Tag Archives: Library

Alison’s Little Library

It was Son who introduced me to today’s guest blogger, Alison. As soon as I discovered she was one of the many ‘owners’ of a Little Library, I knew I wanted to hear from her what it’s like and what she does. And reading about this has given me such a warm, happy glow. I do want a library myself, but fear not having enough time for it if it’s successful, or the sheer embarrassment if it isn’t.

Over to Alison:

The latest copy of Vogue UK nestles against Bob the Builder and Val McDermid in my Little Library today.

Little Library

My street library is a focal point for the community. Books change rapidly. Sometimes gaps appear. Sometimes books spill on top of each other and try to burst their way out.

It has been in place for 2 years and has become part of the street and neighbourhood landscape. Despite Kindles, people love to hold a book and delight in finding a new author or a new book by a favourite writer.

Readers love to share their new finds and chat to me about the library and any new books they have read.

Local children took to the library immediately. They ‘got it’ straight away – choosing a book and bringing some from home to put in. They are proud to show off their ‘own’ library to visiting friends and revel in the fact that they’ve never seen another one.

In fact, Little Libraries are all over the world. They started in America in 2009 when Todd Bol built and put one in his front yard as a tribute to his mother who loved to read. By 2010 the name Little Free Library was established. By the end of 2012, 4,000 were in existence and Little Free Library became a registered non-profit organisation. There are now 60,000 registered libraries in over 80 countries.

The idea is very simple. Put the library in your front garden, accessible from the street at the height a seven-year-old could reach (the idea being that a younger child would be accompanied by an adult). You could publicise it, but in my experience you could just leave it and wait. People are curious and some adults suspect it is a book sale. Children have no such preconceptions. It’s a library. Borrow, read, bring back or give a new one. Simple.

The selection changes quickly and it’s difficult to say which titles are most popular. Crime is always a good one. Val McDermid, Kathy Reichs, M.C. Beaton and Agatha Christie have all made an appearance.

Children’s books range from board books to Harry Potter. Mr Men books come and go regularly.

Little Library

There is a small notebook in the library. This is not to record borrowing but to add comments (see photo). The books are not labelled/stamped as I feel the books will be passed on and read by others and need never come back to ‘my’ library.

I wouldn’t be without my Little Library now. It fills me with joy every time I open it and find new books or if I find it almost empty. Someone is enjoying a good read and that is the best thing I can think of!

 Alison’s Little Library is on Coronation Road, Bath, England. Little Free Library website: littlefreelibrary.org 
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Bloody Scotland – the torchlit beginning

Here they come. Those are the torchlights coming from the Top of the Town.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Bloody Scotland has started, and this year they certainly did it in style, with Friday night’s grand opening in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle. It was [justifiably] expensive, so I didn’t go, but not wanting [you] to miss out, the Resident IT Consultant and I went to stand halfway up the street leading to the Castle Esplanade, just in time for the torchlight procession to begin the walk down.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

There was a piped band playing Scotland the Brave, and then came the authors, of whom I’m sure you can see Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Denise Mina. You can, can’t you?

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Denise Mina had just been awarded the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year up in the Great Hall.

There were a lot of torches. And the torchlight bearers just kept coming. And coming. There are many crime fans in the world, and for those who didn’t fit into the sold-out hall, there were torches to be had outside, which might explain the numbers of people.

The Resident IT Consultant wondered where the First Aiders were, more or less as they actually walked past us.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

And do you see that car going the wrong way down the one way street? Admittedly a police car, but still.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Further down the Old Town they turned right and walked past the library, and then came to pretty much a complete stop. The procession was heading for the Albert Halls, where Ian Rankin was doing his first night sold-out event, and where everyone had to deal with their torches.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

That was a lot of torches to extinguish, and then presumably to put somewhere. When we passed the Albert Halls again on our way home, all was dark and orderly, with just a queue for Rankin.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

When the Resident IT Consultant came and offered me some Northern Lights, I declined, because I felt there is only so much light entertainment a witch can manage if she’s to sleep as well.

Walk from the library

The Resident IT Consultant was so pleased with the way the local branch library looked this week, that he – almost – insisted there be a blog post about it. And you’re not tired of libraries, yet, are you?

