Tag Archives: Library

Was happiness wasted on him?

We ‘went’ to Kirkland Ciccone’s book launch this evening. By which I mean we attended the online launch, happening on Facebook, and which Daughter cast to the television, for us to sit in comfort and enjoy.

Well, after some ‘casting around’ for the actual event, we found it, but immediately discarded it, since it was clearly a mistake, what with mad fuzzy lines in colour and then there was some maniac who muttered curses, and fairly loudly too.

Turned out it was the real thing. Very psychedelic, it was. But once our dear host had been messaged to mute his sound, we could actually make out what was being said in his interview with Gillian Hunt at Cumbernauld Library. Well, some of it… And the rest was taken care of by some of the most inspired subtitles I’ve come across in my life. ‘Hommage’ turned into ‘a mash.’ And why not? Kirkie mentioned that he would usually launch his books at Waterstones in Argyle Street, which became ‘our street.’ That too.

He read the haircut episode from the book.

Did I mention the new book? It’s for adults. Hah. It’s called Happiness Is Wasted On Me.

And then he was at home again, Kirkie. He wasn’t sure we could hear or see him, when we could actually do both. Sort of. He kept breaking up, and laughing so much that we decided he’d overdosed on IrnBru. But he was very Kirkie.

He has a playlist that goes with the book, somehow. Daughter warned me never to try listening to it. (As if I would.)

Kirkie is very popular. The event was well attended and we all love him. But next time I’ll insist he takes Daughter’s advice on the technical stuff.

Save the library?

This is something I wasn’t expecting. When you have a nice old library building, funded by Andrew Carnegie over a hundred years ago, you don’t expect to have the library moving into the former shop premises of Argos.

If I understand it right, old Argos isn’t big enough. Yes, it would bring the library ‘to the people’, or it would if there are enough people left visiting the shopping precinct in Stockport. It’s been on its way down for some time.

Yes, I know some people are worried about going into libraries, because they are not used to them, and the building might feel too grand for the likes of an ordinary person. The thing is, when I lived in Stockport, the library was what I encountered first, on arriving into town. It’s right there when you get off the train. Or the bus outside McDonald’s.

The arguments for the move, at least for the position of old Library versus Argos, are not entirely unsound. But I’m thinking here of when my other old library, the one in Halmstad, was replaced with a new, more modern building some years ago. I was really against it. But the fact is, the new library building is far better.

Yes, my childhood memories are somewhere else, but that building still remains, used for other things now. The new one is bigger and more luxurious. Because it was built to be a library, and to be larger, to accommodate everything that was needed.

It doesn’t sound as if the Stockport plans would do that. Smaller and not purpose built sounds worse, to my mind.

I did sign the [Stockport] petition. I feel there should be more thought going into this. Yes, maybe the old building can be kept and used for something truly great, although I would have believed more in that ten years ago. But the message is that library users don’t need or deserve much. A former shop will do.

What Mr Carnegie would think I’m not sure. But we generally like our gifts to be appreciated.

Privy-thèque

Loo and behold, a privy-théque!

Thank goodness for far-flung friends and authors. Especially those carrying a camera. And with a sense for the quirky, and an idea that bookwitches might need something fun to write about.

I mean, you know I like toilets. In case one needs to go. Having been brought up on [summer] privies, I don’t mind them. They still exist in Sweden, often as the beach alternative to plumbing. (Or in someone’s simpler type of summer accommodation.)

There is also the longstanding tradition of reading when on the toilet (although I frown on this, because there could be a queue), and many keep some book or magazine handy.

Now Ingrid Magnusson Rading has been for a walk near the place she can still get to, and I can’t, and she made a discovery outside the old lifeboat station. No, not the privy. We knew about that. But its new purpose, complete with a sign and everything.

It’s now a library! And a privy. Or maybe more a swapping post. There are books. The sign says to take a book home if you like it, and to leave behind one that you reckon others would benefit from reading.

And the view! No longer available for those on the throne, as the inside of the new-ish facility has been turned 90 degrees. Before, if you didn’t crave privacy, you could enjoy the view by leaving the door open. Now though you’ll have to admire away before and after, rather than during.

And let’s hope book lovers will not enter as you go about your business!

Dolly and the teaspoons

I find it hard not to like Dolly Parton.

First, though, over to Sölvesborg in the southeastern corner of Sweden. According to Teskedsorden – which basically is an organisation that wants to do good things, even if it is a teaspoonful at a time – the political parties on the right came up with the idea of saving money by not letting its libraries order books in the many mother-tongues of the town.

In fairness, I have to say I’ve not been able to find out whether this decision was carried through, and many people doubted the legality of it all. But to go against the knowledge that letting children read in their first language as well as in Swedish benefits them in how well they will do in life, is plain wrong.

