Tag Archives: Library

Ankh water

Ankh water

I overlooked this bottle the other week, as I carefully photographed everything that was in my Terry Pratchett partybag.

I was extremely thirsty that evening, but this bottle of Ankh water was safe from me. I’m not sure I can ever drink it. One, it’s a precious memento. Two, is it safe to drink Ankh water?

Surely it’s a fairly questionable substance? So on balance I reckon it will be better for it to grace some surface or other at Bookwitch Towers, and I can smile at it as I swoosh past. It’s got a reasonable date, after all.

And to return to harping on about libraries, I know I forgot to mention the Beaconsfield library two weeks ago. They have decided they want a plaque outside in Terry’s memory. After all, it’s the place he reckoned he learned the most in, having little respect for his secondary school.

Aren’t we glad Terry had his library to go to? Would we have had any of his books if he’d been stuck with school learning only? (Well, maybe. Apparently some of his teachers became Discworld characters. But still. Libraries rock. Apart from the Stockport librarian who felt Terry was unsuitable for children.)

Stirling goings-on

The Bookbug Week‘s flagship event will this year take place only a mile or so away from Bookwitch Towers. Scottish Book Trust’s annual book week for young readers runs from May 16th for a week, kicking off at Bannockburn with a day of, I think, poetry and stuff.

Bookbug

The rest of the programme happens all over Scotland, and the theme this year is international. Songs and rhymes from around the world.

This tallies with what you find in the programme for Stirling’s own Off the Page where, surprisingly, they offer both a German Bookbug session, as well as a bilingual event or two.

You can also do colouring in and design your own coat of arms, along with attending a teddy bear’s picnic. At the other end of the age scale (or so I imagine) is a vintage reminiscence tea party, which sounds really very nice. Except I hope I am not old enough for that sort of thing yet.

Somewhere there are dragons.

In schools (they have all the luck!) you might find Chae Strathie, Janis Mackay, Kirkland Ciccone, Alex Nye, Ross MacKenzie and Mairi Hedderwick.

But despair not, Mairi Hedderwick is also doing a public event. Maybe even two. This ten-day long festival starts on May 6th, and other public children’s events offer Lari Don and Nick Sharratt.

Helen MacKinven, whom I met at Yay!YA+ last week is also doing an event. As are several of the big names in Scottish crime, such as Lin Anderson, Helen Fitzgerald, Denise Mina and Caro Ramsay.

There are many more events and many more authors. And much upset on my part because I will not be going to any of these… The more attractive the event, the less convenient the date (for me).

The ability to read

Toby in Tony Bradman’s The Boy and the Globe was able to read. He was young, and an orphan, and so desperate he took up a [short] life of crime in order to eat. But he could read.

He got enjoyment from a book one of the other thieves accidentally stole, and Toby helped this boy, purely by being able to read. And when they ended up thieving at the Globe, it was the reading that eventually got him his better job, as an actor, as a friend of Shakespeare’s, and more.

Ned in Mary Hoffman’s Shakespeare’s Ghost could also read, as could the young girl who wanted to marry him. Both were poor, and Ned was an orphan like Toby. He couldn’t have done his acting without being literate. Or maybe he could, but it would have been much harder.

Set in a period when I suspect most normal children, by which I mean not terribly well off, would never learn how to read, this is remarkable. But had they not been able to, the plots for the books they feature in wouldn’t have worked.

It’s probably not just a plot device though. I’d like to think of it as being there to demonstrate to children how well someone can do just because they have this basic skill. A skill that many still don’t have, or not to the degree we’d like them to.

And for all the Government’s harping on about ‘Literacy,’ they are not necessarily helping. Especially not when they remove the places where the children could go to practice and enjoy their reading skills. You know, like libraries.

Toby and Ned got to where they wanted through reading. I assume that’s what the people in power are afraid of.

Gym’ll fix this?

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what exactly a ‘healthy living centre’ might be. Turns out they meant a gym would replace the library at the  Carnegie Library in London. A gym, pardon, a healthy living centre, with a neighbourhood library service.

Sounds fishy to me. I mean, gyms are all well and good, except I ran kicking and screaming away from the one I had a little look at earlier this year. And contrary to what I’d have thought before, it wasn’t the exercise equipment as a possible instrument of torture that didn’t agree with me, but the sheer noise and crush of half-naked people.

I fail to see how you can combine this with a library, even if you abandon the old-fashioned idea of a silent temple for books and reading. I do get that the council needs to save money, and I have no easy solution to what we are facing as far as local services in general are concerned.

Maybe it’s the next thing after wine bars in former banks?

It’s very heartening to know that so many people were able and willing to step in and occupy the Carnegie Library for ten days. Occasionally I wonder if the spirit of 1968 is long gone and whether people would rather go to the gym than read, but clearly not.

Neighbourhood library service means the books stay for as long as they survive, I suppose, with some enthusiastic volunteers taking the place of trained staff, while trying to avoid the nearest cross trainer. And I don’t mean an angry exerciser.

I don’t know how this is going to end. I really don’t, and I don’t just mean the Carnegie, but all libraries. As a child I walked to the library and later I cycled in with my books. That way I had the exercise, and the library had the books, the way it was intended.

Thinking about what libraries can do, I was reminded of the inspiring one in Philip Pullman’s Shadow of the North, where working men could educate themselves.

I expect that’s what they are afraid of. Those politicians we’d be better off without. Wonder how many libraries we could have for the money ‘resting’ in Panamá? It’s not doing much anyway, is it?

In the children’s department

You know when you have to cover for someone else, with little or no prior warning? You sort of know what you are supposed to do, but not quite, and it’s hard to know whether what you encounter is the norm – or not – in that other place.

I have mentioned this Swedish blogger before. She’s a librarian, but doesn’t usually work in the children’s department. Usually.

This time she had to cover, because there was no one else. And how hard can it be?

There was the boy, aged about six, sitting alone, holding a tiny baby. Where was the parent? (Seemingly, toilet visit with yet another small child.)

Noisy impromptu theatre performance from a few children, where the wolf ate both Little Red Riding Hood and at least one princess. Ought the librarian to ask them to be quieter?

Little boy screaming as he fell off the chair behind the information desk. Probably not hurt so much as surprised.

Quiet older children playing board games in the teen corner.

A father on his mobile phone, on speaker phone, talking very loudly.

And then the same father trying to borrow a whole pile of picture books with and for his four-year-old son. The boy expertly showed his useless dad how one checks out books in a library. The dad was certain they’d missed one, but his son said no, showing him the receipt he had printed out, proving that the little boy was right.

I love that!

The librarian fell asleep on the bus home and missed her stop. (You have to be used to these things.)

Bookwitch bites #134

Kathryn Evans’s launch earlier in the week went very well, as I might have mentioned. Books selling out and bookshops being tightly packed and all that. Here is a photo I may have stolen from Candy Gourlay, which shows how happy Kathryn was and how they couldn’t possibly have fitted me in.

Kathryn Evans

On the same day the list of authors taking part in the 2016 Yay! YA+ in Cumbernauld was announced, after organiser Kirkland Ciccone had had me on tenterhooks for a long time. Some I know, some I don’t.

And the programme for Glasgow’s Aye Write! has now been made public, and you can get your tickets very very soon. Please do! They always have so many people coming that I want to go and see, that I have to give myself a stern talking to and remind me that I don’t have the stamina for traipsing to Glasgow all the time. But there is one event I must go to. Have a look through the programme and see if you can work out which one.

It was National Libraries Day yesterday, and the Guardian published love letters to libraries by people such as Meg Rosoff and Ann Cleeves.

The Branford Boase longlist was announced this week, and I have read precisely one of the books on it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… And the odd thing is that even though it’s for first novels, I could swear some of those authors have been around for years. It’s probably just me again, isn’t it? To the list:

Othergirl by Nicole Burstein, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, edited by Penny Thomas (Firefly)
The Bolds by Julian Clary, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press). Illustrations by David Roberts
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster)
Captive by A J Grainger, edited by Elv Moody and Christian Trimmer (Simon & Schuster)
Seed by Lisa Heathfield, edited by Ali Dougal (Egmont)
Deep Water by Lu Hersey, edited by Sarah Stewart (Usborne)
Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House)
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt, edited by Jessica Tarrant (Hachette)
The Next Together by Lauren James, edited by Annalie Grainger (Walker)
The Unlikely Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House). Illustrated by Ross Collins.
Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre, edited by Stella Paskins (Egmont)
The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin, edited by Clare Whitson (Oxford). Illustrated by the author.
Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, edited by Genevieve Herr (Scholastic)
My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons, edited Kirsty Stansfield (Nosy Crow)
Birdy by Jess Vallance, edited by Emma Matthewson (Hot Key Books)
Hamish and the Worldstoppers by Danny Wallace, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster). Illustrated by Jamie Littler
One of Us by Jeannie Waudby, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford edited by Nicholas Lake (HarperCollins)
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, edited by Bella Pearson (David Fickling Books)
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, edited by Alison Dougal and Hannah Sandford (Egmont)

A launch in the dark

I didn’t notice the flamingos in Santa hats as I arrived. Maybe they turned up while I was inside Dunblane library on Thursday evening helping launch Alex Nye’s new book Darker Ends? There would have been room for them as well, but only just. I rarely see libraries this full, so it made for a nice change.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Despite it being a dark and rainy night, and despite Dunblane deciding to have its Christmas market on the very same evening, people flooded to the library. It was Alex’s third launch (for this book), after two large affairs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. And I believe she was planning yet another for the other Dunblane library yesterday.

There’s no stopping some people.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

After wine and crisps and things, and a kind of library quiz for the younger ones, we were plunged into darkness. I’d ‘reserved’ a comfortable seat early on, but many sat on the floor. They were mostly the sort of age where you can sit on the floor. There were a few beanbags as well.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Alex talked about the iceberg of writing. At book festivals you see only the tip of the [author] iceberg, the success and the smiles and everything. Then there is all the bad stuff, the lack of confidence and the uncertainty, the hard work. She knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a writer, and she had a supportive family. But unlike with other jobs where it’s clear what route you have to take to get there, it’s not quite as simple for the wannabe author.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

She won a writing competition at 16 with a story titled A Mould of Flesh, and she still has the book it was printed in. Alex came to Edinburgh, found she loved Scottish history, and wrote a novel about Mary Queen of Scots, which no one wanted. (It is about to become her fourth published book, after Darker Ends.) After some travelling, she returned to Scotland, living on Sheriffmuir, which is where she set her first two novels, Chill and Shiver.

Accompanied by spooky sound effects, Alex talked about the inspiration for Darker Ends, and she read us a couple of excerpts, finishing just as Rory lost his balance in the window…

Alex does a good line in accompanying photos, from childhood pictures of her siblings and the dogs, to the photograph of her and her husband in Glencoe when she’d just discovered the setting for Darker Ends. (Although, if you ask me, they looked more like Daniel Craig and Judi Dench.)

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Her publisher, Clare Cain, had a table groaning under copies of the book, which sold well, and judging by the happy crowds and the fact that they were able to ‘borrow’ the town’s official fireworks and everything, I’d say it went pretty well.

And the flamingos looked nice.

By the time it was too late I realised that I never took a picture of Alex herself, apart from the one in the dark. So you can have these tired guys instead. They had clearly been overwhelmed by all that reading and needed a rest.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library