ABOVE: Photo of Children’s Library staff in the basement around 1994. Standing: Gregg Gronlund, Charlie Hoeck, and Christi Cohen. Sitting: Crystal Sullivan, Stefani Koorey, Sue Wright, Carolyn Rosenblum, and Jane Tracy.
Storytime at the Library
Storytellers have been entertaining and inspiring children at libraries in the Orlando area since the opening of the Albertson Public Library on November 8, 1923. The first Story Hours were conducted in the Children’s Room at the Albertson Public Library and at the Booker T. Washington Branch when it opened in 1924.
Storytellers also delighted little ones who visited the library’s bookmobile or attended events throughout Central Florida. Today, the library’s storytellers continue the tradition of bringing joy to library guests of all ages – from infants to adults – near and far!
Children’s Story Hour 1924-1930
The 90-year old Children’s Department scrapbook documents programs presented for children at the Albertson Public Library from October 1924 through September 1929. Storytellers included the library director Olive Brumbaugh, other librarians, and the head of the children’s department Miss Mary Deaver.
As Saturday moving pictures for children became popular at the Beacham Theatre, Children’s Department staff took advantage of the captive audiences and conducted Saturday Story Hours at the theater prior to the feature film on Saturdays.
The weekly Saturday Story Hour followed a specific formula: “Each Saturday morning at ten o’clock… the boys and girls listen either to tales of enchantment, stories of brave heroes or to true stories of history and biography and sometimes to a combination of these types.”
The children’s library staff did more than just tell stories at the library. A synopsis of the library’s activities during the 1928-1929 school year states:
During the school year of 1928-29 we have made visits to all the schools, telling stories at the chapel exercises of each, as well as urging the children to register as borrowers at the library. We have purchased a moving picture machine which we have used each Saturday since November 1928, giving the children travel pictures for the most part with a comedy one Saturday each month. The story hour included stories bearing on the travel pictures shown. The different schools on successive Saturday mornings presented a program of dramatization for the entertainment of the Story Hour group. This stimulated attendance and interest and gave an average Story Hour attendance of about 200 each week…
A rare photo of a Storytime at the Albertson Public Library was found in the 1945-1949 Scrapbook. The clipping from the Sunday Sentinel Star describes the event:
The Story Hour on Halloween drew over 100 children to listen, in their costumes, to tales of witches, ghosts, goblins and haystacks and all the wonderful nonsense of the imagination that are inherent in the delightful spookery of the day. Above, Dorothy Lane, children’s librarian, begins a tale.
Storytime on the Radio
A Children’s Department scrapbook form 1945-1948 includes several newspaper clippings promoting a weekly Storytime on WDBO Radio in Orlando that began on April 20, 1946.
According to the Sentinel Star, the 15-minute weekly program called Let’s Listen, was “put on by the Junior Welfare Association in cooperation with the Albertson Public Library.” Let’s Listen was originally scheduled to broadcast Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. but the time was changed to 3:30 p.m. in May.
The first books presented by assistant children’s librarian Cornelia Osmun and Children’s Department head Dorothy Lane were “Pecos Bill, King of the Texas Cowboys,” “Dr. Doolittle,” “Many Moons,” “Padre Porko,” and “Down, Down the Mountain.”
Clara Wendel – Just Supposin’
Albertson Public Library event calendars from 1948-1949, show that library director, Clara Wendel, continued telling stories on the radio, hosting a Saturday program for children called Just Supposin‘.
There was also a traditional Story Hour in the Children’s Department every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. with Dorothy Lane, Joyce Turner and Cornelia Osmum.
Eddie T. Jackson and the Booker T. Washington Branch
Orlando’s first African American librarian, Eddie T. Jackson, managed the Booker T. Washington Branch from 1924 to 1946. She presented story hours for children every week, often outdoors, due to the large number of children in attendance.
