Friday, 5 February 2016

Library Love – Writers Library Memories featuring Sue Wallman, Rita Borg and Candy Gourlay

Continuing our Library features on the run up to National Library day, some lovely writers have shared with us some of the reason why they love libraries…

Sue Wallman - author of young adult thriller LYING ABOUT LAST SUMMER

Pretty much every Saturday morning of my childhood I visited Christchurch Library in Dorset. To be honest I didn't have much else going on. I read all sorts of things I wouldn't have come across otherwise, and I'd pounce on the new books. Sometimes I'd find books that literally hadn't been taken out for years and I'd feel sorry for them and give them an outing. The librarians were a miserable bunch but that didn't matter because I hid away in the upstairs section. I went back there recently and it had completely changed. There was a fantastic young adult area, loads of scheduled activities and the librarians smiled at me. I love how libraries have evolved - they are warm, lively and friendly places and it's so sad they have to fight for survival.

Sue Wallman, author of young adult thriller LYING ABOUT LAST SUMMER, published on 5th May by Scholastic @swallman

Rita Antoinette Borg – Storyteller and Children’s Author

My library on Riverside Drive in New York City was the only place my father let me go to on my own. The

Adult Book Section was upstairs: the Children’s Books Section was downstairs.

One day downstairs, I read the last page of a picture book” Tikki Tikki Tembo” by Arlene Mosel.

Then, I whispered to the librarian,” Where can I find the book,” The Good Earth”, by Pearl Buck?”

The librarian smiled and said, “ That’s upstairs. Are you ready to read the upstairs books?”

I nodded, but I wasn’t sure.

“My teacher said to read “Good Earth”’, I said, clenching my lips together.

“All right then, “ said the librarian, who knew me well, “ You can go upstairs, Rita. It’s on the very first shelf. If you can’t reach it call me.”

I ascended the staircase as if landing on an alien planet, deep in outer space. Breathing in, I gazed around the new floor. I had made it. I bounded to the first bookshelf.

I found the book.

I couldn’t reach it.

I climbed one shelf, two shelves, three shelves.

I grabbed the book, held it tight and jumped down. The pages fell open. There and then, I departed on my first adult voyage to China.

Rita Antoinette Borg grew up near Central Park in New York City. Always reading and learning, she writes magazine articles, poetry and stories. She visits schools as a storyteller and children’s author. She has seven books published, and a picture book about an alien is soon on its way; along with a long poem about dolphins in an anthology. Rita has three kids, a husband who is a microbiologist and a border collie named Dakota. Rita now resides in Malta, but misses New York City very much.

Candy Gourlay – Author of Tall Story and Shine

It takes one book to change someone's outlook on life. And the someone who delivers that life-changing book could be a librarian near you.

I was the librarian's pet at my school - Miss Evelyn Diaz was her name. I must have been nine? Eight? Twelve? I am of the age now where the memory is all a blur. But I remember the books. Towers of them! We were only allowed to borrow two at a time but Miss Diaz kept some under the counter for me and when nobody was looking stamped me through with four, five, six in one go.

As a grade schooler, I loved the mystery serials. I borrowed every single serial there was - The Beverley Gray Mysteries, The Hardy Boys, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Bobbsey Twins, The Judy Bolton Detective Series and those mysteries by Enid Blyton starring Freddie Algernon Trottesville (Fatty, for short).

Miss Diaz made me feel special - like we shared between us this golden treasure that no one else had access to in the school. When I begged to add just one more book to the pile, she was amazed and excited. When I brought the books back, she was delighted that I had read them so quickly.

Candy Gourlay is the author of Tall Story and Shine you can find out more by visiting her web-site or following her on twitter @candygourlay

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Interview with Claire Cross librarian at Rush Common School, Abingdon

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

It’s hard to narrow it down! For sheer escapism and immersion in a fantasy world, my favourite book was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. The story centres around an adventurous little girl, and I imagined myself in Lucy’s shoes, gazing into the clear waters and seeing a mermaid below. My other favourite would be The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is the ultimate riches to rags to riches story complete with noble heroine mistreated by those around her but eventually triumphant.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

For me, children’s books opened a door into other worlds, allowing me to share the lives of other children, whether they were going on adventures with a magical nanny or training to be a ballerina at a stage school. These were experiences which I was never going to have myself, and I liked nothing better than switching off the reality of my own childhood (which was very happy by the way!) and diving into someone else’s. I loved reading all genres but had a strong preference for those which were either biographical, such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, or seemed as though they were, such as Arthur Ransome’s works.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

As you can imagine, I still have all the books from my childhood bookshelves! I still go back to the Swallows and Amazons series and get pleasure from reading them. My preference for reading to my own children over the years was to read my old books, but my husband (writer Nick Cross), has brought all sorts of amazing new children’s literature into the house. My favourite of these is the Larklight trilogy by Philip Reeve, which gets my vote for sheer inventiveness and humour.

