Tag Archives: books

Paige’s story

I was shy as a child and so I used to escape into the library at primary school at break-time.  The librarian there never failed to fill my arms with books I loved – tales of girls falling back in time, strange new worlds, and anything about misfits of any description. I can still vividly picture the yellow and orange beanbags, the blue-green carpet, the dusty sunshine coming in through the windows.  You can imagine how proud I was eventually to ‘join’ the staff, working at the circulation desk stamping out books for the other children.  The library was my sanctuary and my ticket to a better place, and it still is. From the very start it was an environment that nurtured my lifelong love of reading and writing, which still keeps me sane decades later.

Kate Mosse Opens New Portsmouth Library

International bestselling author Kate Mosse officially opened Portsmouth’s new library today (29 July 2011).

Mosse said: “It’s a great pleasure to open this wonderful new library. Libraries are treasure troves of knowledge, of books, where a love of reading can take root and flourish.

“They belong at the heart of the high street and in a time when the principle of free and fair access to books is under threat in so many parts of the country, this is a wonderful and important statement of how important books are to Southsea and the wider community.”

At a time when many libraries are under the threat of closure, Portsmouth is one of the few councils in the UK to open a new library.

What was once the old Woolworths store on Palmerston Road in Southsea has been transformed into a library, café and customer service centre providing advice and information on a wide range of council services.

With its striking interior, designed by local firm RBA, the building is everything residents can expect from a modern library. This includes thousands of books for adults and young people, free computer and internet access, an IT learning zone, community space for local groups and lots more.

The customer service centre will give residents access to information and advice on a wide range of council services, all under one roof. These include council tax, planning and even waste management.

The cafe will serve a range of coffees served by professionally trained baristas, handmade cakes and even a Woolworths themed pick and mix box for children.

Cllr Lee Hunt, member for culture, leisure and sport said: “At a time when many other councils are having to close libraries, here in Portsmouth we are investing in our library service.”

“The new library is more than just a collection of books. It’s an exciting environment to explore and discover, engage with the council or even just enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of tasty cake.

“I am sure it will become a vibrant, dynamic focal point for the local community.”

Southsea Library

The following messages of support were received from authors, illustrators and celebrities.

John Banville
I send heartfelt congratulations to Portsmouth City Council on its decision to open a new library at Southsea. The library is one of the greatest human inventions, and our libraries must be protected and nourished even in times of financial stress, when they are most needed.

Guy Bass
Ah, Portsmouth ‘n’ Southsea! My home from home, my happy place. Well fought, well earned, well deserved. You felt the wind on your back and cried, in bold defiance, “Eat my new library, so-called financial uncertainty! You’re not the boss of me!” May others follow in your footsteps – and may we all bite our thumbs at those blinkered, lazy duffers-in-power who don’t like libraries ’cause they’ve never bothered to stick their heads through the door and realise there are LOADS OF FREE BOOKS in there. Farewell, Woolworths. Long live Southsea Library!

Alan Bennett
I’m afraid I can’t come to the opening of the new library at Southsea but I send you all my good wishes – and I rejoice that it is an opening and not a closing down! Hurray for the readers – whatever they’re reading! Hurray for the librarians who watch over them! ‘He always has his nose in a book’ people used to say. Thank goodness!

Bill Bryson
I am delighted that Southsea is getting a new library.  The world cannot have too many libraries.

Bernard Cornwell
It’s wonderful that Portsmouth City Council is opening the new library!  Libraries are the most exciting places on the planet – they can lead you to the past, explore the present, suggest the future and take you all across the universe!  Enjoy the new library!

Neil Gaiman
When I was three we lived in Waterlooville, and my grandparents lived in Southsea. I remember the excitement of weekly library visits, the thrill of each new book I’d be allowed to bring home. It gave me a love of books and of learning and of libraries that has continued to this day. I worry that all across the UK libraries are being short-sightedly closed to help balance the books by people who haven’t realised that a library is an investment in the future. I’m delighted that Portsmouth and Southsea are bucking the trend, for us, for our children and for their children.

Tess Gerritsen
Congratulations on your new library!  When I was a child, it was in the local library where I discovered the books that would make me the writer I am today. The library was the whole world under one roof. How lucky I was to have one in my neighbourhood — and what a shame that so many children today aren’t as fortunate. So here’s joyful applause from my side of the pond for your opening. May many generations of readers – and writers – find inspiration within your walls!

