Tag Archives: poetry

Paraxis library stories

Paraxis is a site dedicated to publishing new short stories and related art works from established and new authors. A couple of months ago it put out a call for works with a library theme. The editors received contributions in which “writers, readers and artists explored the part libraries play in people’s lives in a cornucopia of ways” and also non-fiction discussions “on the relevance and nature libraries of libraries”.

The contributions they selected have now been published on the site as Paraxis Vol.2 : The Library and they show the range of feelings about libraries and the value people place on them. The Paraxis editors are obviously well aware of cuts being made to library services and comment that “The tragedy and disgrace of our generation is that we are in danger of leaving a poorer cultural inheritance than the one we inherited.

Why not take the time to read some of the pieces on the site? Here are a few links to a selection of works published in Paraxis Vol.2.

Why do libraries matter?” (Alan Gibbons)

A library user since I was a child…” (Susan Davy)

Dear Janet…” (Terri Lucas)

I enjoyed wonderful adventures when I was seven years old.” (Sam Ford)


Don’t forget that we’re always looking for contributions too, so if you feel inspired by these pieces please get in touch at (stories@voicesforthelibrary.org.uk) and share your positive library experiences on the Voices for The Library site.

Save our Libraries Day - Gloucestershire

Save our Libraries Day - Gloucestershire (c) FOGLibraries

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

‘Heart of the Village’: a poem

VftL are pleased to share this poem by Jane Bolderston, from the Friends of Benson Library (Oxfordshire).

The Heart of the Village



Benson library is situated in Castle Square

Perhaps you’ve been in, or driven by there?

It has been lending books for forty years

But now it’s the subject of our worst fears.


A decision was made to have funding withdrawn

A decision met by the villagers scorn

‘Please don’t close our library’ a unanimous cry

And here are some of the reasons why.


Our children have the gift of imagination

And reading a book holds their fascination

The library helps them to learn and grow

A safe, local place, they’re happy to go.


Mothers with buggies need minimal fuss

The last thing they want is to catch a bus

They can stroll through the village during the day

And stop at the library along the way.


For the elderly who like to read for pleasure

They can browse through the books at their leisure

Large prints, audios, so much more

They can all be found on just one floor.


And for those of us of ‘inbetween’ ages

Who may not have the time to leaf through pages

The library can offer something for you

CD’s, DVD’s and Internet access too.


The warm friendly staff put you at ease

They’re happy to help and aim to please

They know you by name and remember your face

Can you get that in any other place?


It’s not just a library, it’s the village heart

And surrounding areas are playing their part

From Benson, Ewelme, Roke, Berrick Salome

We are pleading with you to leave our library alone.


Borrow. A poem by Rosie Miles

What does it mean, the children ask, borrow a book?
Why borrow when you can buy everything – print on demand –

from a warehouse the size of the amazon rainforest
or download to read later?  They laugh when we say we

used to walk to a building where you could ‘borrow’ books.
The brown packages tumble through the letterbox:

as if they’d ever give them back!  The boy skims through
a billion pages.  The girl fondles her kindle like a wounded pet.

They look up at us and smile, their eyes shining pixels:
what does it mean, the last library has shut tight?

We try to explain.  Date stamps flicker on their lashes.

Rosie Miles (February 2011)

The place of the cure of the soul

“The place of the cure of the soul” by Tim.

Out of the house and onto the streets. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Off the streets… to where? Where?

Through the big library doors, out of the too-small town and into the whole wide world, passing under the words:

“This is the place of the cure of the soul”.

Out of my head and into an edgeless world,

Out of my little box and into the wide-open white-page spaces.

Into a place of silence and study, of steady progress through all the lands of fancy free.

Reading, thinking “yes, yes!”, finding my half-thoughts fully formed – talking to strangers.

Talking to ten thousand strangers in the biggest room of my world, the highest roof in town.

Ah, there was such quiet in the air, how can I conjure it up for you?

If people raised their voices, heads would slowly lift, go “shhh” and the perfect peace came down again.

You see, we worshipped the book: the perfect object of it, the wild potential in it, the optimism it enshrined, the high civilisation it betokened… all the project of humanity there on proud display.

Such a beautiful endeavour! Such a spirited adventure!

It reflected so well on us.

It took so many of us to build, so few to tear it down.

Libraries have enriched my life – Liz’s story

When I was around 9 years old I wrote a poem about how great libraries are – I can’t remember anything about how it went other than that it had at least 4 verses and it all rhymed. It was for a competition at Castleford library which I came either 2nd or 3rd in (I still remember feeling cheated about that, the winning poem was very short and went something like ‘a book is like a cheeseburger, different layers like cheese’, books aren’t anything like burgers; it didn’t even rhyme).

I’m not sure why this came into my head today, perhaps because I was enjoying a library book, or perhaps it was tweets from some of my favourite comedians about campaigns to save our libraries from potential closure? Either way I started to reflect on my own relationship to libraries and how important and great I still think that they are

This is Castleford library

When I was growing up Saturdays used to involve going and getting some books, and then going to Woolworths and getting a pick and mix. I don’t actually remember when I first used the library, but until I was around 11 I spent a great deal of time in the childrens’ section taking out teen fiction and educational books about DRUGS and CONTRACEPTION which felt pretty exciting at the time. Every summer the library ran a competition to read 10 books in the summer holidays, and after each stage you got a little prize like a rubber, and your name went on a leaderboard.

When I got to 13 or so I felt too old for children’s books, but a bit intimidated by the grown up bit of the library – how would I know what to pick? There were far too many books and scary older people in the grown up bit.  Instead of taking out books I rented CDs, 1 pound for 2 weeks and put them on tape or minidisc (little did I know that I was committing a crime).  My first Gorky’s album was a borrowed copy of Barafundle put on minidisc – the CD/video library allowed me to discover new music in those pre-internet days.