Booker T. Washington librarian Eddie T. Jackson reading stories to children at the Booker T. Washington Library
Attached to the Albertson Library monthly reports are beautifully handwritten statements prepared by Eddie Jackson, documenting her efforts to share the joy of reading with the community. She mentions the weekly story hour in her first report filed in June 1924:
Story hour is conducted every Friday at 4 p.m. The little folk are quite enthusiastic. On Friday June 13th, 31 children came, in spite of the ill condition of the weather; Friday June 27th, 26 children found a pleasure to attend. After story hour was over several games were played out on the lawn. The library is serving its purpose very well.
Bookmobile Story Time
The library’s first bookmobile hit the road on December 1, 1949. Fred Atherton was the driver and Mary Lib Steffins was the first bookmobile librarian and bookmobile storyteller.
Bookmobile Librarian Mary Lib Steffins reading stories to children in the bookmobile circa 1949-1950
The tradition of bringing the library and Story Time to the children of Orange County continued with a new bookmobile in the 1960s. On some of the bookmobile’s visits, children were treated to Story Time either inside the bookmobile or outside in the warm Florida sun.
Bookmobile Storyteller Patricia L. Kremkau circa 1976
Some of the bookmobile librarians and storytellers were Eileen B. Willis, Betty Brady, Del Jupiter, and Patricia Kremkau.
Bookmobile storyteller Pat Kremkau at Zellwood and Peach Lake circa 1975.
Before the creation of the Storytelling Troupe in the early 1990s, librarians presented a variety of story times at the branches through the years.
According to the November 1966 edition of Footnotes (below), Picture Book Hours for children were every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Orlando Public Library and at 2:00 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Branch, and every Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Washington Shores Station.
There were also special programs for children every summer in the auditorium in the basement of the 1966 Orlando Public Library as it could accommodate up to 200 people.
The February 1970 edition of Footnotes (above) mentions the Pre-School and School Age Story Hours every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Eventually, story time was presented at most of the branches once a week.
The June 1997 Books and Beyond (above) lists story times for preschool children and for all ages at OCLS library locations under Storybook Fun For Your Little One and Storytelling For All Ages.
Peruse Story Time schedules from years gone by under Documents, below.
In the November 1994 Friends of the Library Newsletter Children’s Department manager, Sue Wright, announced in fairytale fashion three new members of the Storytelling Troupe at OCLS.
ONCE UPON A TIME there were three storytellers who dreamed of sharing all kinds of tales with the children of Orange County. They were willing to go far or near wherever young people and families were gathered – branch libraries, Headstarts, classrooms from pre-K to parks and recreation centers. Their horseless carriages took them to all four corners of the county and even to the center of downtown Orlando… On Tuesday, September 6, Stefani Koorey, Crystal Sullivan and Jane Tracy started weaving stroytelling and booktalking magic with audiences large and small.
Crystal Sullivan is the only remaining member of the original Storytelling Troupe created by library director Glenn Miller in the early 1990s. Crystal shares her history of storytelling at libraries in Orlando with special attention to the OCLS Storytelling Troupe.
“In the spring of 1993, a memo was sent out with a call for storytellers. From librarians to clerical or maintenance staff, anyone within OCLS was invited to apply. I was a clerk in Special Services when this memo went out. After getting a few nudges from several co-workers, I decided to apply. The applicants were to prepare and present a 20-minute audition before a panel that consisted of Mr. Miller, Assistant director Debbie Moss, Human Resources manager Carla Fountain and the newly formed Youth Services Department manager, Sue Wright. A week or so after my audition, I was offered the job…”
Storyteller Crystal Sullivan telling a flannel board story
The Storytelling Troupe members were not limited to telling stories in the libraries. Storytellers practiced their art in schools, day care centers, community centers and senior citizen facilities in Central Florida. They also conducted workshops on the art of Storytelling and Sharing Literature with Children for teachers and parents. This format continued until Glenn Miller retired.