Ann Granger
What wonderful news that a new library is opening its doors in Portsmouth shortly. All concerned are to be congratulated on bucking the trend and having faith in books.

North End library (in its previous location) played a big role in my childhood in the city. I haunted its nooks and crannies. The number of books that could be taken out on one ticket was strictly limited in those days. When I had worked my way through the junior shelves, I begged my mother’s ticket of her, and took out extra books on that from the adult section. I always felt, among the volumes, that I was among friends, some I already knew, some sitting there waiting to meet me, and, as with the best friendships, many of those books have remained my friends for life.

Good luck with the new library in every way.

Lilian Harry
What good news to hear that Southsea is opening a brand-new public library. This is incontrovertible proof that libraries are needed and appreciated, no matter where they are, and must surely give heart to all those who are trying so hard to keep their own libraries open. An event that is important, not only to Southsea but to the whole country, and I hope it will not go unrecognised. Hurrah for Southsea!

P.D. James
In these difficult times it is particularly heartening to hear that a local authority proposes to open a new library and I heartily congratulate Portsmouth City Council on the library to be opened in Southsea. When I was a child in Cambridge it was the public library that provided me with most of my reading experience, and I wish this new library every success with local readers of all ages.

Annabel Karmel
I am thrilled to hear about the opening of the Southsea library. The library is such an important place for parents, a place for them to come and get information and support, but also a brilliant place to bring children and introduce them into the magical world of books.

Peter Kay
Well done!

Andy McNab
Fantastic to hear that a new library is opening in Portsmouth. I can’t think of a better way to escape the gloom of the recession than getting lost in a good book. Preferably one of mine!

Michelle Magorian
I was recently standing on a stage in a very large tent in front of 1500 people at the Hay Festival and mentioned a book in the question and answer session that had made an impression on me as a child.

The reason I came to read it was because a young librarian at the Elm Grove Branch library in Southsea encouraged me to broaden my reading. (I was fixated on Enid Blyton and couldn’t find anything I hadn’t read by her.) He had obviously spotted me searching fruitlessly and came over to see if he could help me. He recommended Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. He had obviously spotted that I was a tomboy. It took me a while to get into the slower pace of Arthur Ransome but it not only led me to his other books but it also led me to camping. If I hadn’t read that book I would not, later in life, slept on Mount Snowden in the snow, walked with two other students in the Scottish mountains and lived under canvas in a grapefruit orchard in Israel while helping out on a chicken farm and acting in a television studio in Tel Aviv.

I loved that little library. It was a warm quiet friendly place. I can’t begin to tell you what I owe to the Southsea Library. I hope that the new library will have some of the warmth of the Elm Grove one and that there will be friendly librarians with a wealth of knowledge as well as computers.

I often wonder who that librarian was and if he is still alive. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have been giving a talk in the big tent in Hay!”

Yann Martel
A new library in 2011 in the UK! That is indeed cause for celebration. In times of turmoil and uncertainty, what better refuge than a place where one can read, meet, talk, think, rethink, explore, imagine, renew? These are essential activities in any dynamic society and they are best fostered by open civic institutions such as public libraries. I congratulate Portsmouth City Council on this wise investment in its own people.

Tom Palmer
I think it’s great that you are opening a library in Southsea. I’ve worked in schools around that part of town and I know there is a huge appetite for books. It’s great to see the Portsmouth City Council giving the people what they want. I also think it’s great that the library is being run by the librarians of Portsmouth, who are among the very best librarians in the country.

Jodi Picoult
It is always a joy to see reading being celebrated, instead of being threatened. Best wishes to the new Southsea Library; may you provide years of reading pleasure.

DBC Pierre
Portsmouth is moving forward against the stream, it’s fantastic to hear; and you’ve divined that libraries are much more than mere collections of books. In times when all focus is on economic supply and demand it’s heartening to know that at least one council remembers what makes a community – a heart, mind and soul, somewhere to truly sit among giants and gain perspective. All congratulations to you, and many thanks.

Ruth Rendell
I was delighted to hear that Portsmouth is opening a new library. That is such heartening news in these discouraging times when some county councils are reducing their library numbers by half or more. I am sure Portsmouth will find it has done absolutely the right thing and it will be enormously appreciated by those who rely on their public library for their reading matter. A new library with enthusiastic readers won’t need an accolade from me but still it’s a pleasure to give it. I wish the library every success.