He volunteers to take other ladies out for walks. Not just ladies, but there are probably more of them than there are men. They are health walks, were people who need to get out are invited to walk in groups, led by volunteers such as the Resident IT Consultant.

There was a drive this week to encourage more people to join, so the library, which is where they meet before the walks, was set up with books on walking and leaflets and badges. I believe there was even cake, which I suppose is the naughty opposite to exercise.

St Ninian's Library

The library was so keen on this sneaky way of bringing them more customers that they happily sourced books on walking and set up the display. All the Resident IT Consultant and his colleague had to do was look like fun company for the walks.

And I believe he might have borrowed a book or two. It’s what he does. That and walking.

Interning

Read in the paper about how the interning – same as working for free – business is spreading. I thought it was merely for the hopefuls in creative jobs, but it seems to have grown to High Street clothes shops. Yes, of course I’d love to flog t-shirts all day long and not be paid!

I can see how it began, and I can also see how someone saw how this could be used to line their own pockets, because we are all desperate to be part of something.

Yes, me too.

Right now I’m only my own intern, but I argue with myself every week about this. Years ago I did other unpaid work, but it was called volunteering, and was mostly once a week in the school library. At least there was a library. And books. And I was needed/wanted for several years.

I liked the access to unlimited books, and getting out of the house. And when the author visits began, meeting authors. Discovering they actually shop in Tesco, like normal people.

So what to do once that ended?

I sold myself to a bookshop, that’s what. I didn’t mind doing things for free. I chose what to be involved in, and it meant much more author contact. There was some writing/blogging involved, and eventually a young readers’ review group.

I watched the part-time employees come and go, telling myself it was different for me, because I wasn’t being paid. But eventually I got pushed out, the same as the employees. Because I am under the impression they weren’t ever sacked. They chose to leave. And so did I.

Having witnessed what was said about them afterwards, I determined to get in there first, so wrote a blog post about some of it. Only to get it out there, dated in cyber space. I didn’t mention names. But my ‘ex-non-employers’ read it and were not pleased. I’m just amazed that two weeks after such a falling out they were still reading Bookwitch.

I must be better than I thought.

I have no idea if they spoke about me after. Doesn’t matter. For years I had to explain to publishers and publicists that there was a ‘situation’ and in many cases this didn’t seem to surprise them. You have to tread carefully after this kind of thing, but I’d say I made more friends because of it, rather than losing them.

Because I wasn’t alone. Authors were bullied. Publishers’ reps were bullied, and publicists. Someone totally un-initiated regarding this reported what was being said at Hay (I think). That helped make me feel a lot better. I mean, I knew I was no more horrible a person than average, but this kind of blowing hot and cold bullying got to me.

So money had nothing to do with it. Means I never got paid, but it also meant it was quick to walk away from.

Bookwitch bites #141

I was sad to learn that Barrington Stoke’s MD Mairi Kidd has been made redundant. Apart from the effect on Mairi’s personal life, this news makes me want to ask questions. Are times that bad? Is it fair to ask other staff to share her tasks between them? Is the work MDs do so easy to ignore? What will happen to Barrington Stoke now? There has been a lot more noise on social media about this than after your average publishing news, which shows the standing Mairi has enjoyed at the helm of an inspiring company.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her debut book The Girl of Ink & Stars, and writer and illustrator Lizzy Stewart won the Illustrated Books category with There’s a Tiger in the Garden, and Patrice Lawrence’s Orangeboy won the Older Fiction category.

Miaow. Gothenburg library is to get its own resident cat. Astrid. Or not. Seems it was merely an April fool thing, which is just as well, as I and many others could foresee problems with this lovely idea. I know it is meant to be good for people and it will lower your blood pressure and you’ll be much happier and all that. But I have often wondered what it’s like for those who are not too keen on pets. While some people are busy feeling better for the presence of the new cat/dog/ferret, it’s not only those who are allergic who might suffer. It could be that after enough time anyone would get so used to the pet that all our blood pressures become just perfect. Or maybe the pressure rises as your level of fear shoots up?