Things changed under the new Library Director Dorothy Field in 1995: “Our new director, Dorothy Field, liked the idea of having this troupe of storytellers presenting all the Storytime programs, it saved the branches from having to assign a staff member to create and put on the amazing programs, but she thought that all the branch locations deserved to have them. So, our storytelling expanded to all locations. She also thought visuals were important, so we were now allowed to read books, show filmstrips and stories on VHS.”
Listen, as Crystal shares her memories in the two audio files below.
My time as a storyteller – Part 1
My time as a storyteller – Part 2
Read the rest of Crystal’s story.
Storytellers Then and Now
Prior to the creation of the Storytelling Troupe, the branch librarian and, sometimes, the branch manager conducted the weekly Preschool Story Time.
An aspiring storyteller would travel to several branches to observe other storytellers in action. Each storyteller had their own style and personality, but Story Time followed a similar structure that included songs, fingerplays, flannel board stories and sometimes a filmstrip or a video.
Budding storytellers had to memorize songs, fingerplays, and stories and present a story time to the other storytellers. If all went well, they would join the ranks of OCLS library storytellers sharing laughter, music and stories with little ones, making memories that last a lifetime.
Storytellers Richard Peeples “Mr. Richard,” Stefani Koorey, Rosemary Breightup, Charlie Hoeck, and Crystal Sullivan in the Papa Bear Story Room at the Main library.
Glenn Miller, the library’s third director, felt strongly about the art of storytelling. In his book, “Customer Service and Innovation in Libraries,” written in 1996, he devotes an entire chapter on Storytelling.
Margaret Wells, Warren French and Sally Hardy.
In addition to the memories, below, there are many memories we hope to share from children’s librarians and storytellers from the 1970s-2000s including Betty Brady, Deanna Braunstein, Rosemary Breightup, Christi Cohen, Marlene Gawron, Alice Grace, Sally Hardy, Charlie Hoeck, Glenda Houck, Magee Jennings, Del Jupiter, Stefani Koorey, Patricia Kremkau, Clara Magee, Patty Moessens, Myles Thoroughgood, Margaret Wells, and Eileen Willis.
Gregg Gronlund held a number of positions during his 30-year career at OCLS including being a Storyteller, Book Talker and member of the Storytelling Troupe. His memories document the history of Storytelling and the Children’s Department during those years. Hopefully, this summary will encourage you to read the rest of his story!
Gregg Gronlund began his career with OCLS at the Southwest Branch in 1991. At that time, Story Time for preschool children was presented weekly in each branch. When asked if he’d be interested in being a storyteller by branch manager Sue Wright, Gregg responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
Gregg said, “Fingerplays, songs, and flannel board stories were memorized and, after observing the other storytellers present story times, I participated alongside an experienced presenter. Then I developed my own Story Time program and presented it to other storytellers who gave me feedback and advice. After that, I was let loose to present Story Times at Southwest.“
Gregg was the Southwest Storyteller for six months before he was transferred to the Main library where he worked in Planning and Local Government and then in Genealogy. In 1992, Gregg was assigned to the Children’s Department in the basement under the direction of Carolyn Sue Peterson (Children’s Department head from 1970-1993).
Carolyn was a treasure. She was known nationwide in the library field and had published books on children’s library programming. She was very understanding, gentle, encouraging, and supportive of storytellers. She believed in the purity and effect of the story itself… She encouraged the story focus, but if staff approached it differently, she allowed it… letting our strengths and talents flourish.
I felt our audience of children had so many distractions in their lives, that at least some drama was needed to get and keep their attention during Story Time… Alexandra, the Rock Eater: An Old Rumanian Tale Retold became one of my signature stories.
Library Storyteller Mr. Richard Peeples and Friends of the Library at a Head Start book event.
In addition to Story Times at the library, Storytellers provided outreach in the community, scheduling a Story Time for every Head Start program in Orange County, and encouraging the children to visit the library. The Children’s Department also deployed Book Talkers to present Book Talks to 7th grade students in Orange County schools.
