Tag Archives: Library

Save our libraries

In this case, Liverpool’s libraries. If I’ve got it right, then the Mayor of Liverpool got himself elected saying how much he was in favour of supporting libraries. And now he wants to close 11 of 18 in the city.

In fairness (?) the government has taken away a lot of the money the council needs, for everything. But 11 libraries is a lot. It’s probably the future of Liverpool, and if you were to take this to more places, it might be the future of the country.

Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy have thrown themselves into the fight to save their home city’s libraries. There is a facebook page for the planned action on November 8th. And I don’t know, but someone (who may be well informed, or a malicious lier) posted this the other day: ‘Despite Joe ‘Bonaparte’ Anderson’s claims that Liverpool City Council is teetering on bankruptcy due to cuts in funding of over £150,000,000 from central government, he still managed to find £173,249 to pay the council’s bill with ‘The Pickled Walnut’ – a luxury caterer.’

Save Liverpool's Libraries

Well, anyway, lots of authors have joined in and have written to Mayor Anderson, pleading for him to change his mind. If Liverpool was the only place under threat, I’d say this was good and perhaps the protest stands a good(ish) chance of succeeding. But Liverpool isn’t alone.

I was struck, too, by how many of the names are those of children’s authors. Could it be they are more aware than their ‘adult’ peers? Is it that their readers are more likely to need libraries to read at all? We are many who are ‘poor’ but children have less say in how to use whatever meagre sum of money which might be at people’s disposal. Or maybe children’s authors are yet again proving they are the best.

On a lighter note, librarians can also be angry. Sometimes literally. I used to read a blog written by one; Arga Bibliotekstanten (The Angry Librarian Lady). She shut up shop a while back and moved to facebook, where she took the persona Arga Bibliotekstanten. The other day facebook closed her account because no one can be called Arga. So she had to become Anna in order to continue entertaining us with her librarianly woes. How can anyone decide what is a name, and what isn’t? Some people have weird parents. Others simply have weird names.

And they had no problem with Bibliotekstanten. Apparently Library Lady must be a regular surname. Somewhere…

A few words from the ambassador

The last week in November will yet again be Book Week Scotland. I was going to say a few things about it, but have found out that the week has its own ambassadors, and here is one of them to tell you about the grand launch last Wednesday, and about her love for libraries. Over to Helen Grant:

Helen Grant

“When I heard that the launch event for Book Week Scotland 2014 was going to be at a boxing gym in Edinburgh, I naively assumed that the boxing gym had a conference room and the launch would be in that (I’m not sure why I had this mad thought; I don’t suppose boxers pause from boxing each other to have management meetings). But no! It was far more interesting than that! I arrived at the gym to find that the boxing ring was full of Scottish book characters, all vying for the ‘favourite’ spot! In fact, Peter Pan was slugging it out with Sherlock Holmes at that very moment. Many well-loved characters were there, ranging from Badger to Harry Potter and Hit Girl.

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND 2014 LAUNCH

After a particularly dynamic photo call, we sat down and listened to Sophie Moxon of the Scottish Book Trust talk about Book Week Scotland’s 2014 programme, followed by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, who demonstrated support at the highest level! Amongst this year’s highlights are plans to give books to every P1 child in Scotland and to distribute 150,000 free copies of Scotland’s Stories of Home, a collection of short stories and poems written by Scottish people. Plus there is the chance to settle the question of who is the most popular Scottish book character by voting at http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/reading/book-week-scotland/vote-for-your-favourite-character-from-a-scottish-book. I’m still trying to make my mind up. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but I can’t decide between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde!

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND 2014 LAUNCH

Then it was the turn of the Author Ambassadors to take the stage. The theme of this year’s Book Week Scotland is love, so we had each written a love letter to our favourite library. Paul Cuddihy kicked off with an appreciative epistle to Bishopbriggs library, with which he evidently had a very long term relationship in spite of the rival lures of the local pub!