Salman Rushdie
“The opening of this library is terrific news. Many congratulations.”

Nick Sharratt
In this period of shortsighted and hugely damaging forced library closures huge congratulations are due to Portsmouth City Council on the opening of the Southsea library, with all the fantastic benefits it will bring to the local community.

Francesca Simon
It’s always wonderful to hear about a library opening. Libraries are at the heart of any civilized and humane society, and the centre of community life. Everyone, and especially children, deserves free and informed access to books – well done to Portsmouth and congratulations.

Delia Smith
I want to wish you all the best for the new library. Hope you all have a splendid day and issue large numbers of new library cards.

Andy Stanton
Many congratulations on the opening of Southsea library. See you in there sometime, in paper form at least!

Ian Whybrow
Played. Portsmouth!

Here’s a boost for Pompey Pride:
One moment, Woolworths crashes
Next thing – up pops a library –
A phoenix from the ashes!

Three Raaaahs for positive thinking!
And Little Wolf says Arrroooo!
Harry and the Dees love libraries
And that goes for me, too!

Jacqueline Wilson
I’m so thrilled that Southsea is having a splendid new library – especially when so many existing libraries are being closed down. I think libraries are the most important buildings in any community, a source of immense pleasure and learning. Books are always a joyful diversion, a magical way of enriching your life and increasing your knowledge, and a failsafe way of beating boredom. I know that this library will be a warm and welcoming haven and will be excellently and efficiently organised. I hope you all enjoy using it – and the next time I’m near Southsea I shall come and see it for myself.

For more information call 023 9268 8999 or visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/libraries.html

What is a library?

VftL are delighted to present a guest post by C. Horne.

What is a library?  Do you see a municipal red brick building, slightly tatty, maybe a bit unloved, possibly could do with a bit of attention?  When you walk in is the inside rimmed round with shelves all of which are crammed full of battered plastic covered books?  A few computers on some slightly dingy desks in the reference area, looking slightly out of place.  Behind the counter, a member of staff is dealing with a query about an overdue book.

All this is superficial – you aren’t seeing the real library.  Look deeper.

Over in the children’s library are some pushchairs crammed against the wall, their occupants balancing on their parents’ laps – slightly precariously in some cases – ready for the library’s ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ session.  The library assistant is perched in front of them, leading a group sing along to ‘Wind the Bobbin up’.  She has probably done this every week for months, but loves watching the look on the babies faces.  Recently they have been incorporating baby sign language with the bounce and rhyme which has proved to be very successful.

In the reference section a middle aged gentleman is seated at a computer.  He has headphones on and the fingers on his left hand trace over an embossed piece of paper.  The keyboard that his right hand is typing on has brightly coloured plastic keys and he hunts and pecks for the right letters.  It takes a little while, and he often pauses in between periods of typing.  Getting closer a faint voice is audible from the headphones.  It isn’t an audiobook that he is listening to with such concentration, but a screenreader which is enabling him to use the computer.  Under the desk his guide dog shifts position slightly.

A poster on the wall of the library advertises the Young Adult Reading Group which meets on the first Monday of the month.  This month’s book is a title about the different influences on a group of fourteen year old’s lives and how they deal with them – school, family, gangs, friends, drugs, bullies, church..  The author of the book has been invited to come to the library and discuss her book and the poster now bears a large red banner headline – FULL!  The library is planning to start a second YA group.  When the group meets, there will be an assortment of teenagers of all shapes and sizes eager to discuss their interpretation of the hero – or maybe the antihero – of the book, and his influence on the other characters, with the author, to see what she had in mind when she created him.

Another poster with a large image of a book, advertises a reading group with a different theme.  This reading group reads texts with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender theme and meets every fourth Friday of the month.  It is a very popular group and they have a list of titles on their reading list that they plan to read over the next year.  The library is introducing two more books groups from next month due to popular demand – a biography group (which has already had special requests not to read any that are ghost written or by people under thirty – which may limit the market) and a science fiction group.

