Tag Archives: children

Patrick Ness, Carnegie 2011 winner, ‘We need to shout even louder for the young readers’

Every year CILIP presents the Carnegie Medal to the writer of an outstanding children’s book. Earlier this month it was awarded to Patrick Ness for “Monsters of Men”, the final book in his Chaos Walking trilogy.

In his acceptance speech he talked about how libraries impacted on his life as he grew up; how they continue to have a positive impact on children today; and he voiced his concerns about the Government’s attitude towards libraries, particularly in relation to the current round of cuts and closures.

Here are some of the highlights from his speech.

I was a hugely unchaperoned reader, and I would wander into my local public library and there sat the world, waiting for me to look at it, to find out about it, to discover who I might be inside it.”

“I owe most of the breadth of my reading to libraries, and particularly to librarians who seemed to know exactly when to recommend and when to look the other way when an eager young reader possibly over-reached.”

“There’s so much proscription in the life of young people, and it’s so vital to have a place that says, look, here are the doors onto the world and amazingly, you’re free to choose any one you like.”

“Knowledge and information – and by which I do very much include the internet – is a forest.  And true, sometimes it’s fun getting lost, sometimes that’s how you learn some surprising things.  But how much more can you discover when someone can point you in the right direction, when someone can maybe give you a map.  When someone can maybe even give you a treasure map, to places you may not have even thought you were allowed to go.  This is what librarians do.”

“We need to shout even louder for the young readers that are threatened by a government which tries to pretend that cutting libraries means they’re not actually cutting libraries, which tries to win votes by claiming that the fact that children should read more books is somehow going to be solved by giving them drastically fewer places to do so.” 

“Now, I do know that ultimately this is only a book award, but for me it’s more than that.  It’s a celebration of all those brilliant young people who – in the face of everything – still find joy in a book.  Still find the world waiting for them in a book.  Still see possible futures and lives and loves and opportunities and hopes and dreams in a book.”

If you’d like to find out more about Patrick Ness and his books his website can be found here.

The importance of promotional activity

We have written often about how statistics often inform (or, more accurately, misinform) council decisions about library closures.  Should a small rural library have a slight dip in visits, councils will subsequently consider it ripe for closure and a great opportunity to save money – regardless of the actual needs of the local communities they serve.  Reliance on visits alone is, as has been demonstrated before, a misleading measure of the service itself.  That said it is not a measure that campaigners should ignore, if anything it should be used to their advantage.  Methods for counting visits aren’t very reliable and easily open to manipulation by library users.

However, councils are also willing and able to manipulate the statistics where required to tip the odds in their favour come the time for consultation.  Take, for example, the events in libraries and the materials produced to promote them.  Author events and other such activities are often hosted by public libraries to help draw in visitors.  This is particularly the case during the Summer Reading Challenge, a promotion designed to encourage children to read and one that often relies on events and promotional activity to encourage children to complete the challenge.  There is one problem with promotional activity however, it costs money.

Frank Turner at Lancaster Library

Frank Turner performing at Lancaster Library as part of the ‘get it loud in libraries!’ project. Events such as these drive up awareness of the library, but need promoting. Image from Lancashire County Council.

Whilst cutting promotional activity may seem like an insignificant saving at first, it can actually lead to much bigger savings further down the line – ultimately what the councils are trying to achieve.  If libraries, for example, were forced to curtail promotional activities there would, obviously, be an impact on visits.  Events and promotional activities drive up visits, often attracting people who would not usually use the library.  Take the Summer Reading Challenge.  Promoting that event throughout the summer encourages children to sign up and take part.  Given that the Reading Challenge requires three return visits in order to complete it (and receive the certificate of course!), one can see how vital promotion of the Reading Challenge is in terms of attracting visits.

And it isn’t just the Summer Reading Challenge this affects.  Author events are also a big driver of library visits.  Often an author event can attract people to the library who are not ordinarily members, but are interested in the author themselves.  If they are not aware of such an event (via a press release in the local paper for example), then obviously they will not attend and there will be a subsequent impact on library visits.  Reduce or prohibit promotional activity therefore, and there will be a subsequent decline in visits.  And we know what a decline in visits leads to.

This will to drive down promotional activity and limit the nature and scope of promotional activities is all the more disturbing when set against the backdrop of the 1964 Libraries Act.  The Act clearly states:

“It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof…. of encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service.” [emphasis mine]

If library authorities are not promoting activities or events within your library network, they are not ‘encouraging’ adults and children to make full use of the library.  Encouraging people to use the library requires promotional activity and this is fundamental to the delivery of a comprehensive and efficient library service.

