Tag Archives: stories

Portobello Library and Why I’m Glad It’s here

There were a group of us waiting for the library to open one weekday maybe a month ago. There was a slight drizzle in the air and we were a huddle under the front awnings; myself, an elderly couple and a young father with his pre-teen son.

Another chap came across the road to join us, rather posh English accent and he regaled us with “What a great sight to see; folk queuing to get into the library. There’s hope for us all yet!”

We returned his beaming smile and understood, I think, what he meant.

On returning from self-imposed and work-related exile in England a few years back, almost the first place I sought out was the library in this wee Lothian sea-side town.

I did this due to some deep social instinct which I find difficult to explain. You either believe in communities or you don’t. I guess I wanted to ‘take the measure’ of this little town that was to become my home.

I knew a little about its social demography. There’s slightly poorer folk living on one side of it than there is down the other (one end has a boating and kayak club, the other a Wimpy and an amusement arcade). There are twee little shops on the high street which would stretch the average JSA payment to its very limit and café’s that offer more organic plum chutney and feta than a roll and square sausage (and not a notion of brown sauce anywhere).

The pubs are the same. Some you’d go for the karaoke, others you can take your dog and your children in and chat about portfolios or graphic design over a quirky jam-jar of Shiraz.

But, libraries don’t work in this way and neither should they, but there’s a danger that they will if doomed to be volunteer run. Libraries should be as they are – ‘classless’. I can just as much go into Portobello Library and borrow a DVD of Luis Bunuel’s ‘Belle de jour’ as I can ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or a Take That CD.

There are lads and lassies from the local school over by the computer games who spraff in broad Lothian accents. There’s a couple of mornings when the cheery librarian fella will lead the wee sons and daughters of the maybe-more-well-to-do in song and laughter in the ‘book-bug sessions’. There are auld yins sitting at the tables at the back who meet every week maybe for a purpose maybe not. There are Eastern Europeans crowded around the computers maybe conversing on-line with those left back home. There are writer’s group’s and art groups.

The staff are friendly, helpful and have plenty of information to hand. They seem of the community and have plenty of local knowledge. They are paid to be local servants of this wee town, whosoever walks through the doors.

‘Volunteerism’ not only does away with a vital profession, for no better reason than it’s an easy target to cut, it threatens the very ‘egalitarianism’ that is so precious in a community such as this. ‘Volunteerism’ will make libraries like Victorian charities. The middle-classes will feel compelled to step in and run things and, like the sea-front cafes and bars, it’ll be by themselves and for themselves, no matter how well-meaning they may see themselves to be.

Dave

Work, Play and Family Time at the Library

The following article was submitted by Helen Ball.

As a child I used to love Saturday afternoons when my mother would take me to the library for an hour or two. As she perused Virginia Andrews novels or chatted with the librarians I would curl up the same purple, threadbare armchair and get lost in the works of Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl. The thrill of sifting through those books, the painful deliberation of deciding which ones would come home with me and the pride I felt upon receiving my first library card all stay with me today. But never could I have imagined how important this building would become to me as I grew up and became a mother myself. This is my story.

Work

I became disillusioned with my old job as an administration office manager within weeks of returning from maternity leave. I halved my hours but still found myself desperately missing my 9 month old son. The childcare fees were extortionate and I felt that working part time meant that I wasn’t able to fully commit to either my working role or my role as a mother. After my second child was born my mind was firmly made up and I decided to work for myself from home. I’d done a little freelance copywriting, blogging and content providing in the past so I found it easy to pick up work and by the time my kids had started school I had regular clients and was earning good money from my freelance writing.

The only problem was that I found it hard working from home. I was constantly distracted by the housework (or TV) and was used to the routine of going out to work so staying at home somehow made it harder for me to manage my time and schedules. Now my kids were in school I had no reason to stay in the house – I could go somewhere to work. But where? I remembered the library and that mysterious second floor that I’d had no interest in as a child because it was full of reference books and serious looking people tapping on computers. And it was on that second floor, in the same snug corner behind the geography textbooks that I set up a makeshift office for myself. Of course I had to pack it up every day but the routine of going out to work in a quiet place with no distractions made me so much more productive. This year I am in the drafting stages of my first novel and I just know that most of it will be written within the walls of the library.