Of course the library also has the standard book group – which is – as they oddly tend to be – female dominated, reading books that vary from Barbara Kingsolver to Lionel Shriver, Herman Melville to Haruki Murakami.  They sit in a circle, discussing their latest read, what they thought of it, who their favourite characters were, whether the ending was good, bad or indifferent, too abrupt or too drawn out.  Everyone has their own opinion and they aren’t afraid to voice them.  Every year the members of this library’s book group will read a title from the Orange Prize List.  They will discuss their title with other library book groups who have done the same and vote on who should win the Orange Prize.  Sadly their votes have no power over the Orange Prize judges but occasionally – very occasionally – they are right.

The faint murmur coming from the other end of the library shows that it is storytime.  The bounce and rhyme session has ended but the children have settled in to hear the story.  More children join them as it is the school holidays and there is nothing better to do.  It is dry in the library and raining outside, despite the fact that it is meant to be summer.

On the walls of the children’s library are clowns, trapeze artists, elephants, lions –  all types of characters advertising the Circus Stars summer reading challenge.  Children only need to read six or more books and get rewards and incentives if they do so.  Drawings by children and comments about the challenge cover the walls.

In the corner of the children’s library is an area designated ‘Homework’.  This is where the Homework Group meets one evening a week.  As it is the summer holidays, the area is deserted, the PC is unused and the books are neatly displayed on the shelves.  It won’t look like this nearer the end of the holiday when the children start panicking and want assistance to get that essay done for tomorrow…

A lone PC has a banner headline stating that it is only for the use of people looking for community information or the library catalogue.  An elderly woman wanders over to it and sits down, looking rather unsure.  The library assistant nearby walks over and asks if she needs help.  Five minutes later the woman leaves with a page of evening classes for internet use for beginners – helping silver surfers to get online.  A student sits down almost immediately and starts looking for a reference book for their coursework.

Back by the door of the library are more posters advertising community events, dances, homework groups, author visits, book groups…

This is your library

All human life is here.

The Library: A World of Possibilities – Dianne de Las Casas

The Library: A World of Possibilities

By Dianne de Las Casas4-14-11 Dianne de Las Casas at TLA


In the United States, the American Library Association Conference is just starting. At the end of June, thousands of librarians will converge in New Orleans (my home town!) for a packed week of star keynotes (Jeff Kinney, Author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series), professional development sessions, and “The Stacks,” an exhibit hall filled with books, books, and more books. It’s the largest library conference in the U.S. and enthusiasm is high.


Ironically, both public libraries and school libraries in the U.S. face steep budget cuts with libraries being completely eliminated from the public and school sectors. These budgetary woes are affecting public and school libraries in the states of Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio and many other states. Our neighbors across the pond are faring no better.


As a child, I lived and traveled all over the world as the daughter of a Navy jet engine mechanic. In my upper elementary years, I lived in Rota, Spain. There, the school library served as my connection to home and opened up a whole new world for me. I entered the wacky worlds of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Dorrie the Witch, and I discovered my favorite author of all time… Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I became a voracious reader, which is still evident with one look at my nightstand and my office bookshelves.


The library inspired me with its collection of 398.2 (folk and fairy tales) and inspired me to become a writer. I worked as a volunteer storyteller for my local library and have written numerous books published by Libraries Unlimited. Even my latest children’s book is library-inspired: There’s a Dragon in the Library. My ten year old daughter just joined our local library’s summer reading program.


Libraries are magical places that inspire kids to read. They are community hubs, information centers, study halls, meeting places, story time theaters, craft centers, and most importantly, gigantic bookshelves! Show me a literate society and I’ll show you public access to libraries. Don’t close the doors to our world’s libraries. Save our libraries and open up a world of possibilities.


Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author and storyteller who tours internationally presenting programs, educator/librarian training, workshops, and artist residencies. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. She has written 18 books, which include books for children, and professional books for librarians and educators. Her latest children’s book is There’s a Dragon in the Library. Visit her website at www.storyconnection.net, follow her on twitter @storyconnection, and fan her on Facebook www.facebook.com/fanofdianne




“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Matthew’s story

“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”

So said Dwight D. Eisenhower, scourge of Nazis and the 34th President of the United States. I’m quoting him because libraries suddenly seem to have become expendable in the eyes of many local councils, not only in the UK but also America and who knows where else. It feels like a crime that we’re even in this situation, but here we are.

I’m biased, of course, because I’m a reader. One of my very few regrets about learning to drive a few years ago is that I miss out on all the spare reading time presented to me by long bus journies stuck in traffic (that and I’m getting old and so my eroded attention span means that achieving the Fifty Book Challenge this year is looking less likely than it should). Nevertheless, I’m a reader and shall be until I die, probably of blunt force trauma caused by a collapsing To Read Pile taller than me. A lot of that is down to my local library.

