Category Archives: Library Advocacy

Ten reasons to love libraries

In last week’s post, I quoted Joanne Harris’ Twitter thread on getting children to read. I have been inspired to write a similar list to celebrate National Library Week. So here are ten reasons to love libraries:

1. Libraries are free to join and free to use.

The library is like a candy store where everything is free.

Jamie Ford

2. Libraries are safe places for many people.

A library is not just a reference service: it is a place for the vulnerable. From the elderly gentleman whose only remaining human interaction is with library staff, to the isolated young mother who relishes the support and friendship that grows from a baby rhyme time session, to the slow moving 30-something woman collecting her CDs, libraries are a haven in a world where community services are being ground down to nothing.

Angela Clarke

3. Libraries contribute to a democracy by enabling anyone to access knowledge and information.

The library is central to our free society. It is a critical element in the free exchange of information at the heart of our democracy.

Vartan Gregorian

4. Libraries open their doors to everyone, regardless of background.

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it.

Neil Gaiman

5. Libraries contain resources that promote learning and enjoyment.

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.

Carl T. Rowan

Public Library

Wallsend District Library, NSW by State Library of NSW Public Library Services: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

6. Libraries provide programmes and activities that build skills, expand minds and form connections between people.

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.

Sidney Sheldon

7. Libraries build a sense of community, both within their walls and outside in the wider world.

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.

Paula Poundstone

8. Libraries enable patrons to access digital technology and resources, thereby bridging the digital divide and allowing greater equality of opportunity.

We must also promote global access to the Internet. We need to bridge the digital divide not just within our country, but among countries. Only by giving people around the world access to this technology can they tap into the potential of the Information Age.

Al Gore

9. Libraries encourage a love of reading for all ages through the provision of resources and services.

Libraries are the future of reading.

Courtney Milan

10. Libraries have wonderful staff, who are knowledgable, friendly and helpful.

Librarians are the coolest people out there doing the hardest job out there on the frontlines. And every time I get to encounter or work with librarians, I’m always impressed by their sheer awesomeness.

Neil Gaiman

Public Library

Brown Library by VWCC Media Geeks: CC BY-NC 2.0

Neil Gaiman expresses the value (and importance of libraries) wonderfully:

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

So head down to your local library and enjoy all that it has to offer!


Love letter to a library

In February, there are several events to celebrate the love we have for both libraries and books. In Australia, one of these is Library Lovers Day, which is held on February 14th. An initiative of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the theme this year is love letters to libraries and focuses on “the love that we all hold for libraries and how they help to shape our national identity” (ALIA, n.d.). With that in mind, here is my love letter to the library of my childhood…

Askew Road Library

Dear Askew Road Library,

You captured my heart from the moment I walked through your doors as a small child. You weren’t grand or beautiful like some of the other libraries in Hammersmith. In fact you were quite unassuming and plain. You may not have been much to look at, but inside you were rich with treasures. And I loved you. You opened up a world of imagination and knowledge to me. I spent hours with you, browsing your shelves and finding a quiet spot to read. I have so many happy memories of growing up with you. Although there have been many other libraries since we first met all those years ago, you have always had a special place in my heart.

Thank you for being a big part of my reading journey and for sharing your books with me.

The ALIA website contains ideas and resources for celebrating Library Lovers Day in your library. There are also a series of love letters written by Australian authors, such as Jackie French and Natalie Jane Prior. Here’s a very funny one from Tony Wilson, who wrote The Cow Tripped Over the Moon and Hickory Dickory Dash

Love Letter

Image used with kind permission of ALIA

Join in the fun and celebrate all that is wonderful about libraries. Maybe you could write your own love letter to a library or go on a blind date with a book. Whatever you choose to do, let your library know how much it is valued and appreciated.

Save our school libraries!

This week, on Twitter, there were two tweets about the decline of school libraries in the UK. The first was by Laura and chronicles the slow death of a secondary school library. Split across two sites, in 2014, it was staffed by two librarians. The following year, this was reduced to one part-timer working across both sites. After the librarian left in October 2016, the library was left without staff. Laura is a volunteer at the school and is trying hard to promote the library and to encourage staff and students to use it. In her tweet, she shares the borrowing statistics for the winter term across the four years. In 2014, there were 1508 issues. This fell to 665 in 2015 and 338 in 2016. Heartbreakingly, there have only been 48 issues this year. This clearly shows the effect having (and not having) trained staff has on children’s engagement with libraries. As Rachel Ward so eloquently put it in the ensuing conversation: “The numbers say it all, don’t they? It’s about reading, of course, but also about nurturing. I’ve seen how school librarians encourage and support students, and really help them to cope with school”.

