For the love of libraries

I LOVE libraries, I love them, I always have. I remember going to the local library on the bus when I was a child, I would be so excited. My local library was Poole library and it was upstairs, it was always sunny when we went; the library smelt of warm lino and dust – it felt like home. The children’s library had low wooden boxes full of children’s picture books and I would flip through them with the same interest and joy as a vinyl lover in a record shop. I could choose 4 books, we take them to the counter, exchange them for our cardboard tickets, and the librarian would stamp the books with the date we needed to bring them back. I remember thinking that job looked quite fun.

William Sieghart has said that libraries are a golden thread that run through our lives – this is especially true for me. There has never been a time when I’ve not gone to a library of some description. I went throughout childhood, when I was a teenager I read through all of the Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume books and these led me to more teen fiction. The library was on the way home from school so I would go with my friends and we’d read the teenage magazines together – going straight to More and the position of the fortnight! I would visit my school library too, I remember when the school library got Encarta on CD rom and the librarian was so excited – a whole encyclopedia on a disk! I wasn’t so excited – I thought I’d still look up things in the real books! Always the bibliophile!

When I went to university and studied English Literature I would go to the library to study (maybe not quite as much as I should have though!) When I left university I started work at Shakespeare’s Globe and had a brilliant time, it was the best job ever, and I made friends for life there. After a couple of years I realised I needed to think about a career – I’d always thought about being a librarian, but it wasn’t the coolest job in the world. I realised I was being an idiot, and this was really what I wanted to do. So I looked into it – got some experience in the small library at the Globe, then did a year graduate traineeship at Kew Gardens Library – got onto the part time Library and Information Studies at University College London whilst working part time at Kew Gardens Library and also the Zoological Society of London library (London Zoo!). When I’d finished that I got my first professional job at the British Library, I was so happy! The BL is an amazing place to work, and I’ve had some unbelievable experiences here. I’m now working on the culture side and doing a lot of work with public libraries. I have been blown away by the passion and enthusiasm of public librarians whilst I’ve been doing this. They are true heroes working and providing the best service they can with diminishing resources. Public libraries are so important for all communities, they are a safe space for all where your money is not needed. How many places like that do we have? Support your local libraries, become a member, take your children, it’s not just about books. Libraries provide book groups, craft sessions, baby rhyme time, access to the internet – so much! Check it out!

Books as Birthday Presents – good or bad?

I was reading an article the other day about a woman who gave a book as a present for a child’s birthday party, the mother of the child didn’t accept it as her child ‘wasn’t really into reading’ and suggested that ‘anything else would be fine’!

I was really shocked, firstly at the rudeness of not accepting a present and also that the mother thought books weren’t a suitable present. I LOVE it when my daughter gets books  and so does she, though obviously we are both pre-disposed to actually welcome books as presents. I’m not so keen on the craft type presents which seem to be boxes full of tiny bits of glitter and feathers etc with really hard to follow instructions to make things that look nothing like the picture and usually elicit shouting and tears from both me and my child! However I would NEVER not accept a present that someone went out and spent time and money choosing to give to my child. (She on the other hand loves the craft based presents and delights in spreading the contents of the box all over the house)

I accept that not all children are into reading, but I think that having a few books aimed at them and the things they are interested in can’t hurt in helping to pique their interest. I do buy books as birthday presents for children, it was easier when they were younger as I’d fall back on a classic picture book. Now, unless I really know the child, and their reading stage I don’t always get books. Lego is good, and beany boos are crazily popular in my daughter’s friendship group. So all in all I think books can be an excellent thoughtful present and I will continue to buy them for birthday presents when I think it is appropriate!

Kindle v real book!

So, I’m a book lover, I love books, I like the feel of them, the art on the cover, the smell, I love having them in my house and seeing them in other people’s houses, I love a shelfie on Instagram. I’ve been lucky enough to come into contact with hugely rare and antique books through my work and love holding something that is hundreds of years old and has been handled by unknown people (sometimes not so unknown when dealing with books who belonged to famous people!) with untold stories.

However, for my day to day reading needs I love my kindle… I resisted getting one for years as my love for real books was so strong. When my daughter was born my reading went down to almost nothing for about a year. I didn’t have the time, or headspace for it – bed was always my place for reading and when my daughter was tiny sleep was the most important thing to do in bed!

As she got bigger and better at sleeping I started reading again, books at first, but I got a kindle fire for a Christmas present and started using it to read books. It was a revolution in the way I read. I could read one handed in bed, even no handed when I used the case as a stand! It was easier to find books, and I read some things I don’t think I would have if I’d not had a kindle i.e. older books that are harder to find such as Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham and the Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield (both great books btw!) The kindle fire is not a great way to read though, the experience of reading isn’t as easy on the eye as with a real book, and it’s quite heavy if you are reading without the case, also you can’t use it outside as the light reflects off the screen. So for a holiday in 2015 I decided to treat myself to a kindle paperwhite, I fell in love straight away! The reading experience is as good as a real book, you can read outside easily, the battery lasts for ages, it’s light, it’s backlit so you can read in bed without needing the light on. I really like it!

At the moment I’m reading a proper novel, and I’m enjoying the physical feeling of the book in my hand. But it’s made me realise how convenient the kindle is, I need to have the lamp on whilst reading in bed, I have to use both hands to hold the book so it’s not as comfy reading in bed, and if I fall asleep whilst reading I lose my page. Plus I didn’t realise how often I use the inbuilt extras like the dictionary, link through to wikipedia and x-ray when reading. I keep going to touch a word on the page to find out more and remembering this is not possible – I need to do my own research! So maybe the kindle is making me lazy, but there is no doubt that it has changed the way I read forever!