Dr. Christie Koontz Joined KEY Libraries in Their First Workshop in Kenya

From April 21 – May 4, Adjunct Professor Dr. Christie Koontz joined Knowledge Empowering Youth (KEY) Libraries as a facilitator for their first workshop for their librarians in Kenya.

KEY has built 46 school libraries in Kenya, and Koontz provided not only her skills and expertise in storytelling and marketing but also 100 pounds of storytelling texts donated by Richard Owen Publishers. The three-day workshop offered a myriad of new ideas and skills to the staff and librarians. “I was honored to be invited to the very first one and I hope this helps set a model for future workshops,” said Koontz.

“My chance meeting with Kenyans Nyakundi Nyambane and Gladys Kerich at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) conference in Dublin last summer was the starting point,” said Koontz. “In early 2023, they invited me to share my training in storytelling and marketing at the first annual workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, in late April. I was in and began in earnest to prepare and focus my presentations on African culture and orature and used schools in Kenya for my marketing illustrative examples.”

Whether through research projects, teaching, or marketing, Koontz’s passion for storytelling goes beyond books themselves. In 2009, she created an online storytelling class. The work she put into her class led her to research all aspects of Kenyan and African storytelling.

“Storytelling is valuable not only to education and entertainment but to science, outreach, organizations, therapy ministry — any communication effort really. Research tells us that storytelling is the most powerful way people remember — over reading, watching, being read to, or the story being acted out. It also tells us stories bridge divide, help adapt ideas for all ages, pass on knowledge, and explain the world around us.”

KEY has provided underserved children with access to an extensive education for over 15 years. Koontz’s experience, both locally and abroad, with IFLA and American Library Association (ALA), helped her navigate her experience in Kenya.

Koontz is not the only one who gained something from her trip. She hopes to invite the Kenyans she met and worked with to share their stories with her students through an online meeting.

“I learned that there is a passionate interest in storytelling among the Kenyan librarians at the workshop. My presence and presentation only tapped into the font they had,” said Koontz. “It was exciting to then share our love of storytelling and commitment to it with the students in the schools and when we went out into the field after the workshops. When I teach storytelling this fall, I will endeavor to bring more of me to them (the communities in which the students reside) than ever before, and I will see the face of the Kenyans storytellers and their passion.”