Because trained staff…

Trained Staff

Summer Reading 2013 Kick Off by Chattanooga Public Library: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

a designated space filled with resources…

turns children into readers


Storytime by michel bish: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The alternative is an empty library

Empty Shelves

Empty Library by libraryonthemove: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The second tweet shared an article in the Guardian, which highlights the decline in school libraries, from which “an estimated 30% of the school librarian workforce has been lost” (Flood, 2017). An open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, has been signed by 150 people, including well-known and well-respected authors: Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Cressida Cowell and Roger McGough. The signatories are calling for an end to the cuts in staffing and the closure of school libraries. The statistics provided in Laura’s tweet are included in the letter and are used to highlight the slump in library usage across the country, resulting from a lack of staffing, and linking it to falling literacy levels: “It is the case that children are not receiving the support and encouragement they need in order to become readers” (quoted in Flood, 2017). Hopefully the letter will have the desired effect and the UK government will realise the folly in not making libraries mandatory in schools (as they are in prisons, a point made by Jo Clarke on Twitter).

The value of school libraries within a community cannot be underestimated. I think Matt Haig, who also signed the open letter, sums them up beautifully:

Children are reading and loving books as much as they ever did and school libraries and librarians are the perfect gatekeepers to help cultivate and sustain that early passion for books. Libraries turn a love of reading into something communal and their value is social and even psychological as well as academic. A good library is the beating heart of a school.

Matt Haig (quoted in Flood, 2017)

So please do what you can to save school libraries. They are empowering and magical places, because each day they turn children into readers.

The value of school libraries

October is International School Library Month, when the importance of school libraries in the lives of children are celebrated and promoted to the wider community. This comes at a time when these wonderful and important places continue to be at risk of closure, as budgets are cut and teacher-librarians are replaced with unqualified staff; a situation that is reflected in the public library sector in the UK as a result of austerity measures.

School libraries are worth fighting for!

The plight of school libraries has been highlighted by two Children’s Laureates: Chris Riddell, the UK’s Children’s Laureate from 2015 to 2017, and Leigh Hobbs, the current Australian Children’s Laureate. Here’s what they both have to say about the value of school libraries.

By promoting reading for pleasure, introducing our children to life-changing books and turning them into lifelong readers, school libraries are a vital resource that must be nurtured.

Chris Riddell, 2016, in an open letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, which was also signed by the previous eight Children’s Laureates

School libraries played a vital part in my life, turning me into an avid reader and inspiring me to choose a creative path in my career.

Chris Riddell, 2017

When every parent knows the name of their child’s favourite book, author and, yes, school librarian and can share and read together with their child the books they bring home, we know literacy standards will soar and we’ll all be richer.

Chris Riddell, 2016, in an open letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, which was also signed by the previous eight Children’s Laureates

Libraries have played an enormous role in my life. Reading and exploring history and art is something I have been able to do because of libraries.

Leigh Hobbs, n.d.

Many people don’t realise how precarious the situation is in regard to school libraries. Many school authorities think that because of the internet, we don’t need books-and therefore we don’t need librarians.

Leigh Hobbs, 2017

We need to join Chris Riddell, who is now the president of the School Library Association, and Leigh Hobbs in advocating for all schools to have a school library staffed by trained professionals, so all children will have access to resources that will promote their love of reading and expand their knowledge and learning.

Save our school libraries!


Children’s cat-alogues

Having written several posts about dogs, I thought it was only fair to our feline friends that I create some booklists about cats. To segue into these, I’ve decided to explore library cat-alogues for children. A bit corny, I know, but it’s the best I can come up with!

Ahh, the good old days when you had to thumb through thousands of cards to find the one you wanted-and you couldn’t do it from home!

