Tag Archives: inclusion

Get involved in the Library A to Z

At the recent Library Camp East event one of the Voices For The Library team proposed a session to crowd source an A to Z of words that reflected the positive activities and values of libraries, as well as positive representations in books, songs, films and other media. The aim was to highlight that even though books are a core feature of library services, libraries are so much more than this – whether this “so much more” is as a result of the benefits of reading, or beyond this focus. The intention was also to use the A to Z as a way to promote library services. The group was attended by about 20 people from a range of library backgrounds, which was great, because it meant that the full breadth of library services could be covered and it showed common and uncommon activities between, say for example, public and academic libraries. We covered all of the alphabet (with a bit of artistic licence in places), but there is still scope for more words to be added into the Library A to Z. Please feel free to add any as a comment and we’ll then include them in the blog post.

Here’s a list of what the group at Library Camp East came up with on the day, along with some additional contributions. Thanks to all who got involved.

Questions (c) elycefeliz / Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence)

A
archives
access
answers
Alphabetical Order (Alan Ayckbourn play)
advice
art
astronomy
audio books
author events

 

B
Batgirl (is a librarian)
breakout space
breast feeding (space for mothers with babies)
books
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Giles is a librarian)
borrowing
book club
baby bounce and rhyme
Britannica (encyclopedia)
business information
biographies

C
community
collaboration
childminders
careers
choices
crafts
creation
comics
competitive advantage (for businesses)
coffee (relax with one)
colouring (fun sessions for children)
council services (access to)
carers services
classics
community cohesion
ommunity memory
Council Information
CVs

 

D
Deskset (film)
Elaine Dundy – The Dud Avacado
Day after tomorrow (scene in library)
databases
democracy
discovery
dry (inside, away from foul weather)
dads
diversity
dvds
Dewey
dance
digital literacy

E
entertainment
escape
ebooks
employability
equality
everyone (is welcome)
education
excitement
events
exhibitions
enquiry service
email

 

F
fun
free (to join and free books)
family history
families
films
Facebook (you can access it via our PCs)
fax services
fiction

G
guidance
gallery
Ghostbusters (library scene in the film)
green (eco-friendly book recycling)
graphic novels
Go online
games

H
heritage
history
health
Hermione (always in the library in Harry Potter)
holiday reading
Hollywood librarians film
homework help
hate crime reporting
help
history

I
information
inclusion
internet
inspiration
imagination
information services
information literacy
information commons

J
job searching
journeys (discover new places with a book)

judgement-free

K
knowledge

Kindness

Kinship (finding like-minded people)

key-stage (supporting the curriculum)

L
librarians / library staff
lending
local
local studies
literacy
learning
leisure
languages
literature

M
Margaret Mahy
The mummy (main character is a librarian)
meeting (community)
mums
music
managing directors (build businesses/business support)
mood boosting
make a noise in libraries
mobile libraries
Manic street preachers – “libraries gave us power”
mailing lists
magazines
maps
market research

 

N
networking
noise (discussion/communication/activity)
National Libraries Day
Name of the Rose
newspapers
Neil Gaiman – a great advocate for libraries
non-judgemental
novels
not for profit

O
Octonauts (CBeebies – “To the library!”)
opportunity
outreach
online
open to all
old (and young)

P
partnerships
power
photocopying
printers
paper
photographs

Q
questions
quiet

R
reading
research
resources
relaxing
rhymetime
recommendations
reference books
retirement
reminiscence
romance

 

S
Sshh! (a quiet place to work/study)
silver surfers
students
scanners
space (to think and work)
skills
sharing
safe (place)
summer reading challenge
social media
serendipity
storytime
study
school visits
science
science fiction
spelling
sport
statistics

T
Time travellers wife (works in a library)
trusted
teens
Time machine (original film female character worked in library)
toys
treasure hunts

U
understanding
uplifting
universal
unemployment
unlimited
universal credit (support)
unexpected