Book Talker Christi Cohen
A Book Talk would consist of the following: Introducing the author and other works they may have written, summarizing key elements of the plot, up to an exciting cliffhanger moment, then stopping. Hopefully, this would intrigue the listeners and entice them to read the book.
After leaving the Children’s Department and completing six months in the Arts & Literature department, Gregg became manager of the Winter Garden branch. Since the branch did not have a librarian to present Storytime, Gregg happily took on the role of Storyteller at the Winter Garden library. “My go to welcome song became The Library Song by Tom Chapin, especially the opening lyrics.”
After a year at Winter Garden, Gregg became a department manager at the Main library downtown. In September 1994, OCLS formed a Storytelling Troupe that assumed responsibility for all children’s programming throughout the system. As chance would have it, Director Glenn Miller was discussing the Storytelling Troupe at a manager’s meeting, and Gregg mentioned how he missed storytelling. When asked how many stories he knew, Gregg replied that including songs, fingerplays, flannel board and other stories, he had about 100 memorized. Glenn Miller said, “Sign him up!”
Storytellers in the Children’s Department in the basement. Standing: Gregg Gronlund, Charlie Hoeck, Christi Cohen. Sitting: Crystal Sullivan, Stefani Koorey, Sue Wright (department manager), Carolyn Rosenblum, Jane Tracy.
Gregg and another branch manager, Carolyn Rosenblum of the North Orange branch who also missed storytelling, joined the library’s Storytelling Troupe. In addition to their managerial duties, Gregg and Carolyn were assigned two full days each month for storytelling.
Recalling the monthly storyteller meetings, Gregg said: “The other storytellers were talented, humorous, and supportive; we had a great time together.”
Gregg and Carolyn were members of the Storytelling Troupe for about two years when they retired from the Troupe due to their duties as branch managers. Gregg summed up his time as a storyteller at OCLS: “It was a thoroughly thrilling adventure! The best part was the joy and delight on the faces of the children as they participated in the programs and made the library a part of their lives.”
Read the rest of Gregg’s story.
Richard Peeples – Mr. Richard
Richard Peeples, better known to the countless thousands of children he has entertained for decades as “Mr. Richard,” shares how he came to be a storyteller for the Orange County Library System.
Mr. Richard performing for children at the Orlando Public Library circa 2002.
Richard applied for the Storyteller position in the Children’s Department after seeing the position posted in the Job Openings binder at the Orlando Public Library in early 1999.
Who knew such a job existed? I was totally at home in front of an audience, having delivered spiels at Disney, played guitar in bands, led guided hikes as a park ranger in the National Park Service and sung for my classmates since fourth grade.
I loved it. Mornings, I drove to a branch library and set up the story room ahead of my first group, moms and babies. We sat on the floor in a circle and sang “Patty Cake,” and sometimes a baby would crawl into my lap… Next came the toddlers, who can’t sit still for long, so we had active sessions of “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Ring Around the Rosie.” Toddler Time was generally twenty minutes of sustained chaos. Storybook Fun was for preschoolers with puppets, flannel board stories, picture books and songs on my guitar.
I actually looked forward to going to work, plus I got lots of hugs and high-fives from my audience.
Read the rest of Mr. Richard’s story.
Carolyn Rosenblum began her career with OCLS in 1984 as a full-time substitute librarian at seven branches. When the new Southeast Orlando branch was being discussed, she was asked to be the children’s librarian under manager Angela Jacobe.
Carolyn said she was given “total immersion” training, reading picture books for hours and studying “How to do Storytime” by mentors Martha Staples and Lorna Horton. When the branch opened in January 1986, she was ready to take preschoolers by storm!
Along the way, as we developed the weekly Tiny Tales, Toddler Time, and Storybook Fun, the relationships I fostered with these young children and their parents were quite special, many lasting for years.