Card Catalogue

Card Catolog by Gregg Richards: CC BY 2.0

Since the introduction of online public access catalogues (OPACs), which replaced the card cataloguing system, it has become easier to search for resources in a library collection. OPACs are much more user-friendly, allowing customers to enter different search terms and to refine their search using facets (such as Format, Publication Date and Location). However, many public library catalogues do not differentiate between adults and children. The same format, with the same results and resource pages, is presented to both groups. This makes accessing the library catalogue more difficult for children for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is usually too much text and too many options presented on a page. For example, the results page for a search may contain multiple facets, whilst a resource page may include information about the publication or details of the format. This is often overwhelming for children as well as being largely irrelevant to their search for a resource. Browsing, which is the preferred method by which children choose books, is not easily facilitated by most OPACs. Finally, children usually need instruction on how to navigate the catalogue, especially in terms of refining their search using facets. This is because OPACs generally are not intuitive interfaces for children in the way that a tablet is.

The results page of an OPAC with multiple facets

OPAC Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

I have discovered a number of OPACs that have been designed for children. These take into consideration the characteristics of young library users in terms of their level of cognitive and linguistic development and their preferred method of choosing resources. One of the best that I’ve seen is Georgia’s PINES Kids’ Catalog.

The home page of PINES Kids’ Catalog

PINES Kids Catalog

Screenshot captured by the author

As well as being attractive and appealing to children, this OPAC has a clean layout with minimal text. There is also the option of browsing using categories, which have picture cues for early readers.

The results page of PINES Kids’ Catalog

PINES Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

With only one facet (Age Group), the results page of PINES Kids’ Catalog is less overwhelming for children. The information for each resource is the same as is found on the individual resource page. Again, this is relevant and meaningful for children, with minimal text, resource images and icons representing different formats.

Another online catalogue that has been created for children is the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), which “promotes tolerance and respect for diverse cultures by providing access to the best of children’s literature from around the world” (International Children’s Digital Library, n.d.). This is a great resource for material in a range of languages and can be useful when working with bi-lingual children.

The home page of ICDL’s catalogue

ICDL Home Page

Screenshot captured by author

Like PINES Kids’ Catalog, the ICDL home page has a simple layout with options to browse using the central carousel or to search using the different facets, all of which are represented by simple images. I like the idea of refining by colour, as this recognises one of the ways in which children select books: “I’d like one with a blue cover”!

Softlink, which developed the Oliver library software used in school libraries, has recently released Orbit, an interface designed for younger students. It allows children to customise the background, theme and avatar of their home page. There is a simple search facility, which uses either keywords or browsing buttons. There are also book carousels and slideshows to highlight resources in the collection.

The results page of Orbit library interface

Orbit Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

The results page for the Orbit library interface is easy for children to read and navigate. The only facet is Type, with picture cues for each category.   More information is contained on the resource page, including a summary and a suitability age (which I don’t necessarily agree with, but that’s an issue for another post!).

It’s good to see there are library catalogues available that have been designed to meet children’s search habits and developmental stages. If we want children to become enthusiastic library users, then we must provide them with OPACs that engage them and motivate them to explore the library collection. Hopefully children’s catalogues will be embraced by the public library sector, resulting in a new generation of avid library users.

Libraries and reading: Part II

In Libraries and reading: Part I, I considered how public and school libraries provide for readers through decisions made around collection development. Following on from this, I would like to explore the ways in which libraries promote reading for children through events, activities and displays. As the previous post highlighted, there is a difference between the two sectors in terms of the driving force behind decision-making. In school libraries, the focus is on education and reading is promoted as a way to learn and develop skills. Recreation is highlighted in public libraries, with an emphasis placed on reading for pleasure.

School libraries are very good at promoting reading, with many using a range of strategies to encourage their students to engage in this activity. Special events are one way of placing the spotlight on reading. These include World Book Day, which often involves children coming to school dressed up as characters from their favourite books. In Australia, Book Week occurs in August each year and coincides with the Children’s Book Council of Australia book awards. Book character parades and reading and voting on shortlisted books are part of the celebrations in schools across the country during this week. Other events for promoting reading include author and illustrator visits and book fairs. The teacher-librarian, Barbara Braxton, has a extensive list of examples in her post on library events. (Her blog, 500 Hats, is an excellent resource for teacher-librarians and children’s librarians and is well worth bookmarking for future reference.)

You’re a wizard, Harry! Dressing up for World Book Day

World Book Day

World Book Day-Being Harry Potter by Iain Cameron: CC BY 2.0

There are also a number of ongoing activities that can be used to promote reading. These include book clubs, which can be tailored to the interests and needs of the children. Again, Barbara Braxton has a post entitled The FIRST Book Club, which includes suggestions for monthly activities for a group meeting in the library. Golden tickets can be hidden in books that are seldom borrowed, prompting children to search beyond popular titles. Genre passports can be used to encourage students to explore the breadth of the fiction collection, helping them to discover what they enjoy reading. I have set up a Pinterest board to curate ideas for promoting reading. This can be used as a starting point for planning library activities.

Displays are another way of promoting reading. Like events and activities, these expose children to new formats, genres, authors, illustrators, subjects… They can be based around particular topics, celebrations and authors’ birthdays (such as Eric Carle, Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl). Students can be involved in creating the displays by including their reviews and recommendations of books (Braxton, 2015). There are a couple of posts on the 500 Hats blog that offer useful advice for setting up library displays for children: The Landscaper’s Hat and Tricks of the Trade. I also have a Pinterest board entitled Library Displays, containing inspiring pins from a variety of libraries.

Public libraries tend to use fewer approaches to promoting reading for their younger users. Most offer storytime sessions, some of which are tailored to different age groups. These may also be bi-lingual, either incorporating a community language or sign language. Some libraries have loyalty schemes (such as The ReadUp Program), with children collecting stamps for each library visit and then receiving a certificate once they reach a certain amount. Public libraries are particularly known for their summer reading programs (such as the UK’s Summer Reading Challenge and the Summer Reading Club in Australia), which encourage children to continue reading through the school holidays. Awards and prizes are often offered as part of these. However, the public sector could learn a great deal from school libraries, which are very creative in the ways in which they promote reading amongst their students.

Everyone is welcome at storytime…even bears and ninja turtles!

I hope that this post has provided you with some ideas for promoting reading (for pleasure) amongst the children you work with. I would also recommended reading The Reader Leader’s Hat by Barbara Braxton for ways of “growing readers” (Braxton, 2014). Please share any activities you have used to encourage children to read in the comments below.

Libraries and reading: Part I

Having outlined my beliefs about reading, I want to consider how reading occurs in library contexts. (At this point, it is important to remember that libraries offer more than just books, but that is for a future post.) In this post, I will focus on the ways in which libraries provide for readers through collection development.

There are two types of libraries that support children’s reading: school and public libraries. The ways in which they provide for readers is different, because of the beliefs that underpin their approach to collection development. School libraries are focused on educating children and seek to support learning and teaching. The emphasis is on learning to read and reading to learn, sometimes at the expense of reading for pleasure. In addition, any local or national curriculum will impact on collection development, particularly in the area of non-fiction. On the other hand, public libraries concentrate on recreation, both in terms of reading for pleasure and reading for information. Unlike school libraries, they are not driven by government documents.

Books, books, beautiful books!

These different beliefs about the purpose of the library impacts on collection development, resulting in different resources being made available in school and public libraries. Because the collection development of school libraries is often driven by curriculum, this can result in a non-fiction collection which is tailored to support topics within subject areas. This is partly influenced by the limited budgets available to teacher-librarians, who have to make purchase decisions that will support learning and improve educational outcomes for students. This means that the non-fiction collection may be narrower than that of a public library and is more likely to change in response to amendments to the curriculum. Fiction may consist of ‘safe’ choices, particularly in denominational schools, and this can result in the omission of genres or formats that are considered less educational, such as comics, magazines and pop culture literature.

Collection development in a school library is often influenced by curriculum 

In public libraries, collection development is primarily driven by user needs and interests. This means that the scope of a children’s collection may be broader than in a school library. Non-fiction tends to cover topics that may not appear in curriculum documents and will often focus on leisure reading, rather than reading to complete an assignment. Fiction is also more extensive, including graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Authors and series that are popular with children are included, rather than frowned upon, because they encourage reading for pleasure.

Public libraries may have broader fiction collections for children

It is important to note that this does not imply that public libraries are better than school libraries in providing for children. Both play an equally important role in supporting the development of readers. They just do this differently. I will explore the ways in which libraries promote reading in a future post. This is something that school libraries do very well.


Libraries in children’s literature: Part II

Continuing on from the post about libraries in children’s literature, here are the final three books in which libraries play an important role in the story.

Children's Books About Libraries

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Written by J. K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay

The Chamber Of Secrets

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.

When the shabby little house-elf Dobby pops up in Privet Drive insisting Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts, Harry suspects his arch-rival, Draco Malfoy, may be behind it. Rescued from the dire Dursleys by Ron Weasley-in an enchanted flying car-Harry spends the rest of the summer at The Burrow. Life with the Weasleys is so full of magical distractions, Harry soon forgets Dobby’s frantic warnings.

But back at school a sinister message found daubed in a dark corridor echoes Dobby’s predictions that terrible things are about to happen…

In the second book in the Harry Potter series, someone is turning students from non-magical families to stone and suspicion falls on Harry after he is heard speaking in Parseltongue. Harry and his friends must discover who has opened the Chamber of Secrets and who is the heir of Slytherin.

The Hogwarts Library features in most of the Harry Potter books. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry uses his invisibility cloak to search the Restricted Section for information about Nicolas Flamel. A year later, when the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, Hermione is able to borrow a potions book from the Restricted Section by presenting a signed note from Gilderoy Lockhart. She uses this to make polyjuice potion. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the three friends try to find material in the Legal Section that will help in Buckbeak’s hearing, while the following year, Harry looks in the Restricted Section for ways of breathing underwater in order to complete one of the tri-wizard challenges in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Hermione once again returns to the library to search through the Restricted Section to find information about horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In the first book in the series, there is a brief description that gives an indication of the magnitude of the Hogwarts Library:

And then, of course, there was the sheer size of the library; tens of thousands of books; thousands of shelves; hundreds of narrow rows.

Within the library, there are a number of different sections: Restricted, Legal, Invisibility, Dragon and Reference. Books can only be borrowed with permission from the librarian and those in the Restricted Section required a signed note from a teacher. Spells have been placed on books to prevent students from defacing or stealing them. The librarian, Madam Pince, is very strict and enforces a number of rules, including no eating in the library. She is described as being “a thin, irritable woman who looked like an under-fed vulture”.

The books in the Hogwarts Library provide Harry and his friends with information that is helpful during their adventures. Remember, as Ron says (in reference to what Hermione would do), “When in doubt, go to the library”.

Information in this section taken from the Hogwarts Library page of the Harry Potter Wiki.

Ink and Bone
Written by Rachel Caine and illustrated by Christina Griffiths (cover)

Ink And Bone

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar… but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life-and soon both heretics and books will burn…

Ink and Bone is the first book in the Great Library series, followed by Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill (to be released in July 2017). The premise behind the three books is that the Great Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed in ancient times, has been saved, along with the information it contained. The year is 2031 and the Great Library now controls all knowledge, functioning as a nation-state connected to daughter libraries or Serapeum throughout the world. Jess Brightwell, a Londoner from a family dealing in stolen books, is accepted as an apprentice by the Great Library. Once he arrives in Alexandria, he discovers secrets about the organisation, which put his life and his friends in danger.

Physically, the Great Library of Alexandria is “more of a sprawling, vast complex than any single building”. Guarded by automata in the form of lions and other creatures, it houses all the original books and scrolls ever written. Politically, it controls access to information through a process called mirroring. Any item within the Library’s collection or Codex can be written into a blank, allowing “protection of knowledge while also giving free access to all”. This is reinforced by the Doctrine of Ownership, which makes the possession of an original document illegal. The Library owns all knowledge in order to protect and preserve it. Throughout this alternate history, there have been threats to the existence of the Library, notably in the development of the printing press by Gutenberg. These ideas have all been quashed in order to maintain the Library’s power and its control of knowledge.

Each daughter library is staffed by librarians and scholars, who are specialists in particular areas. These include Medica, Artifex, Historica and Lingua. The Library also has its own army, the High Garda, who protect both the Great Library and its Serapeum. The process of mirroring is carried out by the Obscurists, who are born with the ability to perform alchemy. They also provide the spark of life in the automata.

This is a fascinating page-turner of a book, exploring issues relevant to our times: the desire for power, the control of information, corruption within institutions and the suppression of knowledge. It could almost be a primer for America under Donald Trump! It’s going to be interesting to see how the story unfolds across the next two books.

The Grimm Legacy
Written by Polly Shulman and illustrated by Zdenko Bašić (cover)

The Grimm Legacy

Lonely at her new school, Elizabeth takes a job at the New-York Circulating Material Repository, hoping to make new friends as well as some cash. The repository is no ordinary library. It lends out objects rather than books-everything from tea sets and hockey sticks to Marie Antoinette’s everyday wig.

It’s also home to the Grimm Collection, a secret room in the basement. That’s where powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are locked away: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles and has a will of its own.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before they’re accused of the crime themselves-or the thief captures them.

This book introduces readers to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, which was established in 1745 and has been in its current location in Manhattan since 1921. Despite a fairly ordinary exterior, the Repository has an impressive main examination room (MER) with “tall ceilings, massive imposing tables, and an elaborately carved staging area”. Its centrepiece is the Tiffany windows:

All four sides of the MER were paneled with forest scenes. To the north was winter, with frost-rimed rocks and black branches against a bright sky. To the west, spring: crocuses, the barest glimmer of green, blossoming trees dropping petals that seemed to twist and float. To the south, summer: layer upon layer of green, with birds peeking out here and there and a pair of deer stooping to drink from the mossy stream. And to the west, fall in all its blazing yellows and reds. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The New-York Circulating Material Repository loans objects rather than books. These include “musical instruments, sports equipment and specialized cooking tools”. It also has several Special Collections, the most important of which is the Grimm Collection. This houses items bequeathed to the Repository in 1892 by a grandniece of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. These were collected by the brothers along with their folk tales and include a glass coffin, a golden egg, spindles and dancing shoes. There are a number of other Special Collections in the Repository. The Wells Bequest contains items related to science fiction, such as shrink rays and a time machine, while artificial intelligence, computer viruses, software and technology are found in the Gibson Chrestomathy.

As well as librarians, there are library pages working in the Repository. They are responsible for fetching items requested by patrons. These are stored in stacks on different levels and call slips are sent to the relevant sections using a system of pipes. Once an item has been picked, it is placed in a lift and sent down to the MER where the patron can inspect and borrow it. Items that have been returned are re-shelved by the pages.

There are two other books, which feature the New-York Circulating Material Repository: The Wells Bequest and The Poe Estate. More books to add to my reading list!

All these brilliant books have adventure running through them. Who would think that the library could be such an exciting and dangerous place!

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb or contents of the book.

Library and Information Week

Next week is Library and Information Week in Australia. Organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the aim is “to raise the profile of libraries and information service professionals” (ALIA, n.d.) through a range of events and activities within library services. This year’s theme, Celebrate!, has been chosen to mark ALIA’s 80th birthday.

Let’s celebrate all that’s wonderful about libraries great…

and small!

National Simultaneous Storytime is one of the events held during Library and Information Week. On Wednesday 24th May at 11am, the picture book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, will be read in libraries, schools, early childhood centres, homes and other settings across Australia. The initiative is now in its 17th year and has been very successful in sharing a love of reading with children. It aims to:

promote the value of reading and literacy;
promote the value and fun of books;
promote an Australian writer and publisher;
promote storytime activities in public libraries and communities around the country;
provide opportunities to involve parents, grandparents, the media and others to participate in and enjoy the occasion (ALIA, n.d.)

The ALIA website has a range of resources available to support National Simultaneous Storytime, including ideas for activities, teachers’ notes and merchandise. Organisers are encouraged to register their participation as this will enable them to access digital presentations of the book, which can be used as part of the event.

And this is the book that has been chosen to be read simultaneously around Australia:

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon
Written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood

The Cow Jumped Over The Moon

Hey diddle diddle
You all know the riddle,
A cow jumps over the moon…

But the moon is so high in the sky! How many hilarious attempts will it take before Cow makes her famous high-flying leap?

This brilliant picture book tells the real story behind the cow’s record breaking jump over the moon. It also highlights the importance of perseverance and never giving up on your dream. An excellent choice for National Simultaneous Storytime.

So join in the fun next week and celebrate all that is wonderful about libraries and the people who work in them.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images taken by the author and all quotes taken from the blurb of the book.

Libraries in children’s literature: Part I

After gathering together picture books about libraries, I thought I would take a look at libraries in children’s literature. The seven books I’ve chosen, covering both junior and young adult fiction, each have a library at the heart of their story. In this post, I will introduce you to the first four books.

Children's Books About Libraries

Lily Quench and the Lighthouse of Skellig Mor
Written by Natalie Jane Prior and illustrated by Janine Dawson

The Lighthouse Of Skellig Mor

At the ends of the earth is Skellig Lir, a dreamy magical island that is inhabited by mysterious people with strange powers. To get there, Lily Quench and Queen Dragon must brave magic, storms and seas swarming with deadly sea dragons-and Ariane, the rebellious keeper of the lonely lighthouse of Skellig Mor.

In the depths of an undersea cavern, Lily struggles to communicate with the sea dragons and escape the skeleton-filled tunnels beneath the lighthouse. Only then can she complete her quest: to enter a fantastical library that has existed from the beginning of the world…

The winner of the 2003 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Short Fiction, this is the fourth book in the fabulous Lily Quench series. Our heroine is the last in a long line of dragon slayers, but has a gentler nature than her ancestors. She befriends Sinhault Fierdaze, otherwise known as Queen Dragon, who helps her to save the town of Ashby from the Black Count. In this adventure, Lily and Queen Dragon set off for the legendary Library of Skellig Lir, in the hope of finding magic books to help in the fight against the invaders threatening their home. Although initially barred from entering the library by the librarian, Lily later returns with a book that she has found and is allowed in.

The Library of Skellig Lir is “the most magical place in all the world”. When Lily enters the library, she discovers that it is alive:

A single great tree grew out of the bedrock of the little island. Its arching branches filled the space beneath the crystal cupola…and its leaves sighed and rustled in some invisible breeze. In the shelves formed by crevices in the trunk stood thousands of books, living books, that glowed with all the colours of the rainbow.

Books within the library grow on the tree: “As Lily watched, print started appearing on the tiny pages and miniature people in brightly coloured clothes ran over the paper like insects and settled into the illustrations”. The librarian, who has been in the Library of Skellig Lir since the beginning of the world, ‘picks’ the books when they are ready, just like fruit. She tells Lily, “Everyone who has ever been born has at least one book in this library”. Although she closed the library to outsiders after it was damaged by a group of magicians, she helps Lily find the information she needs in her quest to protect Ashby.

An interesting fact about the series is that one of the main characters is a librarian, as was Natalie Jane Prior before she became a full-time children’s writer (Prior, 2017).

Tally and Squill In a Sticky Situation
Written by Abie Longstaff and illustrated by James Brown

Tally And Squill

Tally is an orphan…She works as a maid…And sleeps in the kitchen sink.

But all around her there are secret passages, ancient mysteries and magical adventures waiting to be found. With the help of a furry friend, Tally discovers the hidden world of Mollett Manor…and the underground place where magic happens.

When Lord Mollett’s treasures are stolen, Tally is determined to catch the burglars. But all she has are her brains, her courage and a faithful squirrel. Can she save a sticky situation?

This is the first book in the Tally and Squill series (the second, Tally and Squill and the Scent of Danger, has just been published). Like Lily Quench, Tally is an orphan, working as a maid at Mollett Manor. Squill is the squirrel she becomes friends with. He helps her to discover who is stealing Lord Mollett’s valuables. When Tally explores the grounds of the manor, she discovers an underground library. She then uses books she finds there to trap the thieves and restore the treasure to its rightful owner.

The Secret Library is accessed by solving a puzzle. This unlocks a trapdoor with a ladder that leads down into an enormous room. Lamps provide illumination, revealing shelves and books:

This was no ordinary library. There were no aisles or neat ordered rows. Here shelves twisted and turned and corkscrewed from floor to ceiling…She looked up and the ceiling narrowed to a tiny point high, high above her. Here and there were little wobbly ladders which stretched up to reach the highest levels.

The collection was begun in 1150 by the Minervian Monks to “preserve our knowledge and protect the information we discovered”. But a hundred years later, disaster struck and the library entrance was sealed. It can only be opened by the Secret Keeper, which means that Tally is now responsible for protecting the library and the knowledge it contains.

The books are old and worn, covering all subject matters (although there don’t appear to be any fiction books!). When Tally reads them, magic happens. They come to life and she watches as a spider spins its web or a turtle snaps its jaw in front of her.

Like any good reader, Tally uses the knowledge she gains from the books, along with her own courage, to right a wrong.

Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library
Written by Chris Grabenstein and illustrated by Gilbert Ford (cover)

Escape From Mr Lemoncello's Library

When Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on the first night, he’s determined to be there. But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library-it’s getting out. Kyle’s going to need all his smarts, because a good roll of the dice or lucky draw of the cards isn’t enough to win in Mr Lemoncello’s library.