V
visually impaired users
values

W
wifi (free)
well-being
wisdom
werewolves (Twilight / teen readers)
warmth

X
xml (web of information; organisation of info online)
x-rated (50 shades of grey etc)
exciting
expression

Y
youth
young adult

Z
‘zines (magazines)
zzzzz (child sleeping after being read bedtime story)

Force of Poetry (c) Artiom Ponkratenko / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 licence)

So, now we have a list and what would be great is if we could get more people involved in doing something creative with this list or a part of it – maybe just a letter, or a single word will inspire you to create something in response. So for example, some of the ideas people have suggested already include:

  • Turn some of this into a visual alphabet that we could share as downloadable posters.
  • Create a library A to Z video.
  • Pull together positive library user stories that cover the full A to Z related to your library, whether that’s public, academic, business, specialist library etc and produce a book of them to be sent to the people in your organisation who aren’t aware of the value of your library service.
  • Create an online photo montage alphabet.
  • Get artists (visual, musical, performance) involved to interpret this Library A to Z in their own unique way.
It would be fantastic if we could encourage libraries and their supporters to take up the challenge, focus on a single letter each and produce something we could pull together in time for National Libraries Day – a day all about celebrating the value of libraries and all the things that make libraries so great and important.
And if you do put something together (which we hope you will) please let us know and share it with us, so we can share it with everyone else too.

Libraries are not free market choice

Writing Public Libraries News, I come across lots of good, and not so good quotes from people.  Recently, I was going to call one blog posting “free market choice” after an unfortunate comment from a Bexley councillor but another quote, that called libraries “weapon of mass instruction“, so beautifully summed up what a library is that it won the game hands down.
The whole point about public libraries, of course, is that they offer the complete opposite of the free market by doing such a wonderful job of “mass instruction”.
When I do junior school class visits – and I do a lot – there is a little bit of fun that sums this up.  I get two children to come up.  One play-acts taking a book from Asda (my town has no bookshops) without paying for it.  As they almost leave, I shout “beep beep beep” and “stop thief!” to general hilarity.  The other play-acts taking a book from the public library without paying for it.  I shout “thank you” and “come back again”.  This is the difference.  One does not pay to take out a book.  One can take out twenty books retailing at perhaps £8 per book for free, as many times as one likes.  The High Street or Amazon alternative is simply not an option for many of the people I deal with.  £160 every three weeks on books?  I think not.
Libraries are not a “free market choice”.  There’d be no free access to books if it was left to the free market.  In a pure market driven economy, one would not be able to read a book without having the means to pay for it.  Believe me, there’s a lot of families who would never buy a book.  A lot of children denied the greatest chance of all life chances: that of a love of books, of a love for literacy and all the advantages that that gives.  Ladies, Gentleman and Councillors from Bexley, it’s the public library or nothing for a lot of the kids when it comes to reading.  The free market would just leave them with nothing.
Ian Anstice

On the other side of the counter at Winsford Library

We received the following blog post from Hannah Bailey (UNISON Assistant National Officer) about her recent visit to Winsford Library.

Like many people, some of my earliest memories are of visiting the library with my parents and siblings (Bawtry library in Doncaster, now sadly facing the axe, was our local). From these visits I harboured a childhood ambition to be a librarian – I think it was the satisfying clunk of the stamp that did it. So my work at UNISON on the libraries campaign has been the next best thing, but despite spending large chunks of my work days thinking and writing about libraries, it occurred to me that I had only ever been on the ‘other side’ of the counter. Shouldn’t I really get out there and see what working in the library service is really all about? Ian Anstice kindly stepped in and agreed to let me shadow him and his staff for a day at Winsford library in Cheshire. Emailing to make arrangements beforehand, Ian politely laughed at request to see what a ‘typical day’ in a library was like – no such thing as a typical day he assured me…..