And while we are on the subject of Astrid, this year’s winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is Wolf Erlbruch, ‘a German illustrator and picturebook author. He is best known for his illustrations of The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business, which became a great success around the world. Wolf Erlbruch has written some ten books of his own and illustrated nearly fifty titles by other authors.’

Congratulations to Wolf!

Bookbug and the Bookwitch

You know it’s bad when you spy someone like Ross Collins across the room, and instead of scurrying over to say hello, you remain seated, because you’re so knackered that nothing will make you give up sitting, now that you have bagged a chair. (Not literally, I hasten to add. I have every reason to believe the chair is still at the National Library of Scotland.)

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2017

It was the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize last night, and despite my home town throwing heavy-ish snow at me, I made it to Edinburgh, where they had no snow at all.

All three shortlisted authors were there, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Nick Sharratt. There was mingling – or there was sitting on a chair, in my case – over wine/specially ordered tap water for me – and canapés. The nice men who were offering round the eats almost became my bffs through their sheer insistence that I have another one. And another one.

Bookbug mingling

Spoke to a very nice librarian who had come much farther than I had, and also through snow. We talked about how wonderful it is that all P1 children in Scotland have been given their own copies of all three shortlisted books. She asked which was my favourite (none of this bland ‘have you read any of them?’), and luckily we agreed on which one was best (out of three very good books).

Nick Sharratt, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Bookbug

Then there were speeches, and after that the prizes were handed out, with Nick Sharratt being the overall winner with Shark in the Park on a Windy Day. Bookbug himself arrived and seemed really pleased to see us. Nick had to make a speech, which he claimed made him nervous. He did well.

Nick Sharratt, Ross Collins, Bookbug and Alison Murray

Vivian French was in the audience, and I made a special point of going over to introduce myself after all these years. She’s not so scary after all.

Balancing a small container of lettuce and prawns with tiny plastic spoon, I made my way over to Ross Collins, who I’ve emailed with but never met. He took my presence well, and he could chat while holding not only his own prawn thing but a glass of wine and his prize and an envelope which he hoped contained money…

As I did my last turn round the room I happened upon Scottish Booktrust’s strawberry milkshake Beth, so we chatted about her next book van passenger, who just happens to be Nick Sharratt, who will be driven to Liverpool. Where, he told me when I caught up with him, he’s never been. ‘My nice librarian’ got to him first, and had her photo taken with Nick, who was wearing an arty combination of three-piece tweed suit with orange tie.

Nick Sharratt and librarian

After this I Cinderella-ed myself away, since the trains still are doing inconvenient things like not running late enough. Walked past my cathedral which, even if I say so myself, looked splendid in the dark, with the moon hanging over its shoulder.

St Giles' Cathedral

And there was still far too much frozen snow when I got home.

Nick Sharratt and Aoife (3) read Shark in the Park on a Windy day

Treasure your library

It’s not new, this idea of saving libraries. People are working hard to prevent closures, or this idea of ‘merely’ giving the school librarian the sack, leaving the books to look after themselves. Lots of authors, and others, were out marching a couple of weeks ago in London. I wish I could have been there.

And then there was this open letter during the week from Chris Riddell and Malorie Blackman and all the other former laureates, to save our libraries. I don’t feel that this should even have to be on the to-do list for children’s laureates, past or present. The threat should not be there.

Yesterday I mentioned the effect of libraries on a couple of authors, one of whom won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize this week. Alex Wheatle’s obvious joy on winning, and his totally unrehearsed speech on how the library [in Brixton] made him who he is, was very moving.

Whether we blame national government who really could shift spending money from weapons to libraries, or the local councils who are financially squeezed everywhere and ‘must’ save, is a matter of opinion.

Halmstad Library

Melvin Burgess BH library

But it shouldn’t be like in my former home town in Sweden, which has a lovely, newly built library, where clearly no expense was spared, which now has problems with vandalism. Mindless teen gangs come in – maybe because they are bored – and they are rowdy and they break things [toilets, for instance] and generally disturb the users of the library, forcing staff to call in security.

It seems they are now trying ‘youth leaders’ and they will hopefully have a positive effect. Or, they could try putting books by Melvin Burgess [see yesterday’s post] in their hands and making them read.

Let’s hope it’s not too late. I don’t have much hope, but let’s hope anyway.