Social

Working at the library during weekdays meant I often saw the same faces. Like me, some people would come to study or work. Others would come in the morning to read the papers. One man from a homeless shelter came every day to read in the warmth because he had nowhere else to go. As time progressed I formed friendships with some of the people I regularly saw there and we spoke about our work, our families and our lives. Writing can be a very sedentary, lonely job that can become isolating quickly so for me, those brief, hushed conversations between the bookshelves or in the cafe at lunch were invaluable. By spending so much time at the library I also got to learn about the variety of groups and workshops they host there during the week. On more than one occasion I abandoned my work and joined in the the book club and the knitting class and once again got to meet like minded people and learn new skills.

For the kids

There are also a lot of activities on for babies, toddlers and children in my library. My youngest child adores story and rhymetime and my eldest was over the moon when he got to meet his favourite author, Nick Sharratt, when he visited on a tour. During the school holidays we always try to take part in at least one organised event at the library and visit regularly so they can pick out their books just as I did as a child – the other day I even spotted my daughter reading in the same purple chair that I used to curl up in. With studies indicating that reading more books improves life chances for children I am eager to encourage my kids to spend as much time as possible in the library and luckily they seem more than happy to oblige.

The figures that indicate over 10% of our libraries are at risk of cutback and closure from local councils don’t just concern me, they terrify me. I rely on my library as do countless others, each for various reasons. People argue that with the rise of technology and e-books libraries are outdated and simply not needed anymore but this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are about so much more than books – they are a place of comfort, refuge, interaction and an integral part of the community.

An exciting announcement for the #LibraryAtoZ

Last year we wrote about the Library A to Z, which was a crowdsourced A to Z list of positive activities and services libraries provide – those that go beyond the idea that libraries are solely about books. We encouraged people to make use of and build on the A to Z to promote their library service and a few did, especially around National Libraries Day in February.
Recently I shared the idea with Andy Walsh from Huddersfield University and we talked about developing the idea into a book that could be used as a powerful advocacy tool for libraries – something that could be sent to politicians, local councillors and those with some control over the future of libraries. Andy suggested the idea of a Kickstarter/crowd funded project to raise money for the funding of the production of the book.

I’m really pleased and excited to say that the crowd-funding project is now live and will run for 30 days. In that time we need to raise £2,000 to turn this idea into reality and actually produce the book. This money will allow us to cover the costs of the illustrator, legal deposit copies of the book, and the initial rewards including postage and packing. Andy has arranged for a great illustrator (Josh Filhol) to be involved, and the aim is to produce a book contain a visual alphabet of the Library A to Z along with content that backs it up and highlights the importance of libraries. You can see Josh at work in the project video below.

There are a range of rewards for people and organisations who back the project, all increasing depending upon how much money you give to the campaign.

It would be fantastic if we could get this funded and turned into reality and we ask that if you can contribute please do (as the video says, it doesn’t matter how little you give). Please also share this in as many places as you can – all around the social networks, in libraries, anywhere! If we don’t make the target of £2,000 the project won’t happen.
We are also still looking for more words for the A to Z. So please take a look at the original list and if you have anything to add leave a comment.

For more details about the project and how the Kickstarter funding process works take a look at the Library A to Z Kickstarter page.

All the resources that are produced as part of this Kickstarter project including the images will be released under a creative commons licence, meaning that everyone is free to use the results of the project.
Gary

Miranda’s story

Libraries mean a lot to me.
I am 9 years old and I remember when I got my first library card.  I also remember picking out my first ever books from the library.  I used to sit down by a big book box and scatter through them to find a suitable one.
A library is a place where I can sit down and take a book off the shelf and read.  I like sitting down on the carpet in silence and reading in peace. A library has variety of all different types of books that you can learn from not just enjoy.  I love reading and the joy of picking it off the shelf.
So please don’t shut down any libraries!

