Read about the Doncaster Book Award, The Tullamore Zombie literacy programme, Jeff Norton, an eyewitness account of the Mass Library Lobby and the YLG Unconference here:
School Libraries are not statutory in the UK and Prison Libraries are; I have heard friends and colleagues making jokes that soon young readers would have to break the law before there would be someone available to help them choose a book.
The DfES believes “that a good school library service can have a significant impact on pupils’ literacy.” They would like to see “all schools have a well-stocked library and all secondary schools employ an information professional” but they believe that “this should be a local decision, not one mandated by Government. It is up to schools to target resources appropriately according to their individual circumstances and to make their own choices about school library provision and book resourcing.”
Public Libraries are a statutory service, Local Authorities are required by law to offer a comprehensive library service.
Ed Vaisey is still ‘not currently minded‘ to intervene to defend the statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive’ service
Michael Gove believes that pupils should read 50 books a year – the equivalent of about a novel a week and that the academic demands placed on English schoolchildren had been “too low for too long”.
It is a well-known fact among librarians that we do more than stamp return dates in books, pack away returned items, book people onto computers and baby-sit for parents who need to pop to the shops quickly. Unfortunately it seems that this is not well-known to the general public at large.
I will not give a complete run down of what libraries offer all segments of the community as this is predominantly a blog about teens, libraries, schools, news and reviews (amongst a few other things) I will focus on some of the teen services libraries offer. The Reading Agency developed the Heaspace programme and from that MyVoice UK. On local levels librarians have developed and run individual reading, manga and library focus groups giving young people a say in what services are offered their libraries, most public libraries have a dedicated teen/YA area, there area gaming groups, homework areas, study spaces, volunteering opportunities. I have been involved first hand with setting up and running reading, manga and gaming groups for teenagers in three local authorities as well as offering training and outreach to library staff in others; I have worked with young people in care volunteering opportunities, as well as developing school outreach projects with colelagues, I have run the youth wing of a library development project. These are just things I have been involved with in public libraries off the top of my head
For many teenagers and children, libraries are often the only place that they can come into contact with books and people that are willing and able to help them choose something that they will be able to read and enjoy. The library can be found either in their school or the local public library.
Not every library offers everything for teenagers but most libraries at least offered a collection of books and a safe place to spend some time. Now there are 200 fewer safe places for them to gather and be introduced to new authors, old books and other literary delights.
When schools are inspected libraries are often overlooked or ignored, the inspectors did not even speak to me last week when they were at my school and I know from some discussion groups that I am part of that I am not teh only school librarian that has happened to. It is from these groups that I have received a vibrant welcome and a lot of truly excellent advice when I was a new school librarian.
There are many brilliant school librarians out there, some like myself are refugees from the wanton destruction of public libraries that has been taking place since last year. Other school librarians have been blazing the trail for years, and for all the truly amazing school librarians there are running fantastic school libraries there are many more schools that do not see the need for a librarian and in some cases even books – because they have the internet.
When staff who are against the wire look to the government for help all our political masters do is shrug and say “It’s not my job to make that decision guv!”
Besides, books are cheap, everyone can afford to buy all the books they need, Michael Gove has made sure that every state school has a lovely King James Bible AND he is asking authors for their lists of their favourite books.
Pretty soon I am sure we will wake up and hear the clocks striking thirteen.
That was depressing! Sorry, it has been churning in my head for a while and I needed to get it out. As bleak as things seem I truly do not believe that Libraries are lost. Coming up for a decade ago when I first came to the UK Libraries seemed to be on the top of the list of public services that were being expanded and developed. Links to other local government offices were being bolted on to the library service, I was swept into teen services and found it was something I loved and ran with it.
I believe in the work I do and have done, working in a school I have access to more teenagers than I had when I was in public libraries. For teen library services school and public libraries offer an almost symbiotic service. Public libraries can offer books that school libraries may find it hard to justify while in my experience School Libraries can cover the non-fiction side of the service for students better than public libraries. When both sides are in synch the service can be amazing but with the current butchery going on both sides are taking damage and the service suffers.
