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!
I’ve been admiring other people’s Blind Date with a Book displays for a while now and finally got around to doing my own for February. Our customers have been intrigued by it and I’ve had to wrap up more and more books to keep filling the display, so that’s a sign of success! Even better is that it’s given us another good excuse to chat with people about books.
In true library tradition I used packing paper from our new book deliveries, cut out a red heart for each one and wrote three words or phrases to summarise each book. I copied the format from Moorhead Public Library in Minnesota, so many thanks!
Other Valentine’s Day displays I like:
- Fall in Love with a Good Book (schoollibrarydisplays.blogspot.co.uk)
- Library Book Display: Valentine’s Day (thedoor2doorlibrarian.com))
- Made for Each Other (schoollibrarydisplays.blogspot.co.uk)
- Valentine’s Day at the Library (brinoahslittleworld.blogspot.co.uk)
- Words from the Heart (aglasshalf-full.com)
The wonderful Lemony Snicket has launched a new annual prize worth $3,000 to ”a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact”. He says, “This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees.” He thinks we’ve suffered enough and deserve to be rewarded.
I love him.
When I opened a box of new children’s books last week, the first one I picked up was From Burglar to Football Star by Ian Whybrow, but what I noticed first was the big sign in the top right hand corner saying Books for Boys. I was a bit shocked because it seemed so out-dated and simply wrong to label a book like this (I know its a series title, but I still don’t like it). Lately there’s been a lot in the media about how shops such as Boots, Marks and Spencer, Toys R Us and Debenhams have removed the boys and girls labels from their toys, thanks largely to the Mumsnet campaign, but it seems there’s still a bit of a problem with books.
In our library we’re careful not to have separate sections for boys and girls books but I have seen several public libraries that still divide their fiction like this. Most schools and libraries are aware of the problems this creates and see that it’s important for children to have the full range of books open to them so that they can develop into confident and enthusiastic readers. But many publishers are still happy to churn out the stereotyped book covers because they’re most interested in sales and they know that these covers sell books. It’s less of a problem for girls because it’s more socially acceptable for them to read books aimed at boys but few boys are going to be confident enough to read “girly” ones.
David Lomax, a teacher, writes
We’re still having troubles getting boys to read. I can turn an open-minded boy onto reading with Cormac McCarthy, Cory Doctorow or Christopher Barzak – but if that boy goes into a bookstore and sees what he thinks of as all girls books on the displays, he may not stick around…Librarians are often my solution. The good school librarians and public librarians are always ready to listen to what someone last enjoyed and figure out what they’d like next.
These habits can stick and lead to men reading only male authors and women reading only female ones. On University Challenge a few weeks ago Jeremy Paxman asked the brilliant (all male) Southampton team three questions about the Orange Prize for Fiction. They admitted they had no idea and seemed never to have heard of Barbara Kingsolver, Rose Tremain or Carol Shields. Paxman looked shocked and said, “There really is a divide in reading, isn’t there?”
- Girl book/boy book (davidlomax.wordpress.com)
- Books for Boys and Books for Girls: Problems with Gendered Reading (bookriot.com)
- Gender Equality and Picture Books (thinkbannedthoughts.wordpress.com)
- Why don’t men read books written by women? (wnblog.co.uk)
We always like to show off some of our hobby books at New Year and try to encourage people to borrow some non-fiction for a change. Cookery and gardening books are the only ones that are really popular at Langley, so this year I picked out some of the more unusual new books from the catalogue and ordered several from different branch libraries.
As a result we’ve managed to display books on diva dogs, British canals, cryptic crosswords, chair yoga, bee-keeping, customising your clothes, aquaponic gardening, paper crafts, ballroom dancing and camper vans!