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.
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)
Like most public libraries, we divide our fiction books into several genres, so that people can easily find the sort of books they enjoy most, making the experience more like browsing in a bookshop. I have mixed feelings about this as I think it stops people trying different sorts of books but I’m coming round to the idea more and more as I can see customers like it and it definitely boosts our borrowing figures.
Crime is one of our most popular sections and a few months ago we created a sub-section for cosy crime. We weeded the crime books to create more space to display front-facing books and picked out the cosy books to shelve in their own bays. The whole crime section now looks much more attractive and it means that people who like the medieval mysteries of Peter Tremayne may now try those of Ariana Franklin or even be tempted by the modern Agatha Raisin books by MC Beaton. So, in a way it is encouraging wider reading.
I still hate that the general fiction books (i.e. the ones we haven’t slotted into genres) are so neglected but it’s partly our fault as we’ve put them at the back of the library and few people seem to get further than the crime, saga and romance shelves! I’d really like to get people borrowing these books but I’m not sure how best to do it. Should we rearrange the whole library? Mix the sagas in with the general fiction? Any suggestions?
Photo from Look after each other!
Local author, Marilyn L Rice, has written a lovely account of Monday afternoon tea at Langley Library in her blog, Look after each other!. The weekly afternoon tea (with Marilyn’s homemade cakes) for over 55s is one of our most popular regular events and is typical of the things happening in local libraries nowadays. These community events get people into the library, making libraries important places in their lives and it’s good that library services emphasise their importance. But we’ve got to be careful not to lose our unique look and feel in the drive to save money by sharing our buildings. It’s great to have spaces large enough for community rooms but look at those books surrounding the women in the picture – it’s not surprising that they talk about what they’ve been reading and all leave with piles of books in their arms! Having children’s activities in rooms full of books has the same effect (with its impact on literacy and attitudes to reading) – you won’t get the same inspiration and atmosphere in a typical community room, however bright and beautiful it is.
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.
This year’s Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge was very popular and I loved the spooky theme but the one problem was it all happened too near Halloween. Now October’s here libraries start thinking about Halloween displays but I don’t want to get the same creepy books out again yet so I’m going to try and get the kids thinking about their top tens of various book characters. I’ve started with a simple “Which witch do you like best?” and I’ll probably add “Twit twoo’s your favourite owl?” and maybe “Ghoul be the scariest ghoul?” You can tell I enjoy my work.
We love top tens in our family and my children never disappoint me – Jack’s always happy to tell me that Monica is the Friend he fancies most and Tess, when very young, once referred to her third favourite dead dog!
We all know that reading for pleasure improves your vocabulary but research by the Institute of Education, London University, shows that it helps children with other subjects as well, because having a wider vocabulary means they find it easier to take in new ideas and concepts. I thought this was a really good message to get across in the children’s library, so I made a simple display – probably aimed more at the parents than the children!