See, we used to go there on Fridays after school when I was a kid, working my way through the Thomas the Tank Engine collection, then Asterix and Tintin. The library is also responsible for me getting into Doctor Who; I didn’t watch the TV series so much as read the hardback Target novelisations, I pieced together the history of the show by reading the books out of order and without having any clear idea of how all the different characters fitted together. It helped that I take after my mom, as her side of the family contains most of the readers, and so I guess it’s ironic that my grandmother always had issues with the monsters and aliens in the sort of geeky shows I watched; it was her genes and Doctor Who books that made me a reader. The library just empowered that.

And so I remember avidly reading about all these characters, running to the library to get new stories. I remember one of Thomas’s friends getting stuck in a tunnel, and I think one of the smaller trains had to pull him out…

Asterix and Tintin, on the other hand… Obelix and Captain Haddock were my favourite characters, and Tintin may well have ignited my interest in science fiction with the Destination Moon / Explorers on the Moon duology and the Chariots of the Gods-inspired Flight 714.

And the first book I remember reading obsessively? The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I remember getting through it in a matter of hours, which was a bit of a surprise to my family, who weren’t perhaps used to that sort of speed reading. Again, thank the library.

Libraries have a central place in human civilisation. The Library of Alexandria is almost legendary, although a significant part of that legend is due to the fact that people kept burning it down. Same goes for the House of Wisdom in Baghdad (destroyed by the Mongols in 1258) and the ‘Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars’ policy carried out by China’s Qin dynasty; throughout history, libraries have been considered dangerous by dangerous men. And while its probably unfair to compare that sort of thing to today’s allegedly civic-minded busybodies, the end result is the same – no libraries, reduced access to knowledge, no-one to point the way through a maze of data and information and facts.

Nowadays people don’t tend to be burning down libraries, at least not in Dudley, but they’re under threat. It’s easy to take them for granted, but in a world where we can access a mountain of information with next to no quality filter, librarians should rule. Somewhere along the line, that building full of books has seen the skillsets of the people who work there gain in currency.

An anonymous source once said that “Books are the carriers of civilisation. Without books, history is silent, literature is dumb, science is crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books the development of civilisation would have been impossible. They are the engines of change.” You can argue that it’s the information and artistry contained in those books that matters, moreso than the actual medium, but regardless, libraries, books, information are important – especially when we know what to do with it. When the Dark Ages engulfed Europe, Irish monks saved the literature and learning of Rome and carried it forward, and now public libraries modestly attempt to try something similar, albeit in a world where there’s almost too much information and not enough discernment. In that world, we neglect libraries at our peril.

Matthew Hyde

why i love libraries … in 153 words or less – poem by Richard Pierce

why i love libraries … in 153 words or less
(based on my original poem why I love poetry … in 153 words or less)

because words bound and wrapped
on pages of many colours
sing new voices

because one borrowed book
can be better than thousands
of bought ones

because reading beats hearing
when the words make
their own meaning inside me

because small words can change big things

because the wind and the rain
and love and hate and fear
and tragedy and joy

because the world outside
is so huge and round

because inside each story
there is true greatness
and great truth

because words are the warmth of life

because these sanctuaries
are gateways to the gods
our one chance at wisdom

because faith is a promise
regardless of belief

because each book is
a life-time on its own
a summary of all we can

Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960, and lived in Germany for 11 years to 1974. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he is administrator and trustee for three grant-making charities. His debut novel Dead Men will be published by a major UK publisher in 2012. He is married, has four children, a cat, a Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books he’s still trying to find space for (in addition to all the books he borrows from Stradbroke Library). His web site is www.tettig.com, and can be found on twitter as @tettig. Richard’s story for VftL can be found here

‘Prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age’ – Richard’s story

We measure civilisations by what survives of them.

Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce

After the Holocaust, after genocide, the acts of destruction and barbarism remembered most clearly, despised most deeply are book burnings. In our collective memory they are inextricably linked with intolerance, persecution and massacre.

At the age of fourteen, I moved back to England after having lived in Germany for eleven years and was placed in all the bottom sets at my new school because I spoke strangely, because I exhibited none of the arts of social interaction my school mates had acquired. But I wanted to be educated. I had read Homer and Swift in German – why couldn’t I be allowed to use that knowledge now?