More depressing news is that I have been reading about Dave Cameron wanting to clamp down on and reform judicial reviews:
Cameron confirmed he wanted civil servants to stop conducting routine equality impact assessments for legislation, which assess the likely effect of new policies on women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities, and to end cumbersome 12-week public consultations that delayed ministers from pressing ahead with their plans.
Anti-library closure groups have been using judicial reviews to reverse soem decisons that wee made to close libraries.
With organisations such as Voices for the Library and the Mass Lobby for School Librarians already standing against the destruction of out libraries perhaps it is time to start forming teen political pressure groups. There are school librarians across the country that have been involved in the Lobby March and VFtL must have youth service advocates in their ranks so if we can start radicalising the teens that we work with we can get a bigger voice – mobilising the upcoming generation of voters.
It is just a thought…
There is an old(ish) saying that goes “You get nothing for nothing!”
That can be adapted for attracting teens into your library or teen activity/reading group. As librarians we know the pleasures that reading brings, some teens are also aware of this – these are the ones that will come to the group anyway. Reward the group members – a big bag of Funsize Mars Bars is a relatively inexpensive way to do this. The idea is not to broadcast that there will be freebies but surprise the attendees towards the end of the first session.
Teenagers talk to one another, and when word gets around that they can get sweets /chocolate and possibly win cool free stuff in the library then their friends will start coming along. The good thing about readers is that their friends are also not averse to picking up books when the need arises. Teenagers are busy people and often need a reason (or excuse) to attend something that may cause them to lose face in the eyes of their peers.
The nature of the group will dissuade all but those most determined to get free stuff and those that are attending because they love reading, manga or whatever the group focus is (also those that may need a reason to eb there but can’t admit to liking books). It is a good idea to institute group rules – the first rule of reading club is that you must talk at reading club, if it is your first time at reading club you must talk, talking can be about books, magazines or any printed material.
Depending on the size of the group one bag of Funsize mars bars can last for a minimum of two group meetings. You do not have to use Mars bars if you have a manga group you can pick up a bag of White Rabbit sweets, Pocky has become unbelievably expensive compared to what it was a few years ago and I only use it for prize giveaways these days.
Over the years I have found that many group members may come for the freebies, books or magazines but end up staying for the community spirit and being with like-minded teens who enjoy what they like.
Once the group is established you can hold random giveaways if you are able to source freebies, these can include proof copies of books, interesting things that you pick up at conventions or cheap, shiny things that you can pick up at pound stores.
My addiction to comics can be traced back to one specific comic book, I know this because it is always in my mind. Often not consciously thought about but it is there. The comic book in question is issue 27 of Saga of the Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Steven Bissette and John Totleben. The story was called By Demons Driven.
As for these shrieking statues, I’ll not weep,
They’ll perish as they lived: dazed, witless sheep
In slaughterhouses far beyond their ken.
I shed no tear for those that die unshriven,
For they are men. Just men. And what are men
But chariots of wrath, by demons driven!
– Etrigan the Demon
Monsters, demons, possession, alcohol abuse, and pure, visceral storytelling… I still have the comic somewhere in a box at my parent’s house in Cape Town. I read somewhere that Moore wrote The demon Etrigan’s speech in iambic pentameter (who says thet comics can’t teach you anything?).
Growing up in Cape Town in the ‘80’s it was not an easy time to be a comics fan (comics were hard to find), after a particularly bad series of tests and exams my parents banned comics (well they tried to) I rescued the remains of comics from a box in the front of the house, the inner section of a batman 80 page special from the 1960’s I think, with a story about a Mexican batman and a villain with a parrot I can still remember the Batman deducing that the Mexican Batman was in league with the bad guy by seeing parrot claw marks on his colleague’s shoulder, there were also some Archie comics, Richie Rich a Spiderman mixed in with sundry other titles.
I hunted down comics where I could but they were few and far between in those days and it would be a few years before professional comic shops opened.