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.

Celebrate Your Library project

This guest blog post from Hilary Chittenden explains why she and Victoria started their “Celebrate your library” project.

My mum has worked in public libraries for nearly a decade now, and I have always loved hearing about the huge variety of people that she interacts with on a daily basis. In one single day she can act as a teacher, friend, children’s entertainer, information point – all depending on what the public want to use the library for. It dawned on me that libraries are so much more than books but are molded by the people that use them. They mean something different to every person that walks through their doors and the library users are what make libraries so great. Yes, we all know that books are brill, that libraries play an important role in children’s educational development and allow people of all ages and backgrounds access to books and information, but what about the social importance of libraries? I asked people the simple question “Why do you love your library?”:

“The library feels like the hub of the community. We recently moved to the area and going to the library has not only provided fantastic reading material for the whole family but also it has made us feel part of the community.”

“The library has been a lifeline since I had a baby… It enables parents to socialise when they may be isolated”

 Celebrate My Library Comments Cards

“I enjoy coming in to read the papers and borrow the books. It gives me something to do during the day.”

“Since moving here two years ago I have met many mums who have similar aged children. I especially like my library because the staff are soooo welcoming and hands on with the children!”

“The ladies in the library, I’ve known them for a long long time. They know me and I know them and they are so helpful. If I ever need any information they go on the computer and they print it off for me.”

“We’ve been coming to the library since we came to the country. It was great when we had just moved and didn’t have the internet.”

“I’m out of work at the moment, and the library provides me with a work place environment and office style facilities so I can concentrate better on finding work.”

“When I’m home from uni in the holidays I come here to do my revision. It’s a focused space, nice and quiet and I can’t work well at home. I use it for the desk space – I come in and get my head down.”

“I’m learning English. My sister teaches me and I come in and read to get better. I bring my children to read the picture books and stories. I love the library.”

“We get a lot of people coming in to the library that I worry about – where can they go, who they can talk to, when we’re closed for Christmas.”

“It became more important when my husband died… It allows me to escape.”

This small selection is just a handful of the overwhelming feedback I received from speaking to library users up and down the country. There were so many touching and varied reasons that people loved and relied on their libraries. This inspired me to start ‘Celebrate my Library’ to do just that – to share all the reasons beyond the books that libraries are so important to peoples lives. Our ultimate aim is to help people who don’t yet use libraries to see how much they can better your life (but it’s early days yet.)

For now we are concentrating on speaking to as many people as we can about why they love their libraries. We have been working with 8 different councils around the country, and are planning some events that will collect and circulate people’s love for libraries. Our next endeavor is going to be a children’s poetry/story writing competition along the “I love my library” theme with successful applications being teamed up with illustrators to create a beautiful book and exhibition. We then plan to use the funds raised to publish a newspaper of all the different reasons that people love their libraries and circulate it… (phew!) but like I said, it’s early days yet!

Our main aim right now is to spread the word – Celebrate your library! And not just for the books.

If you want to know more about our project, get involved or tell us why YOU celebrate your library, please get in touch at celebratemylibrary@gmail.com or visit our blog at www. celebratemylibrary.tumblr.com/.

We’d love to hear from you.

Hilary and Victoria

@hilarychitty

@v_m_foster

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)

Shush no more

 

Last week, I began a writing residency at Huddersfield Library, which ends this Saturday (9th July). But the title of ‘writer-in-residence’ is misleading; I’m not running writing workshops in schools or community centres. Instead, I’m listening to people’s stories about why they use the various library services, watching their routines and, in a sense, writing about what happens in a library. I confess that when I approached the library about doing a residency, I had very few expectations. I just wanted to sit there, listen to people and write about their lives, which is why I have approached the research as a personal project. Now, after only four days of moving between the various sections – lending, local history, knowledge transcription service, reference, sound and vision, childrens, art gallery – my head is spinning somewhat.

