often implement new services and innovations as a result of their AOS exchange. Finally, library staff have truly benefitted from an increased awareness of how to better serve their communities.