Monthly Archives: October 2017

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Are you there John? It is me Matt

I have just written and e-mailed a letter to Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. I am hoping to open a dialogue with him to encourage him to be open and supportive of public libraries in the UK.

Full text is below

Dear John

I thought I would write this letter to introduce myself and say hello – hi!

I have been tweeting you over the past few days about Libraries Week and specifically Public Libraries as I believe (and am sure that you feel the same) that they are an integral part of the social fabric of life in the UK. They are one of the oldest public services run by local government still in existence (they have been around for 167 years) seriously, check your change pouch, you may have one of the 50p coins struck to celebrate 150 years of public libraries in 2000.

I wrote a bit about the Public Libraries Act of 1850, well mostly the arguments for and against here: http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2013/07/03/the-arguments-against-and-for-public-libraries-in-1850/

While the century has changed, many of the arguments are still the same, I am not writing to discuss these but if you are interested I am up for a face to face discussion about public libraries, I can bring my friends who share similar interests to join in and hope that you consider doing the same.

You were very vocal about libraries last week and I am hoping that this will continue now that Libraries Week has passed. It is easy to join in celebrations when everyone is shouting “hurrah”, but when the bunting is taken down and everyone gets on with their jobs I hope you will do the same as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DCMS. In this role I am sure you will find supporting Public Libraries easier than many for as you are no doubt aware Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964. Amongst the many duties that you have is the one that includes making sure that Local Authorities run a comprehensive and full Library Service this includes

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))
  •  
    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  •  
    I am sure that you already know it backwards but you can read the full act here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/75
     
    I know how busy you must be and how easy it will be for some duties to slip due to the immense pressure many in government must be under, so I want to reassure you that you are not alone. I will be here to chivvy you along if necessary and to support you as you engage with your colleagues in local government to remind them that they are legally obligated to run a library service rather than foisting it off on volunteers, many of whom will do anything to keep the service going – and that really is not fair! I mean I am all for volunteers in libraries assisting staff, but to make them responsible for running a professional service really is beyond the pale! I hope you will have a word with the councils that are doing this!

    This was supposed to be a quick note but I seem to have gone on I do apologise! Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you as to how we can move forward together and give the people of the UK a Library Service we can all celebrate and be proud of!

    Warmest regards

    Matt Imrie

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)


    I first read Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince as a child, it was the first book I picked up that I was aware was old (rather a classic) but in my mind then I knew it was considered a good book because it was still in print. It was illustrated but as the pictures were black, white & grey I focused more on the story and Saint-Exupery’s words whisked me away on the tale of the aviator and the Little Prince.

    Flash forward to the present-time some 30-odd years later and I revisited The Little Prince again and not for the first time; I had previously read the graphic adaptation by acclaimed French graphic novelist Joann Sfar – a beautiful volume that appears to have sailed under the radar of many readers.

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)


    However rereading the novel with Saint-Exupery’s illustrations in the colours he originally used lifts the story from classic of literature into high art. Once again the Folio Society has made my jaw drop with this beautiful slip-cased, two-volume set comprising the story (the year 2000 translation) and the full colour illustrations.

    The companion volume is purely a thing of beauty, from rough sketches to finished pieces the artwork contained in this slim volume gives the reader some insight Saint-Exupery crafted his illustrations. The artwork alongside the thoughtful commentary by Christine Nelson, giving a precis of the story and a critique of the work make this a must-have for fans of classic works for children.

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

    The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, introduced by Stacy Schiff and translated by Richard Howard, is exclusively available from www.foliosociety.com

    The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

    I have never been able to say that a book took my breath away; after encountering The Lost Words I am no longer able to say that.

    It is not that the book whisked my breath away, but rather that the magic of the book entranced me while I was looking at and reading it my autonomic nervous system slowed and I forgot to draw breath, until my body, starved of oxygen, demanded that I inhale.

    Through some subtle alchemy Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris have captured some of the magic of the wild on fragile pieces of paper. With his words, in verse so spare that not a word is wasted nor extra ones required Robert has written the movement of the animals and captured the essence the floral kingdom in ways that I have never encountered in print before before. Jackie, whose work I have adored for years has truly outdone herself, I keep expecting the animals to dart off the page and the gentle breeze to whistle through the brambles or conkers and acorns to fall from their branches.

    The Lost Words is a memory of the wild and a reminder of the potency of words that exist and should not be forgotten.

    Poster: Be a REBEL!

    Click on the image to download a .pdf of the poster.

    An open letter on #LibrariesWeek

    FAO: John Glen MP, Libraries Taskforce, the DCMS, Arts Council England, Local Governments all over the UK

    RE: LIBRARIES WEEK

    Dear all

    It is an exciting day today, with the launch of the first National UK Libraries Week, celebrating libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK. Going by your twitter feeds this morning you are all big supporters of this initiative.

    It gladdens my heart that you are all believers in equality of service, and that citizens of this United Kingdom, home to Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, Rowling, Riddell, Crossan and other giants of literature, both ancient and modern, deserve equal access to literature, learning and information through their local library service.

    In fact as you are no doubt all aware, Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964, with the Secretary for DCMS (currently YOU Mr Glen) having a right and a duty to make sure that local authorities do this (see below)

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))

    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  • Read the full act here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/75

    I would like to welcome you all to join with librarians, campaigners, authors and others who have worked tirelessly since 2011 (and before) to ensure the survival of the library service as we know it.

    I am aware that in the past other secretaries of state have not been minded to intervene or just sat on their hands while the service burned (whatever happened to them?), I also know that it many in government thought the public library question was best answered by local government (sadly many of those answers have been soul-destroying).

    Now I am confident that the online signals of support from yourselves and official twitter accounts from councils across the country that we can move past this unfortunate episode and work together to bring library services back under the umbrella of local government with full backing from the DCMS, bringing an end to piecemeal funding of special projects and making sure that libraries are funded in the way that they should be!

    While you are at it could you have a word with your colleagues at OFSTED about the importance of making school libraries and librarians statutory rather than leaving it up to individual heads as we can all see how that has ended up.

    All the best and happy Libraries Week

    Matt

    A few thoughts on World Book Day 2018

    World Book Day is the British manifestation of a UNESCO organised event to promote reading, publishing & copyright

    World Book Day is built on the work of authors, many of whom live by the word

    Over the 20 years of its existence it has celebrated the works of many authors – some famous, others merely well-known

    It is important for readers (both young and old) to see themselves reflected in the books as well as seeing people that look like them writing the books

    Celebrity names sell books

    Celebrities can be and are authors too

    Many celebrities that now write books started out writing sketches, music and shows so celebrity-written does not automatically = ghost-written or bad

    I think it is wrong to have a list made up predominantly of celebrities

    I can understand that the organisers of WBD may want to jazz it up by using celebrities to catch the attention of reluctant and non-readers

    It sends a message that to be able to write a book you need to be a celebrity

    It excludes people that are not fans of the celebrities chosen and limits their choices in the £1 books

    I think that it is a shame that the books are aimed at the younger end of Children and Young People which will exclude teenage readers and potentially alienate those that already feel marginalised

    I had no idea who Tom Fletcher was before the list was released…

    I have just seen the announcement that the teen selection for WBD is going to be made in ‘coming weeks’ this smacks of poor planning or they forgot to add YA in and had to wait for finished titles; either way separating the lists will weaken the second announcement and may reinforce the message that teen books are of secondary importance