I was desperate to learn French, to be the best in French. So, every day, after school, I went to Doncaster Central Library, took the previous day’s copy of Le Monde from its shelf, sat down at a large, rectangular, melamine-topped table and read. On Day One, I understood less than a third of what I read; by the end of the year, I understood most of it (and fell in love into the bargain, with a girl whose name I never found out, who visited the library every day, too). I went on to study German, French and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, and to spend time in one of the greatest libraries in the world, the University Library.

When, in 2006, we moved from Norway into this tiny village of Stradbroke in Suffolk, we were immensely grateful for the service provided by the library here, to help our children (and us) to become reacquainted with the English language. We are heavy users of our library, one of many libraries threatened with closure by Suffolk County Council. Much of the research for Dead Men, my debut novel to be published in 2012, would have been impossible without the support of the professionals running Stradbroke Library,

We all have the right to educate ourselves. The government has a statutory obligation to allow us to educate ourselves through the provision of a public libraries service. To devise a strategy which forces local councils to close library services is an abdication of responsibility and common sense, and a malicious attack on our rights as individuals, fuelled, to no small extent I surmise, by high-Tory squirism and the desire to suppress the development and free speech of individuals critical of the status quo.

I support the Voices for the Library campaign, because public libraries, especially rural ones, are the only way for many people to access knowledge, to access the Internet to inform themselves, to apply for jobs, to be a part of the world outside; the only way for older people to get hold of affordable, large print books, and to continue to be enveloped by human warmth and friendships they may not find at home, and, in turn, to keep their minds and bodies active for longer without having to find refuge in the (also underfunded) NHS. They are prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age.

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960, and lived in Germany for 11 years to 1974. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he is administrator and trustee for three grant-making charities. His debut novel Dead Men will be published by a major UK publisher in 2012. He is married, has four children, a cat, a Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books he’s still trying to find space for (in addition to all the books he borrows from Stradbroke Library). His web site is www.tettig.com, and can be found on twitter as @tettig.

Costing public library use

I have previously blogged about the value of public libraries to me and my family. A few months ago we set up a new blog listing the books we borrow including their cost, Overdue Books. One of the reasons behind setting up this blog was to show the true cost of the books we borrow. A common argument against the need for public libraries is that books are cheap, why borrow when you can just buy. While some books are relatively cheap and while there is lots of material free online to read this doesn’t mean its the type of material I want to read or introduce my young children too. I am also in the fortunate postion to be able to afford to buy some books and have online access, however this is not the case for everyone.
Overdue Books is keeping a count of all the books we borrow from the library including costs where possible, a blog post ‘counting the cost’ has technical details on how this has been done. In under 2 years if we had bought all the books we borrowed from the library we would have spent an estimated £3400, this works out roughly as a book habit of £150 a month, definitely not something we could afford.
Our young son is the biggest user of the library in terms of number of books he borrow. I think having such a wealth and variety of books is a huge benefit in terms of his development, use of imagination, his language skills etc. Not something you can add a value to.
He is able to choose from, what I recognise, as a good and appropiate collection of material far superior to what you would find in many bookshops. While online bookstores have a much wider range of stock he is too young to successfully browse and select items also there would be the cost of purchase, which as I previoulsy mentioned would be too prohibitive .
I have been interested to see my son’s use of the library and acknowledge that it is much more than just borrowing books. He has learned a sense of community and sharing, knowing he needs to return the books so other people can have a chance to borrow them as well. The freedom to borrow any material without any consequences such as cost, means he can be adventurous in his reading, if he doesn’t like it he can just return it. The library also provides a safe environment where he meets other children and parents as well as the opportunity to take part in some of the activities run by the library.
The borough where we live, Warwickshire is currently running a 12 week consultation  from March 18  until June 9 as the council is planning budget cuts of approx 27% over the next 3 years to the library and information service. These cuts include the closure of a number of libraries. From completing the consultation document I was left a little unclear as to what impact the consultation will have considering it seems like the decision to close the libraries has already been made. The tone of the document made me think the purpose of the consultation was mainly to see if anyone else wanted to take over the running of these libraries. Personally I have concerns about community run libraries in terms of their sustainabilty to in maintaing standards.
It is really disheartening to see that many local authorities across the UK are looking to close libraries as part of their cost cutting measures. We recently had a new addition to the family and is already a member of our public library, I do hope for the sake of future generations we do not lose something as valuable as our public libraries as without them it would be a poorer society.



