“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.
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!
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:
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!