I felt rather abashed when I got up after him, and had to confess that due to having moved around a lot, I am a bit of a library philanderer, with a hoard of expired library cards that I keep as carefully as old love letters. However I did promise to change my fickle ways, and settle down with the one, for which role I nominated Strathearn Community Library in Crieff.

My relationship with the library shows that a community library is more than just a collection of books. If you have lived all over the place as I have, it is difficult to feel at home anywhere, but the day I found my husband’s birth announcement in an ancient and yellowing copy of the Crieff Herald in the library’s local history section, was the day that I felt we had come home.

Shari Low’s love letter to Renfrew library was touching and hilarious, especially when she described some of the scurrilous books by Jackie Collins and the like that she had relished in former years.

I’m thrilled to be one of the 2014 Author Ambassadors. Our role is to spread the word about Book Week Scotland and trumpet out the love for libraries and reading. Books have been such a big part of my life. I can remember which ones I was reading during some of the most exciting adventures I have ever had, and the ones that cheered me up and kept me going during the worst times.

Here is one of the most important things I had to say to Strathearn Community Library in my love letter:

‘The thing I love most about you is not the modern stuff. It’s the local history section, over in the back corner. Because I’m new to this part of the world, I don’t have a past here. I’m finding out about my new home, just as I would ask a new friend all about their life before we met. You have so much to tell me! Folk stories, curious little snippets of history, amazing ancedotes of past lives.

One of my favourites is the tale of John Steedman, the timorous minister of Auchterarder during the Jacobite rising of 1715, who was too afraid to preach while the Rebel Army were in the neighbourhood. William Reid, the minister of Dunning, who was made of sterner stuff, swapped with him, and for several weeks gave the sermon at Auchterarder armed with a loaded pistol!

I love that story. It makes eighteenth century Perthshire sound like the Wild West! I found that tale in a very old book. Thank you for keeping books like that safe, so that history stays alive, and we can read about more than just the big national events.’

Libraries are a treasure trove, and I’d love to encourage people to use them and get the most out of them.”

There will be many events, and I’ll let you know as and when I have any news or firsthand tales to tell. Or I suppose I’ll have to keep feeding ‘my’ ambassador plenty of chocolate. (Although I’m sure that Mr Grant isn’t old enough to have had his birth announced in an ‘ancient’ copy of the Crieff Herald, in the library’s local history department… I mean, where would that leave me?)

How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel

This is a picture book about job satisfaction, mainly. Quite a bit about the importance of libraries, too, although I feel that having a job turns out to be more valuable to Rapunzel than the fact that it’s in a library.

Long live libraries!

Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown, How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel

Wendy Meddour rhymes beautifully about poor Rapunzel who’s really pretty depressed. She doesn’t want to do anything, or see anyone. At all. Rapunzel just sits there in her flat, moping and looking beautiful.

The prince does no good whatsoever.

What does work in the end is the letter telling her she’s got the job. The one in the library. (That’s once the postman could be bothered to traipse all the way up to her flat to deliver it.)

Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown, How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel

Rebecca Ashdown’s illustrations are almost better than Wendy’s poetic fairy tale. (Am I allowed to say that?) This is a beautiful picture book. I just can’t decide if it’s for children or adults. It’s far more appealing to an older reader (like me) than many picture books tend to be. It’s on a more mature level (16th floor), so I don’t like it because it’s cute, but because it’s relevant.

Rapunzel’s not the only one to be saved by books, you know.

Bookwitch bites #127

You know books? There is money in them. Sometimes, at least, and not only for author and publisher, although I’d wager Michael Morpurgo has made a reasonable sum from War Horse the book. Possibly more from the play and the film.

Michael Morpurgo at the Lowry

War Horse the play has just finished its second run at the Lowry, hopefully pleasing the 200,000 people who came to see it. But what’s more, it hasn’t merely earned money for Michael or the theatre. It has been estimated that Greater Manchester is better off by £15 million. And it’s pretty good that books can have such an effect.

For the last performance in Salford they had a Devon farmer as a Devon farmer extra.