Storyteller Carolyn Rosenblum and her friendly snake
Summertime programs with school age children were fabulous! One summer, “Read Around the World” had me teaching a simple Israeli folk dance to a group of 30 or so grade school kids. We snaked all through the library branch with our dancing!
Speaking about the OCLS storytellers Carolyn wrote: “We don’t teach children TO read, but we teach them to WANT to read, to LOVE to read, and to know that the library is a welcoming, exciting environment for them… THIS is the core of librarianship and I’m proud to have been part of this for two dozen years.”
Read the rest of Carolyn’s story.
Warren French joined the staff at the Orlando Public Library in January 1985 and retired in 2018, and from 1992-1994 he was a Youth Specialist in the Children’s Department.
One of his lively performances at Sunrise Elementary was reported in the East Orange Sun in September 1997: “The students especially enjoyed Mr. French’s rendition of Anasi and the Moss Covered Rock and giggled as he flopped to the ground.”
Storyteller Warren French as Anasi the spider
Storyteller Antoinette Griffin has been part of the OCLS Storyteller Toupe since 2006. When asked to share memories of her time as a storyteller and people who made a difference, she wrote: “Lynn Shenefield helped me to emerge as a confident storyteller. Charlie Hoeck, Crystal Sullivan, Deanna Braunstein, Myles Thoroughgood, and Bill Cordell continue to inspire me.”
Storyteller Antoinette Griffin
Over the course of many years, the work of storytelling continues to surprise and delight me. When my audience shares a laugh, a moment of discovery, a connection to each other, I feel such joy. Sharing the art of storytelling at Leu Gardens, festivals, schools, senior facilities, community events and even Nemours Hospital for Children, provided many opportunities to be a part of the community.
Read the rest of Antoinette’s story.
Storyteller Lynn Shenefield thrilled children as “Mother Goose” for over two decades telling stories, singing songs and sharing life lessons with children and adults. Lynn felt that portraying Mother Goose was her calling in life and there was nothing else in the world that she would rather do than to hear and tell tales.
Lynn was proud to work as a storyteller for OCLS. She encouraged literacy and language learning in a setting that was fun for children. Lynn had a giving spirit and she found great joy in giving things to others. She was exceptionally funny, had a quick wit, and was an eloquent speaker.
Lynn passed away on January 24, 2012, but happy memories of her remain with all who knew her.
Storyteller Bill Cordell, has been bringing joy to little ones and their parents in Central Florida for almost 20 years, and Bill never thought the “temporary” position he applied for would become a passion.
Storyteller Bill Cordell at West Oaks.
As for when I started working as a storyteller, to be honest, this was supposed to be temporary – a performance opportunity for me between auditions and work in film and television. That is, until I saw firsthand the remarkable effect story programs had on children and their parents in developing and encouraging literacy.
It has become an overwhelming passion. It’s hard for me to believe it’s been nearly twenty years as a ‘casual part-time’ storyteller.
Jonathan Robbins Leon
Jonathan joined the staff at OCLS in March 2023, becoming the most recent addition to the Storytelling Troupe. Jonathan began his career in storytelling and Youth Services at the Osceola Library and the Osceola School District.
Jonathan Robbins Leon
“I think I have been to every branch so far, and it’s been a great experience to see the different ways libraries embrace their individual communities. My favorite aspect of storytelling is that it creates a connection between participants. Children who never knew each another find themselves giggling and moving closer to one another. It’s heartening to see those barriers to togetherness wash away on the tide of a great story.”
Jane Tracy joined the Storytelling Troupe at OCLS in September 1994. During her time as a storyteller, Jane brought to life enchanting tales of courage and wisdom with a repertoire of over a hundred stories that were international in scope with a specialization in indigenous tales close to the source.
After leaving the Storytelling Troupe, Jane continued her career at OCLS as a librarian. Her contributions to the library’s local history site, OrlandoMemory.info, include over 275 oral histories documenting the lives of Central Florida community members.
