Tag Archives: Library

Pupil Library Assistants

The other night I had a dream about one of the pupil library helpers at Offspring’s secondary school. It was probably the effect of reading about the finalists of this year’s Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award. They went to London last week for an Award Ceremony, which involved lots of authors and librarians. And at the end they marched over to Downing Street to let Theresa May know what they think is important about libraries. (I suspect she has no idea.)

I’d have loved to have been there.

As I said, Offspring did this kind of thing, back in the day. I was so keen on the whole library thing that I joined them there. Hence me knowing other library helpers I can dream about.

I think we all enjoyed it. At first I was taken aback when I discovered Son joining up immediately on arriving at his new school. I didn’t disapprove; I was just not expecting it. Younger siblings clearly need to follow in the footsteps of older ones, so Daughter went along on her first day. And I doubt Bookwitch as you know her would have existed without that school library.

There was one fail, though. When asked if I could suggest any new helpers, I came up with the sister of one of Daughter’s peers from primary school. I felt she’d be perfect. However, she’d got to the stage where she needed to be cool, and the library wasn’t cool, so she declined. I think she’d have fitted in well, so it’s a shame that peer pressure can take you away from books.

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One man’s rubbish…

By now you have probably seen the article[s] about the Ankara rubbish men who began collecting books for a library for themselves. I find that re-reading the story does not make it any less interesting. In fact, it would seem I have something in common with these Turkish men; we like the idea of having lots of books at our disposal, and we can’t bear getting rid of books by just chucking them away.

What’s fascinating is how many they were able to pick up for their collection/library. The books can’t have been in too bad a condition or so desperately boring that no one would want to read them.

I know very little about Turkey, so one of my potentially prejudiced views would be that they are so poor that they are happy with any old book found. But then, there were clearly many people throwing books away. And the library they built seems to have been sanctioned by the mayor in their municipality. And surely there wouldn’t be teachers clamouring to borrow books for their schools if they weren’t worth reading? Although teachers needing to ask for formerly thrown-away books suggests there are few funds for books by other routes.

I look at my own books, which I attempt to dispose of as sensibly as I can. How nice it would be if the Ankara men could inspire others in my neighbourhood to do the same. A kind of larger version of the Little Libraries you might have outside your house.

But then, we have libraries in Scotland. For how much longer, I don’t know. At that point maybe my cast-offs will be more welcome. I look at my books every day, thinking that someone not too far away would really like ‘this book’ and my main problem is finding that someone.

Maybe a small shed on my drive? You know, halfway between a Little Library and actually inviting people into my house. I’m still too unsociable to be able to do that.

While I’m vacillating, doing nothing, I’m in awe of these people in Turkey who seem to actively like the books they’ve found.

They’re all women!

They all seemed to be women. Or perhaps I merely happened to choose Book Week Scotland events that featured women. I picked what interested me, and what was nearby enough to be doable, and at times convenient to me.

Four events, though, and a total of nine women speaking at them. Only the last one, about gender violence, had a subject that determined who was likely to be taking part.

The audiences were slightly different. For Mary Queen of Scots there were three men. The gender violence had one man in the audience for part of it, one man to operate Skype (!) and one man who seemed to be working in the room where we sat. Several men for both Lin Anderson and the autism discussion, while still being in a minority.

Three events were during daytime, but that doesn’t explain the lack of men, when the women were mostly well past 70.

Do they read less, or are they not interested in events? Or do they go to the ones with men talking? (I’d have been happy to see Chris Brookmyre, but he didn’t come this way, or James Oswald, but he was sold out.)

Anyway, whatever the answer to that is, over on Swedish Bookwitch we have women today. My interview with Maria Turtschaninoff is live, and it’s mostly – just about entirely, actually – about women. And it’s in Swedish. Sorry about that. (Translation will follow.)

Mary, Queen of Scots – Revered, reviled

The Resident IT Consultant and your witch had been wondering who on earth would come to a book event at a branch library on a Tuesday morning. Even if it was Alex Nye and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Well, let me tell you; countless elderly ladies, interested in Mary, in history and most likely quite keen on some culture to liven up their day, at a time when it’s easier to get out. St Ninian’s library was ready for business at 10.30, standing by with fresh coffee and enough room for wheelchairs and zimmer frames and the odd, self-balancing stick. Not to mention an ignorant Bookwitch. The man seated in front of the Resident IT Consultant turned round and said he was so glad he wasn’t the only man in the room…

Self-balancing stick

In other news, there was barely a copy of Alex’s book – For My Sins – available to buy, because it’s out of print, and will only be in he shops again tomorrow. Alex had a few copies, which she brought, but at least that’s success, even if it would have been nice to see a roaring trade in Mary.

I hadn’t even heard it all before. This can be a problem when going to more than one event for a book, but Alex varied what she said, so it was almost like it was brand new.

Alex Nye

She set the scene by describing the snow-covered Stirling castle (we’d had one just like it three days earlier), with Mary getting ready for the christening of her baby son James. Alex read a bit from that part of the book, finishing with Darnley’s sudden departure for Glasgow (which presumably had him ride right past the library, seeing as it’s virtually on the Glasgow Road).

Alex Nye

We heard how Alex began the book in her early twenties, in her ‘garret’ in Buccleuch Street in Edinburgh, and how it was eventually discovered by publisher Clare Cain and made into what we all agreed was an attractive book (even if it did sell too well), looking as though it had just escaped from a fire.

Alex Nye, For My Sins

And when it came to questions, the assembled ladies had more and better questions than I’ve heard at other events. They know their Scottish history, and they care about it.

Maybe have more daytime events like this?

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 

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.