An early train journey and bus ride meant I arrived at the library just after opening time on a sunny Thursday morning, the last week of the school summer holidays. Ian and I are in regular email contact, but have never met in person; however I clocked him straightaway putting out posters to advertise the library’s coffee and cake morning that day. Getting inside the library there were already a steady stream of people coming in, many to take advantage of the cakes on offer (I duly sampled a raspberry crumble muffin) whilst returning items and using the PCs.

The coffee morning is run regularly by friends of the library, who all volunteer their time to take part in fundraising activities and events. The positive relationship between staff and volunteers was clear, and it was also clear that they were providing a supplementary service that staff would be unable to undertake alongside their daily duties. Complementing staff and playing a role, but not replacing them. This has always been UNISON’s view and it was good to see it working in practice. Later that day, Ian discussed with the treasurer of the friends group how the funds were looking and the possibility of buying some new furniture for the children’s library – clearly their effort is having an impact.

First activity of the day was story time for the under fives, with a (mostly!) captive audience of twenty or so youngsters and a selection of parents and grandparents. Not for the last time that day I was reminded of the pleasure of being read to, something which seems to stop as soon as you leave school, but I will always love. Rounding off with a selection of nursery rhymes (including requests from the floor) story time was a reminder not only of how pleasurable reading is, but also the importance of starting young with literacy – it really is never too early and libraries play a huge part in getting families and kids into reading, which stays with them for life.

Meanwhile on the counter, a constant stream of people were coming in and out, putting paid to the rumour that nobody uses libraries anymore. Remember earlier this year when John Redwood MP made some startlingly ill-informed comments about libraries after a brief visit to one? Anyone deeming themselves worthy of comment needs to spend at least a day in a library before drawing any conclusions. After all, a visit to an uncharacteristically quiet supermarket at 10pm wouldn’t lead one to conclude that modern retail as we know it is dead would it?

Mid-morning behind the counter was of the highlights of the day for me – a young man aged no more than about 12 came in on his own to return a stack of books he’d read during his recent holiday. Checking the books back in, Ian reminded him he had a few more out and did he want to renew them while he was here? He agreed, telling Ian that he was halfway through one of them, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’. Settling his small fine, he then left. This is the kind of kid we’re supposed to believe aren’t interested in reading anymore, too busy playing computer games or hanging round the streets making a nuisance of themselves. I was truly heartened by this – and you can bet if it’s happening in Winsford, it’s happening at libraries all over the UK.

Ecological Consequences by J. Star

Ecological Consequences (c) J. Star / Flickr

Books returned over the course of the morning soon started to stack up behind the counter, so any spare time was spent by staff re-shelving items ready to be borrowed again. All the while the eight or so PC’s in the library were constantly occupied by a range of different people, from teenagers checking the latest updates on Facebook to people printing off e-tickets for impending holidays. While the volunteers packed the cakes and coffee away, members of the Mid-Cheshire Camera Club were busy mounting a small exhibition of their work near the entrance. The works are for sale, and as of one the members filled out the council’s insurance form, he explained to me that the library is the last open exhibition space available in the town centre to groups such as theirs.

An open building – it sounds obvious but it’s what libraries are all about. Still it was one of the points that struck me on several occasions as the day went by. Whilst downstairs the children’s library was buzzing and noisy, upstairs in the reference area there was an altogether quieter and calmer feel. I was told there is one man comes in every day without fail to read the newspaper for an hour at lunchtime. Then there were the groups of teenagers, in town and looking for something to do, drifting in and out. One man spent most of the day in the library, helping out the volunteers in the morning and staying for the afternoon. The library for him is a safe space, a place where he is welcomed and not judged.

After lunch I was invited along to join the RELISH group – read, listen, share – which is a reading group for people with mental health issues. There are seven regular attendees to this group, which staff told me was a real achievement. People who are ill and may already have chaotic lives drift in and out of groups like this. But here you have seven people who attend week in, week out, to read together and discuss the books. Everyone who feels comfortable takes a turn to read aloud, and after a few pages a member of staff poses questions to get the conversation going. It sounds simple enough, but seeing it in practice and the impact it has is powerful stuff.

