I had the good luck of sitting next to a Spellbinders storyteller at the 2001 Rocky Mountain Storytellers’ Conference. At the time I was Head of Children’s and Teen Services at the Longmont Public Library where one of my duties was to supervise volunteers in my department. I immediately became fascinated by the idea of storytelling as a volunteer project, knowing it would be a more creative and fulfilling volunteer opportunity than the usual library clerical tasks. So, I got in touch with Germaine Dietsch to talk about how to start a chapter.
Once I had gotten the basic information from Germaine, my next step was to present a proposal to start a Spellbinders chapter to the Longmont Library director, Tony Brewer. My proposal included having the Friends of the Library pay for the training of the volunteer storytellers, with the cost of printing the necessary materials being absorbed by the Library. Tony liked my proposal and presented it to the Friends of the Library Board, which approved the funding of the Library’s chapter of Spellbinders. The advertising for volunteer storytellers was done mainly through the Friends of the Library Newsletter and in-house publicity, my thinking being that folks who were already interested in the Library would be a good group to start with. There were 10 people, including me, in the first group of volunteers to be trained.
The biggest challenge in starting the chapter was not having a standard library sponsorship model to follow. Each of the existing library-sponsored chapters had different methods of recruiting and training volunteers and establishing storytelling venues. In order to give the newly trained Spellbinders a chance to start telling right away, I offered them opportunities to tell to classes that regularly visited the library. In the meantime our chapter sent Spellbinders publicity to the school media technicians who were in charge of the elementary school libraries in the St. Vrain Valley School District.
In looking back, I realize it would have been better to start publicizing Spellbinders at the district administrators’ or principals’ level. The media technicians did not seem to grasp the vision of what Spellbinders could offer on an on-going basis and only called upon us to tell at special events. I wish that I had had the foresight to ask the National Office to help promote Spellbinders at the administrative level of the school district. That might have more effectively gotten the attention of the library staff and teachers at the individual schools if administrators were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Spellbinders.
In 2010 when I retired as leader of the Longmont Chapter, Elektra Greer was hired as Head of Children’s and Teen Services. One of her charges was “to grow” the Chapter. I had always hoped that we would have about 20 active members. The current active membership is 19. Elektra credits three Spellbinders, Sharon Bauer, Wynn Montgomery, and Kathy Santopietro-Weddel, with having “the synergy” that resulted in the growth and vitality of the Longmont Chapter. Some chapter members also played a significant role in providing comfort through storytelling to displaced families at two shelters following the terrible flooding in 2013. I could not be more pleased that the Longmont Library Chapter of Spellbinders has become what I envisioned it could be and more.
Sandra Pendergraff, Founder and Leader of Longmont Library Chapter, 2001-2010