Then we come to Dolly. To stop the high school dropout rate in her Tennessee home town, she essentially bribed the fifth and sixth graders (in 1990) to complete high school. They were to pick a buddy, and if both of the children graduated high school she’d pay them $500. It worked. It still works, apparently.

The next thing she did was to pay for teaching assistants in every first grade for two years, with an agreement that the school system would continue with this if successful.

And then Dolly founded the Imagination Library (in 1995), sending a book every month to every child in her home county of Sevier from when they were born until they started kindergarten. This has now spread to all of the US and to Australia, Canada and the UK.

That’s more than 100 million books, from the child of a man who couldn’t read or write.

Launching When We Get To the Island

When he discovered he was wanted to drive me to Alex Nye’s book launch last night, the Resident IT Consultant spent the afternoon reading her book, When We Get To the Island. And as he said, it’s very Thirty-Nine Steps and a bit James Bond and quite exciting.

Alex Nye

It was a successful evening. The librarians kept carrying in more chairs, and then some more, and offering tea because it was such a wet and stormy night, as well as the wine and crisps. They have a nice library in Dunblane. And enough chairs, eventually…

Kirkland Ciccone and Clare Cain

Alex started by telling us a bit about the background to the book, the refugees being smuggled into the country, and the state of being a ‘looked after’ child in foster care. She read an excerpt from the last bit of the train journey, only partially insulting the Duke of Sutherland. (Not much at all, really.)

Talking about the petrochemical industry near ‘Grangefield’ her dog worriedly joined in. I had thought the ‘carrot topping’ business in the story somewhat farfetched, but it seems Alex has experience of this herself, including the dangers of trying to cut semi-frozen carrots with a sharp knife.

Alex Nye

She had had some difficulty seeing a happy ending to a book about trafficking and fostering, which both the Resident IT Consultant and the Nye dog loudly agreed with. Here Alex’s publisher Clare pointed out that it’s an exciting adventure book, and the dog on my right reckoned she was right. (She is.)

Nye dog

Before we were allowed to mingle again Alex read another short piece about her characters in a flooded tunnel and then she stopped right there, leaving a library full of people on a cliffhanger! They’d need to buy the book after that.

Clare Cain was selling books in a corner, but rejected the dollar bills offered by Alex’s sister who was visiting. It’s hard to remember what money goes where…

Clare Cain

And then we gossiped a bit with Kirkland Ciccone before braving the storm to go home again.

The second leaflet

And then I found myself searching the floor plan of the Stephen A Schwarzman Building for the Mark Twain Room. When I didn’t find it, I looked again at the second library leaflet the Resident IT Consultant brought.

Ah, Mark Twain’s room would be in Buffalo. Obviously. I’m no Twain expert, but I gather he had important, if brief, ties to Buffalo.

He gave them half the manuscript of Huckleberry Finn, having lost the other half. The remaining pages were discovered in a trunk in California a hundred years later, the way things always are.

I’m neither interested nor not interested in lost manuscripts, or in Huck Finn, but it makes for fascinating reading anyway.

I began wondering what I’d think of Tom Sawyer or Huck if I were to reread them now. Are they still my kind of book, or was that mainly when I was very young, and had rather fewer books to read?

When I was eleven, I was given a prize at school, which was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in English. It was presumably because I was good at English, and it was this that was being rewarded. But I was never good enough to read Mark Twain in the original. I often thought I’d try, but never did. Besides, I’d already read the story in translation.

Which in itself helps determine at what age one used to read classics before Harry Potter. I’d not put Huckleberry Finn into the hands of a pre-eleven child today. Whether that’s wrong of me I have no idea.

Leaflets

He likes leaflets, and brings many of them home. So it’s not surprising that the Resident IT Consultant’s recent travels meant he brought quite a few of the things here, and now they sit on the dining table. He did say that he thought I’d be interested in some of them, but that after reading I could get rid of them if I wanted to.

Note that there wasn’t an option of not reading, and putting them in the recycling immediately.

I found the two library ones interesting, and far more so than the menu from the Indian restaurant in Montreal.

The Stephen A Schwarzman Building on New York’s Fifth Avenue is a lovely looking place. I’d like it even without the books, because I like buildings in general. I would love to have it as my local library.

But looking at it via the leaflet will have to do. I mostly can’t determine the scale of it. The floor plans seem modest, but then the photos of the individual rooms make them look huge, so I am guessing it’s like much in America; it’s really large.

I hope and pray it will remain a library for many years to come, even though – or do I mean especially because? – they have a real stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh.

Prepping

I do not run a library. I do not run a library. I do not run a …

Yeah, OK, there’s no need to write a hundred lines. I am a – reasonably – normal witch and I should only need to surround myself with a sensible number of my favourite books. But why is this so hard?

The last few times before Daughter has come to visit, I’ve had in mind that she could help me thin the books on the shelves in her room. The shelves with my books on them. It’s not happened. And this time I thought that someone who’s mid-pack, with a whole flat to move, might not appreciate coming to this house and being asked to shift even more unwanted stuff.