Storytellers are still part of the Orange County Library System’s programming for little ones and families. Crystal Sullivan, one of the original members of the Storytelling Troupe that formed in September 1994, is still telling stories after almost 30 years.
Our current storytellers are Deanna Braunstein, Bill Cordell, Antoinette Griffin, Crystal Sullivan, Jonathan Robbins Leon, and Myles Thoroughgood. They present stories in our libraries and at community events all around the county. From local fairs and fiestas to senior centers and children’s hospitals, OCLS story tellers continue to spread cheer wherever they go!
Our current Story Times are Tiny Tales (ages 0-18 months), Toddler Time (ages 18-36 months), Storybook Fun (ages 3-5), Zero to Five Storytime (ages 0-5 years), and Family Storytimes. Check the monthly Books and Beyond for times and locations.
Peruse the photographs of our library storytellers and Story Time schedules through the years, below under Images and Documents.
We encourage you to share your memories of your favorite storytellers.Back to top
Crystal Sullivan - My job as a storyteller.
Crystal Sullivan - Part II
Crystal Sullivan - My job as a storyteller.
Albertson Public Library Calendar of Events, November and December 1948.
Albertson Public Library Calendar of Events, February and March 1949.
Announcing the new members of the Story Troupe
Crystal Sullivan shares the history of the Storytelling Troupe
Antoinette Griffin shares thoughts about being a storyteller at OCLS.
Gregg Gronlund, retired OCLS librarian and storyteller shares his memories of being a storyteller and booktalker.
Carolyn Rosenblum shares thoughts about being a librarian and a storyteller at OCLS.
Many recognize the performer called "Mr. Richard," but did you know he was a Library storyteller?
Jane Tracy shares thoughts about being a librarian and a storyteller at OCLS.
Created in 1980 by the Children's librarians at the Orlando Public Library. See page 29 for Storytelling.
Obituary of Storyteller Lynn Shenefield
Story Times, Footnotes, December 1966
Story Times, Footnotes, October 1968
Story Times, Footnotes, March 1969
Story Times, Footnotes, September 1969
Story Times, Footnotes, February 1970
Children's Corner, Friends of the Library Newsletter, October 1993
Story Times, FOL Newsletter, April 1995
Story Times, Books and Beyond, November 1996
Story Times, Books and Beyond, November 1997
Story Times, Books and Beyond, June 1998
Story Times, Books and Beyond, May 1999
Children's Corner, Books and Beyond, June 2000
Story Times, Books and Beyond, March 2000
Story Line, Books and Beyond, December 2001
Children's flyer, October 2001
Children's programs, Books and Beyond, October 2002
Story Times, Books and Beyond, November 2003
Story Times, Books and Beyond, September 2004
Story Times, Books and Beyond, October 2005
Story Times, Books and Beyond, November 2006
Story Times English and Spanish, Books and Beyond, April 2007
Story Times at IKEA, May 2008 Books and Beyond
Story Times, Books and Beyond, May 2009
Story Times, Books and Beyond, July 2010
Story Times, Books and Beyond, May 2011
Story Times, Books and Beyond, March 2012
Story Times, Books and Beyond, September 2013
Story Times, Books and Beyond, November 2014
Story Times, Books and Beyond, April 2015
Story Times, Books and Beyond, October 2016
Story Times, Books and Beyond, June 2017
Story Times, Books and Beyond, October 2018
Story Times, Books and Beyond, February 2019
Chapter on Storytelling from Glenn Miller's Book, "Customer Service and Innovation in Libraries."
Comments to “Library Storytellers Through the Years”
I worked at North Orange branch from September 2001 to March 2003. Story Time was always well-attended, especially when Mr. Richard was the Storyteller. The kids loved Charlie Hoeck and Crystal Sullivan, too, but Mr. Richard’s inclusion of guitar and singing was always a real crowd pleaser. The people of Orange County are lucky to have had all of these amazing storytellers in their lives for decades.