Category Archives: miscellaneous

Communities love their libraries


Isn’t it nice to read an email that makes you smile? Last week Tess’s boyfriend Scott sent me a link to 10 unusual and beautiful public libraries, with stunning photographs of the loveliest buildings. It’s not just the architecture that I love but what the buildings represent to the local people.

Robert Dawson’s libraries show how important a library is to a community and many of them were built by the women who first settled in an area.




It’s a difficult time for Langley Library at the moment. Local newspapers have reported that it’s one of five local libraries at risk and our customers are feeling angry and sad at the possibility of us closing. There’s going to be a public consultation next month and hopefully we’ll know more after that.


The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity

images (4)

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.

Fishy crafts

DSCF0833 (2)

Last Friday in the library, during half term, we made underwater collages by sticking torn bits of coloured paper onto cardboard fish. Luckily, our brilliant volunteer, Ayshea, was there to help as it was so popular we had to run a second session later in the morning. It’s a really simple and fun technique you can apply to any theme.

All you need are:

  • some cardboard fish – 2 per child per hour (I used cereal boxes)
  • small torn pieces of coloured paper, especially patterned pieces, sorted into colours (weekend newspaper magazines are good)
  • PVA glue and paintbrushes (remember to apply glue onto the cardboard and then again over each piece as it’s stuck down)
  • googly eyes
  • blue poster paper for background
  • green paper for weed
  • white paper for bubbles (the children’s excellent suggestion)

Library card design – does it matter?

GetAttachment (2)

My nephew Joe, a graphic designer, is not very impressed with the Surrey library card: “Kids aren’t going to be inspired by this!” (I think it’s quite attractive, although it does look a bit like a National Trust membership card.)

I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps having an attractive card would encourage young people to use libraries more. We could offer people a choice of designs, a bit like when you’re buying a gift card from a shop, but would the cost be too high in these difficult times? A few years ago in Sandwell libraries we were told that we couldn’t use coloured ink for posters or flyers in order to save money, but then someone realised that if we didn’t market ourselves more effectively then we’d end up saving even more money by closing the libraries!

What do you think? Is it worth spending money on library card design? Have you come across a really attractive card? Personally I’d love to see a range of cards with portraits of famous authors or fictional dogs on them!

We need your money: support an unfashionable library!

Prince William is an Aston Villa fan, not because he was born in Birmingham, but because he and his Eton friends chose to support unfashionable football teams, rather than the usual Chelsea or Arsenal. But I’d like to suggest that rich people start thinking about which unfashionable library they’re going to support as well. You don’t need to have a particular link to Sandwell, but perhaps an Etonian West Bromwich Albion fan would like to help its local libraries as well?

My old college, Somerville, regularly asks me for money, and Oxford University is now aiming to raise £3 billion, having reached its original target of £1.25 billion in record time. Oxford needs the money so it can compete with Harvard, Yale and the other Ivy League colleges but Sandwell needs the money so its children can compete with other UK children in education and the job market. If you give our libraries money, you’ll be in a much smaller, more exclusive club than the Oxford donors!

If you decide to give millions to public libraries, make sure your accountant ties the money up well, so the councils don’t spend it on something else or decide that they can give up on their own commitment to libraries. But if you have a smaller amount, you might like to pay for every library in Sandwell to have an annual visit from each the following:

  • a popular children’s author
  • a professional children’s story teller
  • Ronnie Crackers (or some other wonderful children’s entertainer).

Or a new roof for Langley Library, please.

Modern library design – where’s the mystery round the corner?

Yesterday I had a day off and decided to spend half of it in a pretty, very touristy little town not far from here. As always I planned to visit the local library and look for ideas to use in Langley (I love libraries).

It started badly. I popped into a little shop in the middle of town, bought a couple of things I didn’t need and asked where the library was. The young man laughed and said, “It’s right opposite but I don’t know where the entrance is! Afraid I’ve never been in.” I did find the entrance quite easily, although I’d missed it earlier, and the actual building is a beautiful historic one. But inside – what a disappointment!

I can’t say much about the children’s section as it was full of kids with a story and singing going on, which sounded fantastic. But the adult section left me cold. It was very clean and modern, with some low book shelves (they have to be low now for health and safety reasons), a few discreet book displays on small tables and some posters neatly pinned to noticeboards. You could see everything at a glance, which I suppose is meant to happen, but there was nothing to draw you in or tempt you to browse. There was no colour or mystery hiding round a corner. I went upstairs to have a look at the non-fiction but I took one look and walked out again because it was just the same up there!

Now, I know they want people to find things easily, and with fewer and fewer staff, that’s important, but don’t they realise that we want a bit of anticipation and adventure too? Garden designers are always talking about hiding things behind hedges to entice visitors to walk further and further into their gardens, so shouldn’t libraries be doing the same?

A lot of modern libraries manage to create beautiful, intriguing spaces with clean lines and fresh colour, so it can be done. It’s just that when it doesn’t work, you end up with a depressing place that nobody wants to visit.

Community Garden Party at Langley Library (with massive secondhand book sale)

Everyone welcome! On Saturday 14 September it’s our annual Community Garden Party and we’re hoping for good weather! It’s a chance for everyone to get together and enjoy live music, birds of prey, craft stalls and of course, Marilyn’s fantastic homemade cakes! The children will collect their goodie bags as rewards for completing this year’s Summer Reading Challenge and we’ll be selling hundreds of books we’ve had to take off the shelves to make room for all the lovely new ones. (Most libraries sell off their books throughout the year and they’re great places to find secondhand bargains.)