So, whilst the initial cut in promotional activity may not itself save huge sums of money, the impact of such a cut undoubtedly will.  Cut the promotional activity, cut the visits, cut the libraries.  But a cut in promotional activity does not mean that an event cannot be promoted.  In the age of social media, any one of us can promote an event and share it with hundreds, thousands, millions at the click of a button.  If the councils won’t do it, then it is up to us to step up and do it for them.


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




Will library closures leave children behind?

Over the weekend, startling statistics came to light that once more gives lie to the argument that libraries are no longer required in the digital age.  A report in The Observer, citing the e-Learning Foundation, argued that one million children will receive lower grades than their peers due to a lack of internet access at home.  The report refers to research that states that ‘1.2 million teenagers log on to revision pages every week and those using online resources were on average likely to attain a grade higher in exams’.

By New Jersey Library Association on Flickr

The report goes on to state:

The charity cites BBC research in which more than 100 students used the BBC Bitesize revision materials before their GCSE examination. The children were found to have achieved a grade lift compared to those who did not use the online revision guides. The BBC study says: “This is compared to factors such as teacher influence, which was found to produce no significant difference.”

It is clear that a high proportion of children are seriously disadvantaged as a result of a widening digital divide.  As with the 9 million adults who have never accessed the internet before, these children are largely forgotten by those that are privileged to own a computer and an internet connection.  An entire generation is being left behind and their existence is barely acknowledged.

For many of these children, there is a way out: their local public library.  Libraries provide a safe environment for children and, most importantly, provide them access to the resources that are otherwise denied them.  The provision of a free internet connection offers an opportunity for many children to keep up with their peers.  Alongside a wealth of reference books and the assistance of trained staff, the provision of a computer terminal for children to access a host of online resources is vital.  The library offers them the best chance they have of ensuring they are not left behind.

The support of trained and qualified library staff is also crucial. Professional staff are able to ensure that not only are the appropriate materials available online (as well as off-line) but that children can access them safely and securely.  Furthermore, the provision of homework clubs supported by trained staff helps to bridge the gap between those that have access to a wide range of resources at home and those who do not.  In short, the library is an equitable source of high quality educational and learning resources for all children and young people, regardless of the wealth or status of their parents.

Despite ensuring the disadvantaged aren’t left behind, public libraries are still being threatened with closure across the country.  Not only public libraries, but also school libraries, leaving one million children further disadvantaged.  According to The Observer, a study by BESA (the trade association for the educational supply industry) has revealed that:

“…due to budgetary pressures, schools plan to spend around 8% less on the provision of computers to pupils this year. Critics claim this will negatively affect after-school IT sessions, vital to those without the internet at home.

Only 60% of the 246 primary schools and 188 secondary schools surveyed said they were able to maintain their current spending. Yet nearly a third of schools will make extensive use of home access to the curriculum through the internet.

The belief that libraries are no longer required when ‘everyone’ has an internet connection is one of the driving forces behind proposed closures.  Such misinformation is endangering the economic prosperity of an entire generation.  Continue along the path of library closures and we will ensure that one million children will be left behind to satisfy those that hold the purse strings.  Is that a price worth paying?

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

Tigers, Poets, and Superheroes

The importance of public libraries to their communities is reflected in the range and variety of events and activities that take place in and around them. With this in mind, here are another few highlights of the activities taking place in libraries around the UK:

Kirklees Libraries’ homebound borrowers were treated to a day out at Huddersfield town hall in a co-operatively organised event. A range of activities and entertainment was laid on, such as storytelling, an exercise session, the Borough Organist, and useful information on the Digital Switch-Over/benefits/pensions was provided too.

One of the Kirklees Libraries’ staff members, Jo Haslam, has recently been awarded joint second prize (out of 12,000 entries!) in the National Poetry Society Competition for her piece ‘Wish’. She will be appearing at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July. Jo works as a Bibliotherapist and Customer Service Officer at Slaithwaite Library.

Chris Manby visited Gowerton Library on Thursday 14th of April. She spoke to an enthralled audience about her newest romantic comedy ‘Kate’s Wedding’ and the trials and tribulations of being a writer. Swansea Libraries also have a busy schedule of fun free childrens events and activities during the Easter holidays – just like your local library! Theirs will include, amongst others: a Superhero party, a visit from Zoolab’s creepy-crawlies, and screenings of several family films.

Pictures of the new library facility for Southend town centre have been released – the new joint venture between Southend Council, Essex University and South Essex College will provide a fantastic asset to the people of the town. As well as housing the library, it will also house the Focal Point Gallery, a lecture theatre, meeting/teaching rooms, a higher education centre, and a cafe. There will also be a public square outside the building.

Edinburgh Libraries have started a new initiative called ‘Tiger Tales‘ aimed at parents with children aged 4-8. This will give them the opportunity to sit down together and enjoy a story told by the Tiger Tale Tellers, and to socialise with other parents and children in a safe environment. To add some extra excitement, the first session was held within Edinburgh Zoo and also featured a jungle quiz, face-painting and other activities.