Why did you become a librarian?

I went straight to University (or Polytechnic as it was then!) and did Library and Information Studies as a first degree because I loved books and reading and I didn’t have another strong urge towards a career. I don’t think at the time I really knew what librarians did, and it wasn’t until I started work three years later that I found out. Luckily I really enjoyed it, and worked in a government library followed by 7 years in a specialist academic library, before having a long career break to bring up our two daughters. Now I work part-time in my daughters’ school library, although they have both gone on to secondary school now.

What is the best thing about the job? And the worst?

It is wonderful when you inspire children to read or when you match a child with a book they enjoy, but my personal favourite thing is true library jobs like reorganizing the shelves or shelf-checking! The worst thing about the job is the constant never-ending chase for lost books, and I am still getting my head around accepting that sometimes, a book really is missing...

What is your vision of what a children’s library will look like in ten years time?

I hope it will be a warm and welcoming place, a neutral zone which is not a classroom and where children can read and explore whatever type of books they like.

I would certainly like to see the emphasis remaining on reading ‘real’ books as I believe a love of books developed in the primary years will benefit the children for the rest of their lives, and the borrowing of a new book, or the next book in a series is an exciting event in their day.

You have been involved with renovating the school library; can you please tell us a bit about the process of re-envisioning and restocking a library?

When I started work the library had not been opened for a while, and previously had been run by parent volunteers, so although the school owned a computer library system, they had not been using it for loans and nothing had been added to the library for several years. I also found that about 1500 of the books on the shelves were not on the library system, so I started cataloguing as fast as possible!

After getting the library system working again and making sure all the books were on it, I continued to reorganise the space to be more welcoming and practical. My vision for the space was to make it possible for as many little people as possible to sit somewhere comfortable and read!

A fantastic fund-raising effort by our school community and the Friends of Rush Common resulted in the library being given money to buy new books and furniture for the first time in many years. We decided the best way to restock was to ask the children to suggest the books they were interested in, and a survey went out to every child in the school at the end of the 13/14 school year. There were over 200 responses and as a result over 100 new books were added to the library in the fiction section, which was every book suggested by the children. We have also had many hundreds of books donated by teachers and other staff at the school, parents and children.

My pupil librarians love to stamp and label new books and the children get such a huge kick out of seeing brand new books on the display shelves, and especially being the first person to borrow the book!

I also spent some of the money on a large new rug, some bean-bags and new book cases. We now have three soft sitting corners in the library including a ‘story-telling zone’ where children can sit on the soft cushions and use story dice or cards to inspire verbal story-telling. There are also displays showing the champion borrowers for each year group.

I put lots of posters up and have also been gradually covering the walls with book reviews and completed activity sheets by the children. Some of them have really made me laugh, such as the child who illustrated an activity sheet entitled ‘my favourite place to read a book’ with the words ‘one thousand oranges!’ and the one who wrote that Elsa from Frozen was her favourite character because she was a ‘beetul prenses’.

Although the library itself isn’t a huge space, I believe it is being used really well now, with class groups coming over to change their books once a fortnight and open to the children at break time and lunch time two days a week. Last year over 6500 books were borrowed and the school has an excellent record for literacy. My personal goal is that every child should borrow a book during the course of this school year - last year I missed the target by about 20 children out of 410. It is my job to make sure the children know what is available to them, and this year my focus will be on better signage and letting the older children know we do have books they will like.

I have been amazed by the enthusiasm of staff and parents towards the library, and at one point was nearly overwhelmed by the number of books donated! I would recommend that anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation should reach out to their wider school community to ask for help, and also to the children themselves for ideas to improve the space and the type of books they would like to see in it.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Favourite Fictional Libraries

It is February and rapidly approaching National Library Day (6th Feb). As you know, we at Space on the Bookshelf love all things books, and like to celebrate all who promote books and the love of reading. With that in mind, over the coming week, we have a whole host of features celebrating LIBRARIES!

We start our Library feature with a look at some of the best ever Fictional Libraries.