Later in the afternoon there was some respite for staff on the counter to undertake other tasks. This was when I was introduced to the mysterious ‘back office’. Many critics argue that too much is spent on the ‘back office’ and that this should be cut in favour of the frontline. This obviously varies from area to area, however what was clear is that a varied selection of books don’t magically appear on the shelves, nor do titles which are seldom borrowed grow legs and walk off, making room for more popular titles. It all happens in the mysterious ‘back office’. And contrary to what some people believe, new books appear on the shelves every week in your average library. So for those who bemoan that the latest titles aren’t available, perhaps you should get down to your local library or hop online and find out. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised.

Winsford library is open until 7.30pm on Thursday evenings, the day I was there. Ian told me how later on in the day is when there is most potential for trouble, with the town centre emptying of shoppers and bored teenagers hanging around. Again the library is open to all – staff work on the presumption that people know how to behave, and only if someone is causing offence or disturbance to someone else will they intervene. But it does happen, and staff are often at the receiving end of anti-social behaviour. Not exactly the picture of a sleepy library in a leafy suburb that some would paint, but the reality nonetheless. It’s bad enough that paid staff have to endure such incidents, but would you volunteer to put yourself in this position?

So if I had to sum up my day in the library in a few points, what would I say? After spending the day working alongside a friendly and committed staff team, it was clear to me that:

  1. Libraries are busy, vibrant community spaces open to people from all walks of life
  2. Reading for pleasure is alive and kicking – you’re never too young or too old
  3. Libraries are about books, and the knowledge, comfort and power words give you

It all sounds fairly obvious, but the impact of savage cuts on local authorities seems to mean that many people want to trivialise the importance of libraries and library staff in order to justify their decisions. Anyone who disagrees with the three points above really should go and spend an hour or two at their local library and see if it changes their mind.

 

The views expressed in guest blog posts are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of  Voices for the Library

Public Libraries Committed to Improve Access for Blind and Partially Sighted People

Public libraries are adopting six steps in a UK-wide effort to improve access for blind and partially sighted people. For the two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK this will be a lifeline to the leisure, learning and information resources offered by public libraries.

Libraries that have adopted the six steps are providing collections of large print and audio books, making sure accessible technology is available, and have a library champion for the reading needs of blind and partially sighted people.

Six Steps to Library Services for Blind and Partially Sighted Peopleis a joint initiative by the Society of Chief Librarians, Scottish Library & Information Council and Share the Vision.

Mark Freeman, Acting Chair of Share the Vision, said: “Public libraries are obliged to provide services to everyone. Many libraries are already doing an excellent job but standards of provision for blind and partially sighted people vary from place to place. The six steps make it clear what libraries can do to improve access.”

These steps are already making a huge difference to library users.

“I am so glad that Inverurie Library organised this event. I had given up trying to read books with my younger son and missed this time with him dearly but I can once again enjoy doing this. I also now receive the local paper in audio format, am a member of the local book club, have a better idea of the titles available and how to order audio books and lastly the confidence to ask for help if I need it.” Heather Watson, library customer, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

Already, 176 out of 210 library authorities have pledged.* “We call on every library in the UK to sign up,” said President of SCL, Nicky Parker. “We are determined to break down the barriers that prevent blind and partially sighted people from using the public library like everyone else.”

Scottish Library & Information Council Director, Elaine Fulton, said: “All of Scotland’s public libraries have already pledged their support for this very welcome initiative.”