The first was Reader’s Den in Cape Town and later came Outer Limits which became my regular haunt when I was studying at the Cape Technikon. I collected the entirety of Preacher by Garth Ennis from Outer Limits but I am getting a bit ahead of myself.
Whilst in High School (and after my parents had forgotten about the comics ban) I was introduced to the Batman, and soon I was collecting Batman, Detective comics and Shadow of the Bat and Jim Balent’s Catwoman – only the early storylines as I did like a good story and an improbably voluptuous Selina Kyle could only keep my attention for so long. I collected Batman from the mid 400’s to the early 500’s. In between Batman and studying for tests and exams I discovered a corner store in Kalk bay where I lived that had a revolving rack stuffed with back issues of Justice League International (the storyline before it split into Justice League America and Justice League Europe) a FUNNY, dysfunctional super-hero story starring Batman, the Martian Manhunter Guy Gardner Green Lantern, Mister Miracle, Big Barda and others – just what I needed to take my mind off ever looming exams!
I was saved from superhero comics by 2000AD and discovered a number of writers that I still follow – Garth Ennis, Alan Moore again (it was the complete DR & Quinch trade paperback), Pat Mills and others. Then there was Hellblazer, Sandman – the creation of the Vertigo line in 1993 kept me reading comics, I still have the first issue of The Extremist and some of the Hellblazer comics (Hellblazer predated Vertigo) I have some loose copies of The Family Man and Fear Machine storylines. Along the way I flirted with Spawn by Todd McFarlane – I had number from 1 to the 60’s (I sold those to part finance my ‘plane ticket to the UK)
I spent many Friday afternoons at Outer Limits when it was still on the Cape Town foreshore (after I had finished at Tech.) I was introduced to Sirius Entertainment – they published Chi-Chian by Voltaire as well as his Oh My Goth series and the Dawn comics by Joseph Michael Linsner. The one true comics love of my early to mid-20’s was Preacher by Garth Ennis, I followed Garth from Hellblazer and regretted not an instant! One man’s search for god who has abandoned his creation, followed by Tulip – his ex girlfriend (now a hitwoman) and Cassidy an Irish vampire – it was spot on for my tastes at that time and even today I still love it! Whenever I go back to South Africa (usually once a year or so) I did out my Preacher box and reread the series – usually in the evening when everyone has gone to bed and my nephew Scott is not there as he loves comics but at 12 is too young for many of my comics.
I was also a fan of Bitterkomix – a South African publication mainly by Joe Dog and Conrad Botes two Afrikaner art students who were creating comics that were scandalising Stellenbosch University and Afrikaner culture (this was in the dying days of the National party led government prior to free and fair elections in South Africa.
Nowadays as a respectable librarian earning a (fairly) decent salary with access ot the internet I have been collecting comics that I had only heard about when growing up and also trade paperbacks of comics I read. I have just finished rereading Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis – political futurist sci-fi with a distinct humanist bent bloody funny and sharp as a razor. I have an original B&W trade paperback of Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack, most of Alan Moore’s back catalogue and his ABC stuff.
I do most of my shopping at Gosh Comics which is, to my mind one of London’s best book shops. I have also started collecting individual comics again – only two series Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples and The Massive by Brian Wood.
I collected The DFC for the entirety of its (too short) run and am debating with myself about subscribing to the Phoenix – I flip through it every now & then at Gosh but am afraid of committing in case I am hurt again.
I also read manga – but fairly infrequently these days (my time as the manga librarian is coming to an end) I still enjoy anime – particularly the movies released by Studio Ghibli, Madhouse and Gonzo.
It is so easy to get hooked on reading comics these days. Most public libraries stock graphic novels, if you are in a university or college take a look under 741.5 in the Dewey sequence. that is how I discovered Watchmen, Maus and Dark Knight returns when I was studying.
Or if you have money to spare check out your local comic shop!
it’s comics time: calling all librarians!!! Read it now! It is brilliant!
Sarah is the creator of the excellent Vern & Lettuce comic that appeared in the lamented The DFC her work has also appeared in Nelson – a comic book by 54 comics artists about a day a year over 43 years in the life of a girl called Nelson.