It’s easy to ignore books none of the library staff reads but Chick Lit is popular (and I’m a big fan of Bridget Jones!) so I thought it deserved a bit of promotion for a change. It’s an awful name for a genre and (as I’ve mentioned before) I hate the way books are marketed to men/women or girls/boys. I’m hoping the “chick” pun and the “spring” display will distract people from the “feminine” covers and perhaps encourage some men to try the books, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking? I copied the display idea from the Oakridge branch of Vancouver Public Library, but avoided the pink background.
This week the British Museum opens its newly refurbished gallery devoted to the Sutton Hoo treasure and Europe 300-1100 AD. The wonderful jewels and artefacts have been removed from their ill-lit, overcrowded display cases and visitors can now see them in their full glory. There’s even a re-branding exercise going on – the Dark Ages are now referred to as the early Middle Ages or the early medieval period, to make people realise that the Brits didn’t suddenly turn into Barbarians as soon as the Romans left!
You’re probably thinking that the average small public library has little in common with the mighty British Museum, but we do have our treasures and we’re not always very good at presenting and re-branding them. In Sandwell each library has a stock champion who meets the other champions regularly, to come up with and share new ideas for promoting our stock. Recently, Lilah (Langley’s champion) ordered all the old, out of print Marion Chesney books that had been lying in reserve stock for years and created an MC Beaton display. Beaton is the very popular author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth books, but originally she wrote under the name Marion Chesney (her earlier books are now being re-published but many are still only available as e-books). She has re-branded herself as an author and Lilah has unearthed these little treasures. Not quite the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, but an example of how we can offer something slightly different to people.
The Top 10 most borrowed children’s authors published by the UK Public Lending Right (PLR) contain few surprises. The top author is Daisy Meadows, the group of authors who write the Rainbow Magic series, helped by the sheer number of books they write. Roald Dahl is still going strong at number 7 and Enid Blyton is just outside the Top 10 at number 13 (she’s not popular in our library, despite my best efforts, so I was surprised to see her so high).
The list is a little out of date by the time it’s published, covering July 2012 to June 2013, so I’d expect David Walliams to be up there next year – his books are really popular and several adults have been borrowing them as well, having enjoyed the television adaptations over Christmas.
The list actually makes an attractive, colourful display in the children’s area but you wouldn’t know it from my dreadful photo, so apologies for that!
Luckily coinciding with some sunny weather at last, I chose gardening books for this month’s non-fiction display and I called it Spring Gardens, rather than Spring Gardening, to encourage armchair gardeners to pick up a book as well. We’ve had some gorgeous new gardening books come into stock recently so this is a good way to showcase them.
Our fairy tale craft session at half term produced some great results! Using kitchen roll tubes, coloured paper and felt tips, the children created some lovely characters, based on the library’s fairy tale books. Then they covered cereal boxes to make little stages on which to act out the stories. A couple of the boys went beyond the books and thought that sharks should get a look in too.
Times are hard for independent bookshops, with fewer than 1,000 now in Britain. But public libraries can still learn a thing or two from them. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath is a wonderful example of how creative some of these shops are.
From there you can purchase a Reading Spa (either a Delightful one for £55 or an Extravagant one for £100) and enjoy a tea or coffee and cake with a bibliotherapist, who will offer you a pile of books especially selected to suit your tastes.
Or you might prefer a Reading Year (Paperback £135 or Hardback £220) and receive eleven books hand-chosen for you throughout the year.
I’m not suggesting that libraries start charging people for similar services but we do a lot of this stuff any way. At Langley, which is small enough for us to get to know a lot of our regular customers, we often recommend particular books we think they’d enjoy, and there are a lot of coffee and cakes around too. But what we’re less good at is marketing this service and we don’t even have a lot of general If you love… then try this information around the library. I’m definitely going to do something about that!
Toronto Public Library has some great book lists, including Read Alikes and Who’s Reading What lists with local celebrities and I also love some of the If you love this… graphics on anotherlibblog.wordpress.com and New Orleans Public Library.
I’d never given bibliotherapy much thought until I read John Crace’s article in the Guardian at the weekend about his meeting with Ella Berthoud, a bibliotherapist or book doctor. Ella listens to John talk about his life and books he has read and then recommends a list of books for him to try – a reading cure.
Listening to people in the library I’m aware that many of them have found comfort in reading, saying that it’s helped them get through difficult times, particularly bereavement. But usually the reading takes the form of escapism and the books most people seem to turn to are romances or thrillers. I can understand this and it would probably be the first thing I’d do in that situation.
But Berthoud talks about “books that offer rewards through the quality of the writing and parallels with the reader’s life”, and this is a different kind of therapy. However, unless you’re in the habit of reading literary novels then it’s going to be harder for you to make the extra mental effort at a difficult time in your life.
The Reading Agency’s new scheme, Reading Well Mood-boosting Books, aims to promote up-lifting titles recommended by readers and reading groups, but when we opened the boxes of new books at work, our first reaction was that they were just the sort of books most of our borrowers wouldn’t like! They are not brightly coloured or obviously cheery books (in fact their covers are nearly all dreary and dull) and it did cross my mind that the library budget could be better spent.
But perhaps I’m missing the point – these are just the kind of books we should be encouraging people to read to boost their moods. So I’m going to try to make a bit of an effort with them and as I’ve read and loved several of them myself (The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers are wonderful novels), it shouldn’t be impossible!