Six Steps to Library Services for Blind and Partially Sighted People

1. Use Your Reading Choices with blind and partially sighted customers to assess their reading needs and facilitate access to public libraries and other relevant services (http://tinyurl.com/rnib2)

2. Use Reading Sight (www.readingsight.org.uk), the free website for library staff supporting blind and partially sighted people to access reading and reading services

3. Provide local collections of large print and audio books

4. Have a strategy in place for provision of access technology throughout your library service

5. Designate a “champion” for the reading needs of blind and partially sighted people

6. Participate in Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight (www.rnib.org.uk/manil) run annually by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

* For the full list of library authorities signed up to Six Steps see www.goscl.com

(Press release provided by Society of Chief Librarians)

DCMS Taking Part survey: Imagine what could be achieved if we invested in our public libraries

This month the DCMS released their annual Taking Part survey.  The report covers the 12 month period from April 2010 to March 2011 and includes participation in culture and sport, volunteering, digital participation, and cycling and swimming proficiency.  Included in this is usage of public libraries by both adults and children.  As you would expect, it highlights some interesting data about the state of library usage in this country which should certainly be of interest to library campaigners across the country.

One of the most interesting statistics to come out of this report reflects the usage of libraries by people in both the most and least deprived areas.  Whilst The Bookseller chose to headline their coverage of the findings ‘Better off more likely to use libraries’, the reality is much less clear-cut.  The report found that 43.5% of people from the least deprived parts of England used a library last year, compared to 39.5% of those from the most deprived.  Whilst there is clearly a difference, 4% is not sufficient to conclusively argue that the ‘better off’ are more likely to use a library than the most disadvantaged.  In fact, what is most stark about these figures is that social background appears to have no bearing on library usage.  This rather contradicts the belief expressed by some that ‘libraries cater for the middle classes, not the deprived’.  The figures very much demonstrate that they cater for both.

The report also demonstrated the importance of public libraries for children, not least considering the increasing cull of school libraries.  It revealed that 76.4% of 5-10 year olds had visited their local library in the past year, up from 72.2% in 2008/9.  The impact library closures would have on literacy levels is clear and unambiguous.  With an increasing demand from the 5-10 age group and the closure of school libraries across the country, the public library has never been more important for the social and economic wellbeing of future generations.

Rhymetime Across Ediburgh

Rhymetime Across Ediburgh (c) Scottish Libraries / Flickr

The report also reveals that against a backdrop of supposed decline in library usage, adult library usage has in fact remained static.  For each of the past three years the percentage of adults using the library has remained at approximately the same level.  In fact, the proportion of adults using the public library has increased by 0.3% on last year to 39.7%.  The fact that this figure has remained constant for three years, in spite of already significant cuts to library services, also rather suggests that those arguing that libraries are ‘irrelevant’ are out of touch with both what libraries are offering and the needs of library users across the country.  If authorities are threatening to close up to 50% of libraries when usage has remained stable, will similar cuts be applied to other council services?

Overall, the Taking Part survey clearly demonstrates that reports of the rapid decline of public libraries has been greatly exaggerated.  They are not an institution solely catering for the middle-classes as some politicians and commentators have argued. They are as much used by people in the most deprived areas as those from the least, and draw users from across the whole of our society – the quintessential universal service.  Children are drawn to the library in increasing numbers, alone, with school groups and friends, and with parents, who rely on them to support their child’s literacy and development.  Despite the growth of the internet and the availability of popular ‘books in supermarkets’, people still make significant use of their free access to a wide range of books and other resources. Despite suggestions to the contrary, adult library usage is not in terminal decline.   If usage has remained stable while budgets have been slashed, imagine what could be achieved if we invested in our public libraries.  Councillors and politicians may be keen to argue that libraries are becoming irrelevant, in order to justify closing them or staffing them with volunteers. The facts suggests otherwise.

Anti-multiculturalism gone mad or a rational policy shift?

1. What’s it all about?

Council removes foreign language papers from libaries (sic) to encourage English speaking

This article – with its ironic misspelling of ‘libraries’ – in the Daily Telegraph Education Section of 11th May was posted on Facebook by a German colleague: “Sir Robin Wales, elected Labour Mayor of the east London borough, said removing the papers would ‘encourage people to speak and learn English’”. What strange inverted logic justified such a decision?

There was no evidence that readers of community language ‘papers did not speak English, were not in fact multilingual, or that there is any resistance in Newham to learning English.