Library card

Damyanti Patel

Valuing Public Libraries

Birmingham Public Library

I attended a debate last year run jointly by the Birmingham Salon and CILIP West Midlands about‘What Libraries are for’. It was an interesting evening and I really enjoyed hearing peoples views on libraries, whether they should be a quiet sanctuary, hired space for communities, running vegetable contests, space to inspire learning etc.

It also got me thinking about what public libraries mean to me and in particular it’s the aspect of social inclusion that really appeals.

During the debate there were numerous mentions of ebooks and ebook readers & their impact on the library. Personally I am not sure how much of a driver this is to re-invent the library, while these are available they are still not accessible to everyone unlike a public library. I do use my phone for reading but that hasn’t replaced all my print books and I don’t imagine it will do for some time. Someone raised the point of ‘are libraries just a warehouse of books or a space to inspire learning’. As the book industry evolves and new technologies arise I think it offers libraries more opportunities to evolve services and continue to provide access to information.

Another  key point that was raised during the debate was the about the library being a service not a building. This made me wonder whether success is still being measured through footfall of the physical space as libraries continue widen access further and deliver services out to communities as well as providing the information to your desktop.

From a personal point of view I have always been a keen user of public libraries, they have & continue to provide me with information, resources, the space etc. As a child libraries gave me the opportunity to indulge in my love of reading which in turn led me to aspire to learn more, become educated, go to university, find a profession. Libraries helped me level the playing field providing me with the same opportunities as others.

Looking back I have been regularly using public libraries at least once a month over the last 20 years and really appreciate the chance to discover new authors, new recipes to try, indulge in my aspiration to be creative through numerous self help and guide books.  I have enjoyed seeing collections evolve, introduction of multi-media, e-resources, PCs, integration of local services etc. In many cases some have been more successful than others but I have always appreciated the efforts to keep the marvellous public service alive in times of clear under investment and resource.

I now have a little boy who we’ve taken to the library since he was a week old. While we are fortunate to be able to provide him with a collection of books at home, we could never match what is available in the library. Its great to see his evolving use of the library, from crawling to the box to throw books out to beginning to look through and choose himself and now even tentatively foray into the non-fiction. He loves having the choice to try things out, see if its interests him find out about what he likes and dislikes.

A key word that continues to keep coming back to me with public libraries is the opportunities they provide to help people fill their potential.

Damyanti Patel

‘You can’t cuddle up with a Kindle’ – Neal Zetter

Poet Neil Zetter has kindly given permission for VftL to publish this poem about his relationship with books – and why he won’t be replacing his book collection with a Kindle

You can’t cuddle up with a Kindle
Like you can cuddle up with a good book
Though it’s high tech and smart
A book is pure art
For all it’s microchip technology
And wireless connectivity
A Kindle is just IT
That can’t replace your paper friend with a heart
You can’t cuddle up with a Kindle

I’m not a Luddite
I willingly embrace the megabyte
But do we really want our bookshops and libraries to disappear from sight
And vanish like the vinyl LP
Left for dead by the MP3
With album covers we gazed at like lovers now history?
Don’t give me plugs, wires and re-chargeable batteries
You can’t cuddle up with a Kindle

A book has
Its own face
A spine
Genuine personality
When you first meet you whiff its wonderful ink
Then hold it tenderly and flick through each page
You display it on the shelf once you’ve read it
And watch it gracefully grow old as its leaves go gold with age
While an e-book just lies lazily on a hard drive
Flat, two-dimensional and never alive
Will our magazines, newspapers, comics and dictionaries survive
While this Kindle continues to thrive?
You can’t cuddle up with a Kindle

Books can carry dedications, inscriptions, indelible memories, e.g.
`To Laura, happy birthday, love Mum and Dad, 2003′
To stay with you forever and ever
And when you’re reading your novel on the train or tube
It’s so cool to be seen together
Then everyone knows that you’ve got taste
And are not just another member of the Kindle clone race
Cuddle a Kindle in public you might get mugged
But you won’t get attacked for the book that you hug
Say it proud
Say it loud
Cause you can’t cuddle up with a Kindle