That’s just a small number of the things going on in libraries. If you want to find out what’s going on in your local public library why not visit your local library website and look for the “What’s on?” or “Events” link on it for more details.

…and, if you’ve enjoyed an event at your local library, why not share your experiences with us, by emailing us with details at stories@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk

Fantastic Bounce & Rhyme

We were sent this comment about a local “Bounce & Rhyme” session, via a member of library staff. “Bounce & Rhyme” sessions are ½ hour long sessions during which they sing and recite a variety of bouncing, jiggling and finger rhymes and lullabies. Staff take it in turns to lead the sessions. Jon, their “male voice”, is especially popular with their parents & carers; they always seem to join in the singing more enthusiastically when he leads.

Fantastic bounce & rhyme. Mothers with babies haven’t got the time, usually, to write in these books so I’m sure you’ve got less feedback than you deserve. Great session. Lovely for the babies to hear a male voice when the groups are so often female dominated. I’m sure it encourages fathers to come too. A friend who has never been to bounce & rhyme before said she was “moved to tears” by watching the babies response. Fantastic opportunity – so inclusive in a world where everything is usually so expensive. Thank you!

BB on Bryher photo

Arty Librarian

Support from broadcaster Jenni Trent Hughes

We are very pleased to have received this statement of support from writer, broadcaster and relationship counsellor, Jenni Trent Hughes.

Jenni Trent Hughes“There is nothing in the world more important than a love of reading. Even in this world of internet obsession the feel of a book cannot be compared. Anything we can do to introduce our children and young people to the joys of reading must be done. And anything that would stand in the way of this greatest of pleasures must be stopped. Reading really IS cool…”


Memories of dusk-time strolls – Rebecca

I wanted to share a story with you about a recent visit to a library in Norwich. I was there for a private view of children’s photography, but the family I would like to mention were not there for that event, and are, I believe, regular visitors. As expected, we had a lot of families attend the private view and there were quite a lot of smartly dressed Mums and Dads, the Mayor, and Head Teachers. Then in came a Dad with two little girls, who were both in their pyjamas. The organiser of our event approached the Dad and offered him the brochure for the photography, the Dad explained he wasn’t there for that reason. He proceeded over to the children’s section and sat with his two children and read to them what I can only presume to be their usual bedtime story. It was lovely to be at the library for our event. lovely that so many families showed up to support the work of their children, lovely to see our dignitaries, but all this was overshadowed for me by the absolute privilege of seeing the public library used by this caring father, reading to his two young daughters. I can make all kinds of assumptions about the home they had come from – maybe without a book for bedtime. But what stayed with me was that these two little girls might grow up with the memories of dusk-time strolls, after dinner, to a cosy library full of wonderful books, and a cuddle with their Dad.


Bunnies, WORDfest and human libraries

Public libraries are as much about the community that use them, as they are about book lending. This community spirit is often highlighted by events, activities and classes run in libraries. There are so many of these fun events happening throughout the country that we thought we would spread the word about them.

So, below are a few of the great events happening in libraries throughout the UK.

Crawley is currently running its own WORDfest (2nd – 9th April). It’s Crawley’s first ever festival dedicated to celebrating words and writing in its many forms. Highlights include a talk by Wilbur Smith, fun days, live short-story writing, book fair, open mic session and a talk on self publishing.

The Scarborough Literature Festival is running from 14th – 17th April and is now in its 5th year. Authors involved in the festival include Sarah Waters, Joanna Trollope, Jodi Picoult. Other events include sessions with Steve Bell (Guardian cartoonist), children’s book illustrator Tony Ross, youth workshops and fringe events in libraries outside Scarborough. Elsewhere in North Yorkshire, Malton Library, is running an Easter promotion for children, including an Easter bunny animal welfare session… and free chocolate.

Robin Reads from Kingsley Amis


Bedfont Library, in Hounslow, recently held a craft fair with stalls run by each of the groups that use the library for weekly classes. Watercolour paintings, knitted items and sewing crafts were amongst the items on sale.

In partnership with NHS Bolton, Bolton Library took part in World Autism Awareness Day by running a human library event with volunteers who are affected by the condition. The event allowed library users to talk to the volunteers about autism and gain a personal insight into how it affects people.

The community of Selston in Nottinghamshire involved youngsters in a project, which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to create stained glass windows for the library and college.

That’s just a handful of the fun activities that have happened or are happening in libraries in the near future. We’ll be letting you know about more of these events in future, but if you want to find out what’s going on in your local public library why not visit your local library website and look for the “What’s on?” or “Events” link on it for more details.

…and, if you’ve enjoyed an event at your local library, why not share your experiences with us, by emailing us with details at stories@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk