Librarian taps storytelling power
Lorna Eguia, 43, grew up with her grandmother in Dalaguete town in southern Cebu province, listening to her stories about the origin of fireflies and tales of mythical creatures.
Her fascination with these stories and learning about other cultures through reading encouraged her to become a librarian. Outside her work schedule, she also found time to lead literacy development initiatives.
These earned her the distinction of being one of the 2015 Movers and Shakers of the library industry by the international publication, Library Journal. Eguia was named one of the 50 individuals around the world who not only expanded library services but also transformed libraries into centers of community activity.
“I always think of storytelling and books as tools for spreading good news,” said Eguia, the only Filipino among the librarians recognized in the United States last year.
“Stories have the power to change people,” she said.
For 20 years, Eguia served as librarian in the University of San Carlos, one of the premier schools in Cebu City.
She transferred campuses before she left the university to focus on her community advocacy. Her last assignment was to manage the American Corner Library inside the USC main campus.
With her husband, Joey, who is also a librarian, they started Books in Bags (BiB) in 2013.
BiB is a mobile library and family literacy advocacy campaign which uses books and Bible stories to promote values.
Books are moved around in bags and read to children according to age groups.
The Eguias, with the help of children Grant, Shine and Raine, wanted to address a decline in reading among children by engaging them in weekly activities to pique their interest and develop love for reading and learning.
Shortly after they started the campaign, Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) devastated many parts of the Visayas.
Eguia turned to books and storytelling to help Yolanda survivors overcome the trauma brought by the strongest storm to make landfall in recent history.
She recalled a time in an evacuation center in Cebu City when her daughter, Raine, could not speak the language of one of the children there.
“But they were able to communicate through books (because of the pictures) and that encouraged me to continue as a storyteller,” she said.
Eguia said she learned the art and science of storytelling through research and by partnering with organizations sharing the same advocacy and interest.
She was so passionate about storytelling that she decided to focus on storytelling techniques in some of Cebu’s grade school libraries for her master’s thesis.
She eventually produced a storytelling sampler and a workshop module that helped several teacher-librarians in Cebu to use storytelling as a teaching tool.
This also opened opportunities for her to partner with different organizations, including the volunteer storytelling group Basadours, the Cebu City Public Library and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI).
One of the books she read in her sessions was Amaya Aboitiz’s “Akong Bugsay,” the story of a boy named Andoy who went fishing with his father and learned the values of patience and planning ahead.
From this book, published by RAFI, Eguia drew up an enrichment activity that allowed children to map out their life goals.
She even had her children go through the activity, which she also narrated in storytelling workshops that she organized and joined.
This initiative caught the attention of RAFI which invited Eguia to contribute to the Akong Bugsay Storytelling Techniques in the Akong Bugsay Workbook Teacher’s Guide. The guide was introduced in 20 public elementary schools in Cebu during the school year 2014 to 2015.
With more time to pursue her advocacy, Eguia said she went around her neighborhood in Sitio Banawa in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, and organized storytelling sessions with her daughter’s help.
“Our children need [to be exposed to activities] that will allow them to see the relevance of what [these people or groups] are doing. So they would understand that we do this because there is a bigger purpose, not just because we feel good or we like to be seen doing good,” Eguia said.
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