A Story behind Dial-A-Story: How the Library Delivered Stories to your Home

Pooh Bear Calling
A good story is just one call away
Dial-a-Story logo

Imagine listening to a children’s book being read to you while you are at home cooking dinner. Imagine enjoying a fairy tale with your children before getting ready for bed. The Library’s Dial-a-Story program is a free, 24/7 service, and all you need to do is to lift the telephone handset and dial.

"Customers can listen to a story in two ways,” says Nancy Stegeman, Central Library youth associate. “They can phone in (816.701.3456) or they can access the recording on the Kid’s Page of the library website. On average, the Dial-A-Story line receives 40-50 calls a day.”

The program kicked off in the early 1990’s when the children’s librarians started to record stories for listeners. At first, it was primarily youth services staff that did the recordings. However, over the years, Dial-A-Story participants have included library staff from other departments, and many community members, including local celebrities on special occasions. Sometimes teachers or parents have asked to record for the line.

“One time, we had a pediatrician who took some time off from her busy schedule to record for us. We really appreciate the fact that the community came together to participate in this special program.”

The Dial-A-Story program has grown in popularity, and from one generation to the next.

“It's fun when customers come into the library and recognize the voice of a librarian reader they have heard on the line,” Stegeman continues. “One volunteer reader liked listening to Dial-A-Story when she was a child and now in her twenties, wanted to come in and become a reader herself.”

Stegeman is responsible for scheduling readers and helping to select books for the line. The team’s rule is to choose the book that is available in the Library’s card catalog in case the listeners enjoy the book so much they want to come in to a library branch and borrow the item.

“The stories are changed about once per week, and last usually between 3 and 8 minutes. They are geared toward 3 to 10-year-olds, but people of all ages like to listen.”

In the spirit of the Big Read celebration that is going on this month, Dial a story is participating by featuring books that are familiar folktales written with a Western flair, inspiring our librarian readers to read with a twang in their voice!

Listen to this week’s pick, Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella written by Susan Lowell here.

About the Author

Sukalaya Kenworthy is a youth services associate at the Central Library. Sukalaya enjoys listening to stories from around the world. She is originally from Bangkok, Thailand.

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