The heart of my work is stories, what they tell us and how they are told. Whether stories appear in the oral, print, or electronic traditions, they reflect and shape us. They are central to library and information science because stories literally store us, serving as storage for an infinite variety of formal and informal knowledge.
Although every phase of storytelling interests me, I have focused especially on the aesthetic and socio-cultural dynamics reflected in the stories that we tell to children, who comprise a third of our population and all of our future. In addition to writing and telling stories, I've researched the history and interpretation of fairy tales; the way stories cross generational, ethnic, and media boundaries in the process of changing formats; the folktale motifs that permeate current lore; the critical and controversial aspects of children's books; and the development of children's literature in relation to women's changing roles as storytellers, writers, editors, librarians, and critics.
Traditionally, children's librarians—primarily women—have served as both tradition-bearers and literacy specialists in creating storytelling programs and book collections for youth. Currently, they have added to this role the task of guiding children along new paths of access on the internet, as pioneering a venture as establishing the field of children's literature and youth services was a hundred years ago.
It is my challenge as an LIS educator to explore questions relevant to this ongoing process, questions not only of content but also of process. How, for instance, does the physical energy transmitted in face-to-face storytelling translate electronically, if it does? How do we relate tonal nuances, pacing, and nonverbal interaction online? How will e-books and other computer publishing activities affect the nature of stories and audience response? How do listservs and discussion boards shape critical reaction to books, including awards that determine a books success? How do our literary and popular standards change in response to the thousands of new books that are published for children each year? How can we identify and analyze current trends? What stories survive, and how? The answer to the last question tells us, at least partially, who we are.