I loved this book and couldn’t put it down when I read it. Which isn’t surprising as it won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Children/Young Adult Mystery. If you enjoy solving puzzles, codes and clues, this is for you! Kyle loves games, especially the board games created by Mr Lemoncello, a ‘Willy Wonka meets Parker Brothers’ genius. Along with  eleven other 12-year-olds, Kyle wins a competition to take part in a library lock-in at the new Alexandriaville library. This has been designed and funded by Mr Lemoncello, who loved the original library that had been pulled down twelve years earlier. The children have to “use what they find in the library to find their way out of the library”, without setting off the alarms or using the front door or fire exits. As Mr Lemoncello says, “It’ll be like The Hunger Games but with lots of food and no bows and arrows”! And so the competition begins…

The town’s bank building has been converted into Mr Lemoncello’s library, retaining many of the original features:

With towering Corinthian columns, an arched entryway, lots of fancy trim, and a mammoth shimmering gold dome, the building looked like it belonged next door to the triumphant memorials in Washington, D.C.-not on this small Ohio town’s quaint streets.

Three storeys high, the library boasts a range of features: a large circular reading room, a Children’s Room, an Electronic Learning Center with educational video games (each with 3D vision, surround sound and smell-a-vision) and the Book Nook cafe. The Wonder Dome consists of ten video screens lining the library’s dome. These can display a single picture, such as the night sky, or individual images relating to the Dewey Decimal System. There are holographic statues in recesses at the base of the Dome, holographic animals among the bookcases and animatronics in the Story Corner.

The collection includes books and artefacts. Books on higher shelves can be reached using hover ladders, which utilise “advanced magnetic levitation technology”. Antique games and toys are located in the Board Room, while the Lemoncello-abilia Room houses ‘junk’ that Mr Lemoncello has collected.

Dr Yanina Zinchenko, a world-famous librarian, is responsible for overseeing the construction of the library: “Only she knew all the marvels and wonders the incredible new library would hold (and hide) within its walls”. The only other staff are holographic librarians, who provide assistance and answer questions, and robots, who restock the shelves.

For those who have enjoyed this book, there are two sequels: Mr Lemoncello’s Library Olympics and Mr Lemoncello’s Great Library Race (to be published in October 2017). I’ll definitely be reading both!

The Forbidden Library
Written by Django Wexler and illustrated by David Wyatt

The Forbidden Library

When Alice is orphaned she is sent away to live with the enigmatic Mr Geryon, owner of a huge, dark-and forbidden-library. After gaining entry with the help of a talking cat, Alice opens a book and finds herself trapped inside; she can only escape by conquering the dangerous creatures within. Alice has stumbled into a world where all of magic is controlled by Readers: she must open more books, face increasingly powerful foes, be the lead character in her quest to find a happy ending…

This book is the first in The Forbidden Library series. Like Lily Quench and Tally, Alice is an orphan, who has been sent to live with her uncle after her father dies in mysterious circumstances. Upon discovering the library, she enters a world of magic, which includes fairies with teeth and books full of danger. She is assisted by Ash, a talking cat with attitude, and both helped and hindered by Isaac, a boy with the same powers as her.

The library is housed in a building in the grounds of the house in which Alice is now living. From the outside, it looks like a fortress, with no windows and a single bronze door. But inside it is quite different:

The library seemed to be in a single vast room, cluttered with bookcases that rose almost to the low stone ceiling. They were arranged in rough rows, but irregularly, with gaps at random intervals.

The library is alive, with shelves that shift position and cats that wander among the books. It is also guarded by Ending, a mysterious giant feline, who wants to help Alice understand what she is caught up in. For Alice, like Isaac, is a Reader. This means that she is able to enter books and interact with the characters in them. Sometimes, in order to escape the book, she has to bind to her will the creature that she finds inside.

There is no organisation within the library, with books placed haphazardly on the shelves. Each book is a doorway to another place, either in this world or another. Some books ‘leak’ out into the library in that “they make a little bit of our world into a little bit of theirs”. When this happens, elements from the setting of the book appear among the bookcases.

The librarian, Mr Wurms, sits at a table in the middle of the library and moves so infrequently that “dust had settled all over him, like snow, and turned him a dirty grey”. Alice doesn’t like him, with his unpleasant gaze, his black, rotten teeth and his voice “as dry as a corpse”. He spends his time reading, stopping only to give Alice chores within the library.

The Forbidden Library is an enjoyable read, with a strong-willed heroine, a sassy sidekick, magic and mysteries. I look forward to working my way through the series.

Watch this space. The second part of the post will appear very soon.

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb or contents of the book.