In one lone quote “Priyonath Singh, 76, of Newham, said: (in English) “It’s appalling. It’s a drastic measure. If you remove the newspapers, my mental age will be reduced completely.’” Reader comments under the DT article talked of foreigners, benefits, ex-pat Brits in Spain and so on; lots of ‘them and ‘us’. The Telegraph’s motivation was evident in a banner in the middle of the story,

Related Articles • Polish migrants top crime table 11 Apr 2011 • British courts regain power to deport terrorist suspects 27 Apr 2011

implying a “related”-ness between mother tongue speakers learning English and migrant criminals and terrorism; and in this an educational supplement!

There was nothing to acknowledge the information role of the public library or its legal responsibilities for a “comprehensive service” for “all who live, work or study” or “for all who may be desirous to make use thereof”.

Strange in an Olympic borough with a Labour Mayor, not far from Diane Abbott’s Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency,  and with redoubtable library leaders.

2. So what did Sir Robin do? How did he reach this decision?

I wrote to Sir Robin Wales. A helpful officer replied, referring to a Customer Services section, without mention of a library service or a librarian.

Of over 70 periodicals cut, only a minority are community language staples like the Daily Jang “Find Pakistan news in Urdu No.1 Urdu newspaper and largest Urdu daily” and Asian Voice, in English, UK and international politics and community affairs reflecting the interests of the UK Asian community.

Cut are African Caribbean lifestyle magazines like Ebony and Pride. There is an Irish focus – Irish Times, Irish Independent. Subject journals have gone like Investors Chronicle, Scientific American, British Medical Journal and Private Eye plus local interest ‘papers like the Hackney Gazette and the East London Advertiser. Users are now referred, “We have an online subscription to NewsUK”

The Council will also

  • introduce Learn English collections … online teach-yourself English language courses
  • investigate a ‘Language Lab,’ with ICT for self-learning and tutor-led English learning sessions in one or more Customer Service Centres
  • provide online ‘Life in Great Britain’ course and related stock to allow customers to practice for their citizenship test at the library or from home.

3. An Equalities Impact Assessment

 

This outlines Newham’s demography (paraphrased)

  • 70% of the population is from non-white ethnic groups
  • largest non-white group is Black African, 15.8%
  • Asian ethic groups – Indian (11.8%), Pakistani (10.8%) and Bangladeshi (10.7%) – one-third of the borough’s population.
  • ‘White’ population will not reflect the recent increase in Eastern European migration
  • Schools Census data indicates 73.9% of pupils (primary) and 65.6% (secondary) have a language other than English as their first language
  • top ten languages requested for interpretation and translation were (in order) Bengali (20.6%), Urdu (11.1%), Somali (6.5%), Tamil (5.9%), Polish (5.5%), Punjabi (5.0%), Portuguese (4.5%), Gujarat (4.5%), Lithuanian (3.1%) and Romanian (3.0%)
  • Analysis (2009/10) of library membership indicates that compared to Newham’s population some ethnic groups are over represented.

4. A shift in policy

 

In the 1970s/1980’s UK librarians struggled to introduce community language material into public libraries largely, for the first time. Libraries held European language material (leisure, travel, academic interests) but provision of Indic and South Asian language material met with resistance with “them and us” debates and the view that “they’ll integrate and learn English”. Migration seemed like a finite movement rather than the continuation of a global phenomenon. Read about public library evolution since that time in two recent publications, Public Libraries and Social Justice or Libraries and Social change .

Latterly, public librarians have yearned for an acknowledged position in the mainstream of social and economic policy. Even as a culture provider they have sought to connect reading, literature, music and the wider arts with literacy, learning, skills, employability confidence, quality of life, health and wellbeing, family and community cohesion, and economic growth.

5. In Newham …

The briefest glance at Newham’s website tells you the libraries provide most of what other authorities provide.

Yet this decision tells another story – a belief that public library services

  • can be part of the mainstream of public services
  • can deliver on learning and skills
  • do have a socio-economic role to play
  • do make an instrumental contribution

There is a significant backdrop of generational change. Older members of ethnic communities hanker for the daily news from their home country or village. Some meet at the library – in Newham, Birmingham, Manchester – to read and share news from places where they grew up. Now the wider community and its governors need something more purposive the library can deliver on – learning, skills, work.