So I am approaching this task myself. Thought it’d be a nice touch if her room was nice and tidy. It won’t* be, but it’s a thought.

The purpose of owning books is not to be a library, or to be complete in any way. If I like Philip Pullman, say, there is no requirement for me to have every book he’s ever had published. I could own some of his books, and then part with a few if I reckon I’m unlikely to re-read them. Even Pullman-books aren’t guaranteed a second reading.

And of course I’m not a library. I hate lending books. So why do I believe I ought to be equipped in case someone is interested in borrowing one of my Pullmans? People don’t [always] return borrowed books. So if you wanted to borrow his Clockwork, you can’t. Partly because I don’t lend, as I said, and partly because someone borrowed it and ‘forgot’ to return it, so I don’t have Clockwork any longer.

On that basis I am now clearing out books that even I am surprised by. I am choosing some books I really love, because I probably won’t read them again, and I’ve discovered someone who would be just right for these books.

It’s time to let go.

Bookshelves

(The above is a historical photo, before things got out of control.)

*Partly because the bathroom is being re-done and those bottles of shampoo and  toilet cleaner had to go somewhere…

Emily Lime Librarian Detective – The Book Case

St Rita’s School isn’t your average girls’ boarding school. Not even if you factor in that it’s in a book. It’s falling apart and the food will poison you, if you’ve made it that far. Most of the girls seem to be delinquents, so Daphne, the new girl who’s been expelled from her old school, should fit right in.

Dave Shelton, Emily Lime Librarian Detective

As the new Assistant Assistant Librarian, she is roped in to help Assistant Librarian Emily Lime solve the mystery of the break-in in the rather bookless library. It might have something to do with the bank robbery in town. Or not.

In Dave Shelton’s humorous crime novel, set at St Rita’s soon after WWII, there is never a dull moment.

It’s not clear if this is the first of several school library mysteries, but I’d welcome more. After all, there has been no explanation of George, the lone male student at St Rita’s.

And the train journey there would be worth revisiting. Those were the days!

‘One of the best jobs in the world’

Librarian tree

That could describe my ‘job,’ but in this case it’s what Deena Wren who has just been awarded the 2019 Scottish Book Trust Learning Professional Award, said at the Lighthouse in Glasgow last night. I think I’d like to be a pupil at Beeslack Community High School, if I could have her as my school librarian. Take everything good that could possibly be said about a librarian, and that’s what everyone at the school did say as they were interviewed for the video we were shown at the award ceremony.

Alan Windram at Scottish Book Trust Awards

Last night was an award-studded event where the winners of the 2019 Bookbug Picture Book Prize, Alan Windram and illustrator Chloe Holwill-Hunter were presented with their prize money for One Button Benny. Following last week’s announcement, John Young was there to receive the Scottish Teenage Book Prize, and Kerr Thomson, one of the runners-up was also present.

Theresa Breslin at Scottish Book Trust Awards

And after all that it was time for the Outstanding Achievement Award to be given to Theresa Breslin for her thirty-year-long career as an advocate for children’s literacy and libraries. I know how hard Theresa has worked, and she’s also written ‘a few’ books. About fifty. Ever modest, Theresa praised Deena Wren for her excellent work, telling us what it had been like when she did an author visit at her school. (Something about sandwiches, I believe.)

The Lighthouse was full of teachers and librarians out in force to celebrate their own, and – I’m guessing – to have a nice night out. There was wine, and the thing to eat right now seems to be deep fried cauliflower, with some sort of dribbled chilli icing. I might have eaten quite a few of those.

Theresa Breslin at Scottish Book Trust Awards

As usual I encountered Mr B, Theresa’s ‘stalwart husband,’ along with a Theresa ‘twin’ who turned out to be her sister, and I’m just not saying anything about how old anyone is. There were daughters, and at least one niece, and possibly friends and neighbours. The award was embargoed, so it had been awkward inviting people along without saying what to. Theresa herself came and sat with us, for at least a minute, before she was called upon to get up and talk to people.

I’m glad Mr B was there with his camera, as mine really didn’t enjoy the dark, or the fact that I am short and couldn’t reach far. One junior Breslin even climbed up on a chair.

Scottish Book Trust Awards

As I took a few turns round the place – which unlike me is quite tall and narrow, and might explain the name Lighthouse – I encountered Barbara Henderson, down from Inverness. It seems that we both sort of invited ourselves… Barbara introduced me to Kerr Thomson, and also to Lindsay Littleson whom I’d not met before. The conversation then strayed to unicorns.

John Young, Kerr Thomson and Barbara Henderson

It was the kind of evening when you remember why you read and why it’s something most of us need. Reading makes us feel better. And your reading can improve if you have access to good librarians with a passion for books.

(Photos of Theresa by Tom Breslin)