In my mid teens I still used the library, eventually starting to read grown up books. I have one particularly good memory of hanging about in Pontefract library
reading the backs of Mills and Boon books aloud with my best friend, which at the time I thought was the height of comedy. When I got to 17 I did a Project Trust Gap Year, volunteering for a year in another country, in my case India. To do that I had to raise around £4000, around half of which came from various trusts and funds which I found through huge tomes stored away in the reference section at Leeds Central Library. I spent at least 3 or 4 Saturdays sitting with these big books writing down various addresses.

In India, I realised the value of books as I didn’t have a ready supply of reading material, and read more or less anything I could find. At University I stereotypically avoided the library ; except the national library –  they have everything and they bring the books to you! Now I have an English and History degree, and I use the library often again. I realise I am privileged, I also appreciate that some libraries could do more to engage with those who may have barriers for use of their services. The fact remains, libraries have enriched my life and been fundamental to my education. I want them to continue to be. Being able to borrow books for free is brilliant, and necessary.

This post originally appeared on Liz’ blog.

Poems for Library Campaigners

VftL are pleased to have permission from Alan Gibbons and Chrissie Gittins to republish their ‘Poems for library campaigners’, published here with Alan’s introduction:

All over the country communities are holding Read ins this Saturday, February 5th as part of a Save Our Libraries Day to protest at local authorities’ withdrawal of funds from 450 libraries.
Campaign for the Book organizer Alan Gibbons said:
“I hope these poems from myself and Chrissie Gittins can be used to support the library protests. Libraries are at the heart of our communities. If we allow dogmatic cost-cutting policies to devastate the library network we will suffer through poor literacy levels and social dislocation. Already the UK has fallen from 7th to 25th in international reading rankings (PISA). South Korea, which stands top of the standings, is building 180 libraries. We are looking at the closure of 450. Reading is at the heart of social and academic success. We must not allow these disproportionate cuts to go unopposed.”

Poems for libraries
Two poems for library campaigners

I wonder, do we need
Another boarded-up building
In the High Street,
Another plywood or shuttered cataract
Bearing blind, sclerotic witness
To ignorance, wordlessness, decline?
I wonder, do we need
Another abandoned recess
For the tide of crisp packets and Styrofoam trays
To lap and rustle and slap
Against another closed door,
Another back turned
Against the tired, poor, excluded
Yearning to be free?
I wonder, do we need
More rows of empty bookshelves
To make way, one day
For the commodities to define you,
Tell you that if you fill your eyes with purchases
And stuff your ears with products
you can shut out your own humanity?
I wonder, can we still speak and sing,
I wonder, can we turn the page and bring
To all our new generations
A sense that to be human
Is to talk, debate and argue,
Discuss, discover and yearn?
So many questions-
But if they lock this door for good
Who will provide the answers?

By Alan Gibbons


‘Longing To be Heard’

A sound becomes a syllable,
A syllable becomes a word,
A word becomes a book
Longing to be heard.
A child speaks the word,
Mouthing every sound,
The child seeks the book,
Will the book be found?
Will the book be in the library?
Will a library be in the town?
Will a van deliver riches
The child cannot put down?
Or will the child be halted
On paths which are not there
Which would’ve given wealth,
In books they cannot share?

By Chrissie Gittins

Guest bloggers are not affiliated with VftL, and all views and opinions are their own.

Rhyme time

I held my first rhyme time today since starting my new job in a public
library in July. It was so much fun, but it also made me feel great because
I know that attending rhyme time & using the library can help toddlers turn
into great readers with good literacy skills.

For some children, the first time they see a book is when they start school.
Bookstart wanted to change all of this, so they began giving out Bookstart packs to young babies aged 9 months, 18 months and 3 years old. They also provide support for libraries to help promote reading to young children and one of the ways libraries do this is
through rhyme times.

Rhymes times are free drop in sessions for children aged 0-5 years old,
where we sing songs, learn rhymes & read stories. Why rhymes though? Well,
children love rhymes. They are their first introduction to narratives and
will hopefully lead to a love of story books too.

But rhyme times are more than just letting the children have a fun time and
getting them into reading books. By using rhymes, children can quickly learn
to recognise rhyming words, such as wall and fall. Once they recognise that
the words share the same sounds, they can then learn spelling sequences
easier once they begin to read and write. Once they learn how to spell or
read ‘wall’, they can then recognise ball, tall, and fall.

Various studies have found that the better children are at detecting rhymes,
the quicker and more successful they will be once they learn to read (Bradley,
1988c, Bradley & Bryant, 1983)
This is true no matter what their class background, intelligence or memory
ability. Rhyme times are FREE events held across the country in public
libraries, which can help give children from any background a great start in

Our rhyme times also involve story telling, which promote shared storybook
reading between the parents and children.  Sometimes parents feel a bit silly reading books to babies who can barely even hold a book, but we always encourage them that babies are never too young to be introduced to books. We encourage active participation in story
telling, as this is even more crucial than being read to frequently in
developing a child’s literacy skills. It is important that we don’t just
simply read a book to a baby or child, but involve them by asking questions
like ‘what’s Maisy doing?’ or ‘how many fish are on the page?’. Story
telling also helps children develop good language skills, which will then
lead to good literacy skills once they start school.

Rhyme times are important for the development of so many children across the
country. It is important that every child has access to these kind of events
in libraries. Libraries to me represent democracy & freedom and rhyme times
embody this.