Not a farmer, nor a twinkly old elf, is how Neil Gaiman doesn’t describe his friend Terry Pratchett in the Guardian this week. Terry is driven by rage, Neil claims, and I can sort of see where he’s coming from with that. I reckon Terry got pretty annoyed to hear me say that my local library service banned him from the under 16s. (Correction, it was their representative who did. Not the whole service. But still.) And any person with any decency would be furious about what’s wrong in this world. And luckily we have the non-twinkly Terry to write wonderful books about it.

Someone who scares me much more is Kevin Brooks. I know. He seems non-scary, but his books deal with people in circumstances I find hard to cope with. Kevin has just written a book for Barrington Stoke, to be published in January 2015, and it might be short, and it might be an easy read. But it’s also not an easy read, in that it deals with the hard reality for young, male, teenagers. A typical Brooks, in other words.

Barrington Stoke make books accessible to readers who would otherwise not read. Daniel Hahn was on the radio this week, talking for 13 and a half (his own description) minutes on the importance of translated books. They make books accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to read French or Finnish, or any other ‘outlandish’ language.

Daniel has also worked hard on the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, to be published in March 2015. I’m looking forward to that, and hopefully this new companion will pave the way for a few more readers, too.

Whereas authors playing football will achieve exactly what? OK, let’s not be negative or anti-sports here. I did actually want to go and see the football match between English crime writers and their Scottish counterparts. It was part of Bloody Scotland last weekend, but unfortunately the match clashed with an event, and being lazy, I chose to sit down in-doors instead of standing on the side of a rectangle of grass watching grown men kick a ball around.

The winning Bloody Scotland football team - 2014

I understand the Scottish team won. Ian Rankin is looking triumphant, and I can see Craig Robertson, Christopher Brookmyre and Michael J Malone, plus some more people I don’t recognise in shorts.

Off the Page with Teri Terry

Deep down I knew. All day I stalked round the house thinking ‘I couldn’t leave it looking like this if people were coming.’ But we were going out for drinks, not staying in, and there was no need to clean or tidy or even remove the empty Ikea boxes or the reading lamp that almost went up in smoke that afternoon. Or anything.

So obviously I asked Teri Terry and Mr Terry round for a cup of tea. As you do. Being polite people, they even praised the hall for being nice, which it might have been were in not for all the stuff. But this is Stirling and I don’t believe you can go out for cups of tea at eight pm, so Bookwitch Towers was the place to go.

Before my domestic embarrassment, we’d had a nice evening at St Ninian’s Library, were Teri’s talk was part of the Stirling book festival. I’d not heard Teri speak in public before, so looked forward to it. There were a good number of readers of the right age – i.e. not like me – and many came without adults, which was particularly encouraging, I felt. But then I know that Teri’s fans do like her.

Teri Terry

There were soft drinks and slices of swiss roll, and they switched on the coffee machine for the adults. Nice warm welcome for everyone (and I only mention it because it doesn’t always happen). They were most helpful about toilet access as well (although I have to admit that was mainly me…).

Most people seemed to have read Slated, and a few had read Fractured, but I might have been the only one who’d got to Shattered. Lucky them to have so much to look forward to. Teri read from the first two novels, free from spoilers, but felt she couldn’t do that with the third book without giving everything away.

She started off by answering the questions she most commonly gets asked, just to get her funny name and accent and all the rest out of the way. (You can find much of it in my interview with Teri from last year.) Teri reckons writers are often a bit crazy, they might move a lot and become used to being outsiders, observing others.

Teri Terry

Teri herself is very interested in nature versus nurture, which was relevant both in her former job as a lawyer, but also now when she writes fiction. She talked about the evening of 9/11 (she was in Australia), and as she did, I did a quick calculation and came to the conclusion that most of the audience had not been born then, or were very young indeed. It’s weird how fast things become history.

Her next book, Mind Games, will be published in March next year (she showed me the cover image on her laptop and it looks fantastic), and she is currently writing the next book again, with a deadline in December, to be published next autumn or spring 2016.

Asked about writing for boys, Teri said that she doesn’t see readers as boys or girls, but as people. She also doesn’t want to suggest which age her books are for, although most readers seem to be from about eleven and older.

Like many authors Teri is very interested in stationery. She has a big collection of notebooks and can’t possibly start writing a book in the ‘wrong’ notebook. She once had to spend a week shopping for the right one before she could begin. She can type really fast, but finds it easiest to start a book writing by hand, moving on to her laptop after a while.

Because it’s not healthy sitting in bed all day writing, she now tends to get dressed every day, and she goes to write in her shack in the garden. But she needs to speak to humans every now and then, so has to leave her shack occasionally.

Teri Terry

That’s when she comes to lovely events like this one, right on my doorstep. After which she ended up much more on my doorstep than we’d intended. It was nice. Very nice. In case Teri and her Mr Terry ever feel like coming back, I will clean the house, decorate it, and purchase some green tea. Possibly find the wine glasses too, just in case.

I knew it had to be somewhere

Talk of antiquated! (I did. On Tuesday.)

As I was saying, I knew it would be somewhere. I searched at home, high and low. And then, without searching at all, I happened to glance sideways at Mother-of-witch’s bookshelf (re-arranged many times by me), and there it was! I can’t understand why I haven’t had it with me.

The Retired Children’s Librarian was a dutiful and hard-working librarian in her day. She wrote the odd guide-book on what to read. This is one of them, Böcker för barn och ungdomar som inte tycker om att läsa. As will be obvious to most of you, that’s Books for children and teens who don’t like reading.

There are many such people, although possibly not very often found in libraries. But compile this long list of suitable books she did. And this being before I knew any published writers, I was quite proud to know her. The book is signed. It says ‘greetings from the author.’ (Med hälsningar från författaren, is what I mean.)

At the time I tended to agree with what she suggested. I had read quite a few already, and was interested to see what else she reckoned would be good. Published in 1977, I was too old to be her target audience, and I will blame my ignorance of K M Peyton on that, because I see she included Flambards and something else.

I note – now – that she was fair, since she has included books I happen to know she wasn’t terribly keen on. That’s as it should be.

I’ll need to read through this more carefully, but I’d bet that most of the books will still be worthwhile, with only a few becoming obsolete with the passing of time. Swedish libraries use a cataloging system different from many others, and it’s interesting to see that they have included all the reference numbers, presumably to ease the search when the un-keen reader goes to the library to find it.

Because that’s where you were supposed to go, back in the days when libraries simply were there for you.

In the bag

‘I’d be lynched if I went shopping with that bag’ said the Resident IT Consultant about the ‘English Apples’ shopping bag.

I suppose he’s – almost – right. Lynching seems a wee bit OTT, but maybe a more discreetly logoed bag would be better for Scottish shopping, even when the shop is Lidl, and thereby German. In actual fact, the bag of apples he brought back recently said Tafel Äpfel, which isn’t so terribly Scottish either.

So the English apple bag is skulking in the wardrobe for the time being.

Stockport Libraries Book Bag

Perhaps that’s why the Resident IT Consultant brought me this gift after his trip back to the old neighbourhood – which involved carefully studying what the new owners had put in the skip outside the former Bookwitch Towers. (The bath, since you asked.) He’d taken his last (?) books back to the library, and been persuaded to buy a bag from them in return.

The Garden of Eden bag became storage for finished-with books, before I off-loaded them onto the unsuspecting current owner of the future Bookwitch Towers. People who have three children of the right ages need to proceed with great care. I may even swap some picture books for the soon-to-be new patio outside the Grandmother’s flat. (It’s all happening here.)

Nicola Morgan, Blame My Brain

Bags. Yes. I’m using a variety of them for organising the admin in my temporary headquarters, and they are doing a good job. I have a black witch bag. Obviously. I also had cause to compliment Nicola Morgan on the sheer usefulness of her writer’s bag and her teen brain bag. I may never need a proper desk again.

Actually, I’m sure I will. But for temporary perfection this is pretty good, and no one is going to be lynched.