 

Multiculturalism in Newham may be here, going or gone. Even so delivering to local black and minority ethnic communities a replica of their written and spoken culture need no longer be a public library priority; here the library draws people to a mainstream economic purpose in a library that’s a policy vehicle and political resource.

John Dolan OBE 30 June 2011

 

[1] Public Libraries and Social Justice, Pateman, John and Vincent, John. Ashgate 2010

[1] Libraries and Society: Role, responsibility and future in an age of change, Baker, David and Evans, Wendy, editors. Chandos Publishing 2011

Edit: 02/09/2011

Since the publication of this piece, a petition voicing concerns about the London Borough of Newham Council’s actions has been set up. The full text appears below.

We the undersigned wish to voice our concern about and objection to the decision taken by the London Borough of Newham to remove community-language newspapers from the borough’s libraries. 

This new policy has been introduced under the guise of reducing barriers to learning English that mother-tongue newspapers and books are supposedly responsible for creating and maintaining.

We call upon Newham council to:

1. Reinstate community-language newspapers in Newham’s libraries. 
2. Prioritise funding and further resources to provision of English as a Second Language (ESOL). 
3. To commit to the continued provision of community-language books and audio books in Newham’s libraries.
4. To recognise and celebrate the unique diversity of the London Borough of Newham including recognition of the languages and cultures of its individual communities.

An electronic version of the petition can be signed here.

Somewhere special – K M Lockwood

Somewhere special

In the morning

A young couple come in hesitantly. The proud new dad still finds the buggy awkward to manoeuvre and mum is oh-so-tired. Joe and Kulvinder want to do the best by their precious baby but they have little spare cash, what with taking time off work and childcare to think about.

They know encouraging a baby to love language is like breast feeding – one of the best starts in life. But who can they ask? Which books are suitable? Where can they find a fun introduction to learning?

In the afternoon

Elaine comes in as beautifully made up as she did when Roger was alive. She comes in to learn how to use a pc. Always a bright cookie, she would like to save money by paying her bills on-line. She comes in to get the large print books which let her escape to other worlds. She comes in to be with other people. It’s her little trip out.

Just after school

Ade runs in with his homework in his bag. He finds a spot and settles down to work. He is keen to learn but there is no space in his Mum’s tiny flat. He finds something he doesn’t understand. He gets up and asks a librarian and she helps him find reference books and useful websites.  He grasps the new concept. Tomorrow he will shine in class.

In the school holidays

Courtney sidles in and finds a quiet corner between the little children’s books and the Young Adult fiction. No one notices her there; she can read what she likes. She sits with her scuffed shoes that don’t fit tucked under her.

She has found somewhere safe from the girls who make fun of her thin, cheap clothes. She has found somewhere safe till Dad comes back from work. She has found somewhere safe to dream of better times.

They have all come to the right place: they have all come to the library.

K. M. Lockwood is a writer for children and young adults who lives by the sea in West Sussex.  Website is http://kmlockwood.com/

Jan’s story

Libraries have always been important to me. As a young child, a visit to the library was a real treat. When I was growing up, the books they provided fed my hungry mind and led me on fascinating voyages of discovery both satisfying and stimulating what was to become a life-long love of literature. Later, my local library was an invaluable means of research for various writing projects.

Most recently, a reading group (Carnegie Readers meeting regularly at Loughborough Library, Leics – one of ten such groups in the area) has put me in touch with lively, like-minded folk. Being able to discuss our book choices greatly enriches our reading experiences (whether or not we agree!). The group also provides a much-appreciated social link, which grows more significant for those of us troubled by increasing health problems. Now that my small grandson is growing to love story hour at his local library, the threat to such services for generations to come takes on a disturbing longer-term aspect. Libraries and library services are far too precious to lose!