Let children choose their own books (part 2)

“If it hasn’t got any words in it, you’re not having it!”

My sister Mary and I overheard a mother saying this at Woking Library a couple of weeks ago and we just looked at each other and sighed. Should we have said something, or would that have just put her off libraries all together? If I’d been at work I’d have laughed and told the woman how good the book was but as a visitor I didn’t feel I could say anything.

Michael Rosen talks about helping children understand what they are asked to read and suggests you “Take children to a library and encourage them to borrow anything that they want. Keep doing it.” Perhaps libraries should have signs telling people to let children choose their own books?

I must say how impressed I was with Woking Library! It’s like a fantastic book shop with the emphasis definitely on books, unlike many newly refurbished libraries I’ve seen. I chatted with some really friendly staff and picked up loads of ideas I’d like to use at Langley.

 

Sergeant Stubby and the brave dogs of World War 1

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I chose brave dogs for the World War 1 Centenary display in the children’s library, having read the story of the heroic Sergeant Stubby on the BBC Schools web site.

Stubby was an amazing American dog who took part in battles, saved soldiers from gas attacks and captured a German spy. The soldiers loved him so much that when he was injured he was treated in a human hospital! They made him an unofficial sergeant and he became the most decorated war dog ever and somehow, reading about how the soldiers responded to him makes it easier to relate to the men themselves.

The BBC Schools site has loads of information about how dogs and other animals helped in the war – highly recommended for simple but interesting displays.

My gorgeous dog, Zelda, died recently and this felt like a personal tribute to her!

 

Holiday reading display – I do like to be beside the seaside!

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I hate the term “beach reads” – it seems to suggest that our taste in books goes downhill as soon as we go on holiday! So there’s no mention of a beach in our July display, just a couple of buckets and spades, some nostalgic seaside posters and words from the 1907 song:

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
“Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”

Public libraries and tourism

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Public libraries should make more effort to sell themselves to tourists. On a recent holiday in the Lake District, I visited Cockermouth Library and found it really easy to register as a visitor, borrow books and use the computers. Many people know they can access their email at any library but I don’t think many would think they could borrow books if they were only staying for a short time.

One of the arguments for taking a kindle on holiday is that it saves you taking a pile of books away with you, but it’s much more fun to borrow some from a local library, especially if you have children to entertain in the rain. You could even borrow one of Wainwright’s fantastic walking guides (Tom and I climbed several hills with him, including Cat Bells, “not quite so innocuous as is usually thought, and grandmothers and infants should have a care as they romp around”). Local libraries usually have a good selection of novels set in the area as well, which make good holiday reading (I’d taken William Boyd’s James Bond novel Solo, which I enjoyed, but it didn’t feel quite right in Cumbria).

The Black Country is nothing like the Lake District but we do have visitors researching ancestors who once worked in the local mines and factories and they often call into the library to look at local history books and maps and talk to us about their families. They’re always surprised to find they can actually take books away with them (you don’t have to have a local address to use a public library) and that’s probably because public libraries don’t advertise the fact!

Times have changed. The emphasis is no longer on safeguarding our books at all costs – most people are honest and we’d much rather have people visiting our libraries and enjoying the wonderful selection of books there.

Our public libraries are great assets and our tourist boards should be using them to attract visitors. (Not just as places to get local information but as places to borrow books and entertain children.) When I next stay in a holiday cottage or hotel, I’d like to see a brochure about the local public library, and if there isn’t one, I’ll add one myself!

 

Escape the World Cup – go for a picnic with a good book!

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Not everyone loves football but everyone loves a picnic so I used an old picnic basket and filled it with books and a jug of artificial flowers for our latest display. The Please Take a Book! signs are working as people have actually taken books out of the basket, which is very brave. How tempting to take a snack, blanket, cushion and good book down to the park!

Books for people with dementia

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My Mum has Alzheimer’s. About a year ago I borrowed some Pictures to Share books that had just come into the library and took them to her thinking that she might like to have a look at them, although she hadn’t looked at a magazine or newspaper for months.

Straight away she wanted to hold the books and turn the pages and we spent a lovely half hour looking at the pictures. She read some of the words aloud and said something about nearly every picture. She really liked the garden book, especially the photos of birds, and she talked about the clothes people wore in some of the old photos and paintings. I enjoyed the books too, which are beautiful, and it was probably the best half hour I’d spent with Mum for a long time. My sisters and I bought her some of the books so we could share them with her more often.

Mum’s Alzheimer’s has got a lot worse since then and she recently moved into a care home but she still looks at the books and they help us enjoy our time with her, as well as giving her some simple, lovely things to look at.

This week is Dementia Awareness Week and lots of libraries are hosting events to support people with dementia and their carers. At Langley we have a display of the picture books,  together with a few words about how I’ve shared them with Mum.

Library books for teenagers or young adults?

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We have a Divergent display at the moment near the entrance and although I haven’t actually seen anyone take a book from it, I had to replace a couple the other day so I was very pleased!

I’m trying to get people to borrow more of our teenage books but it’s difficult. The Teenage section is tucked away in the computer room, which doesn’t help, and should we change the name to Young Adult? There’s a big crossover with other books in the library and the Dark Romance section is very popular, so perhaps some of the teenage books should be promoted by genre rather than by age? Or perhaps Young Adult e-books are the answer – I love the graphics on another library blog (the inspiration for this display).