When it comes to fictional libraries there are so many fantastic ones to choose from. Do you go to Hogwarts? Or Aunt Elinors from Inkheart? Or possibly the non-fictional – fictional library from Matilda? There are so many fantastical libraries we at SOTB have put are heads together and come up with a list of some of the best…

The library of China Sorrows - Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

If I could wish myself between the pages, then the fictional library I would steal a visit to would be China Sorrow’s magical library in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy.

What more enigmatic librarian has ever been written about that the beautiful, treacherous and talented China Sorrows? A previous worshipper of some very bad gods, she now keeps her secrets well, has been known to occasionally be useful in a fight, but mostly refuses ever to let anyone know which side she is on.

Stephanie realised why none of the doors were numbered, it was because they all led into the same room. The walls between apartments had been taken away in order to accommodate the vast number of books on the shelves. Stacks and stacks of books, a labyrinth of bookshelves that stretched from one side of the building to the other. As they followed the bespectacled man through the maze she saw more people, their attention focused on their reading, people half-hidden in shadow, people who didn’t look exactly right . .

In the middle of the library was an open space, like a clearing in a forest, and in the open space stood the most beautiful woman Stephanie had ever seen. Her hair was black as raven wings, and her eyes were the palest blue. Her features were so delicate Stephanie feared they might break if she smiled, and then the lady smiled and Stephanie felt such warmth that for an instant she never wanted to be anywhere else but at this lady’s side.

“Stop that,” said Skulduggery

The books are arranged quite differently to any other library. They are arranged in order of magical ability. Meaning the books on Magic for beginners are at one end, and books on far more advanced magic at the other. But the books can also move in response to emotions.

China Sorrows is an avid collector, using a combination of beauty and her magic to bring her new acquisitions for her library. But as the stories progress we also learn that this most intriguing and unusual of librarians also has the entire library set up to provide magical traps and clever escape routes, just in case trouble every comes to China’s door – which, of course it does, pretty regularly.

After all - she's a friend of Skulduggery Pleasant . . . or is she?

The library from The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes

This exquisitely illustrated picture book captures the warmth and inviting nature of libraries who welcome people from the whole community; including a lion.

Ordinarily, the introduction of a lion would cause commotion, but the Librarian Mrs Merriweather makes it very clear that the lion is welcome, if he abides by the rules. The lion becomes fascinated by the stories at Storytime and begins to spend all his days at the library, helping out with chores and eventually becoming a permanent and much loved feature of the library. Until that is an emergency leads to him to break the rules, and roar. Soon all is forgiven and the lion is invited back into the bosom of the library community. 

Alexandriaville’s Public Library from Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

After the original library was knocked down 12 years ago to make way for a multi-storey car park, the residents of Alexandriaville are waiting for the much anticipated opening of the new public library. Anticipation becomes excitement when it is announced that the new library is the brain child of Mr Lemoncello, the eccentric genius and world famous game maker. To make things more spectacular, Mr Lemoncello is running a competition, open only to twelve year olds, to write an essay about libraries. The prize, the first library cards and an advanced viewing of the library for the best 12 entries.

The twelve young winners enter the library for a sleep over to find that it is much more than just books. The library is a wonder of learning, with holographic Librarians, animatronic creatures, a huge computer gaming room, and even rocket boots for reaching books stored on the highest shelves. But the children become even more enthralled when it is announced they are participants in a game; to escape the library. This is no mean feat, as the library building was a former bank, and each child must follow clues, solve riddles and use the resources of the library to find a way out and win.

As a twelve year old when the new library opened up in my home town (albeit in Oxfordshire, not Ohio) I would have loved such an exciting introduction to libraries. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a thrilling and actioned pack yarn displaying clearly how much fun a library can be, and it even has resources to help teachers and librarians create their own scavenger hunts too!

“Using a library can make learning about anything (and everything) fun. When you’re in a library, researching a topic, you’re on a scavenger hunt, looking for clues and prizes in books instead of your attic or backyard.” 

The library in Pike by Anthony Mcgowan

From the fantastical to reality, the next book is one that reflects the plight and importance of libraries to communities. Anthony McGowan’s Pike, follow up to Brock, is centred around lead character Nicky who finds his local library a haven and a warm safe place to retreat. It is on one such occasion that he overhears the conversation between the Library Lady and a local council man who is planning on shutting down the library. When Nicky is asked what the library means to him, his thoughts encapsulate the importance of Libraries to many people from all walks of life.

“I wanted to say that I loved the library, that it was the best place in town, and that they should shut everything else down before the library.”

So here are just a few of our favourites. We would love to hear about your favourite fictional library, so please do leave us a comment below.