When Voices for the Library asked me to write a short piece about my research, I became paralysed with indecision. How can I possibly convey the value of the library as sharply as the librarians, bloggers and researchers who are encouraging the groundswell of public support against library closures? Do I write about how, on my first day, I waited outside the library steps at 9.20am for the doors to open, and watched a small crowd form, eager to get to the computers, get that job application sent, pay their bills online, or return that book. Or maybe I could write about how, last week when I sat in the reference library, 32 people entered in an hour to either locate someone using the professional directories and the internet, apply for jobs online, use the computers or fax, or the free scanner, ask for reference material, and read the newspapers and specialist magazines for free. Or maybe should write about what happens in the Light Reading Room and the success of the coffee mornings and the PALS (Practice Activity and Leisure Scheme) Art Group for stroke survivors.

‘Where else could you hold these sessions?’ I asked one of the organisers today.

‘We couldn’t,’ was his answer.

Maybe I could mention the children’s library, where pre-nursery sessions last week brought in new members, and where a registered child-minder with 16 years experience brings the children she cares for every single day. She plans their reading according to what is happening in their lives, such as having a new baby brother, or going to school for the first time.

‘I sell this place to everyone,’ she explains, ‘the parents see a difference in their children after they’ve been coming here a while.’

Then there’s the transcription service, and the team of four women who should be given medals for the work they do for the visually impaired. You name it, they Braille it, then record it as a podcast. Their volume of work is staggering. I should add my own example of how, as a researcher and writer with just an idea in my head and no money to support it, got a unanimous ‘you are welcome here,’ when I approached them. ‘We want you to succeed in your project,’ one staff member said, ‘we like to help writers.’

So, as a researcher, I already have a lot of rich data, and as a writer, I can make something of this data. Researchers often aim the findings of their work at policy makers, hoping to change policy. But who will listen to these voices? Will it be the mid-level policy adviser, fast-tracked through the civil service graduate scheme, who now finds himself in the midst of the library storm with his hands clapped firmly over his ears? I hope someone’s listening. I also hope there is a rich patron out there – I make no apologies for this shameless ‘wanted’ ad – who can help me extend this research throughout Yorkshire for a while longer.

In the meantime, some stories will appear on my blog this week, and the manuscript for a non-fiction book will be written over the coming months. If you would like me to visit your library, then please get in touch.

Nilam Ashra-McGrath is a writer and researcher for the non-profit sector. She is blogging about her residency at http://nilamsnet.wordpress.com/

 

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

 

 

 

Judith Cutler’s childhood library and its wonderful successors

Crime fiction writer Judith Cutler wrote to tell us why libraries were so important to her when she was younger and how the “educational spirit” still remains in her childhood library, even though other things may have changed there.

When I was a child (some 60 years ago!) I was so sickly I didn’t go to school till I was ten.  My mother educated me at home, but even she had limitations.  So the local library – Bleakhouse Library, still alive and kicking in Sandwell – became my school.  In those days the building was guarded by dragons lurking behind a very high counter.  Children had to reach up to put their hands on it so the librarian could inspect them for cleanliness.  Then you were admitted to the children’s room -serried ranks for books, just like the adult library.  If you borrowed a volume of fiction, you were required to borrow a non-fiction book too.

The following week, the librarian would question you to make sure you’d read them.  Eventually I had literally read everything in the junior section, so I was allowed to read certain books from the adult library – carefully checked to ensure there was neither sex nor violence. Hence I ended up reading all the books from the Golden Age of crime writing.

Recently I was asked back to do a talk.  The intimidating front desk had disappeared (sold to the USA, apparently!), and much of the library interior had changed.  But the educational spirit of the previous librarians had a new incarnation.  Their wonderful successors had introduced all sorts of clubs, from art and IT for pensioners, to Saturday morning games sessions for ASBO kids they’d had to exclude from normal after school clubs.  The place buzzed.  It should have won prizes. The staff should have been given bonuses and promotions. Instead, the librarian who had made all these wonderful additions to what people like Jeremy Hunt might construe to be the daily business of stamping books had been made… redundant.

Judith Cutler