Saturday, 8 February 2014

Batgirl, Borrowers and 'Sticky Books': it's National Libraries Day

Is my jumper too loud for the Reference Library?
I've been absent from here for a bit but I must blog today as it's National Libraries Day!

Since starting as a library assistant, I've found libraries a great source of ideas: I've written poems and short stories on everything from Batgirl's day job to the time the man who hangs around in History came in without his hat! Libraries (and there are some fab ones HERE) lend themselves to the imagination: they contain so much information, invention and passion - the sum of human experience. Their users, too - the 'Borrowers' - have their own passions and predilections. Then there's the library staff: the cliche of the skittish, be-cardiganned librarian, disappointed in love, too tempting to ignore, too tempting not to subvert...

Today I'll be performing some of my library poems along with some by the likes of Emily Dickinson and Charles Simic. My favourite is For St Jerome by Paul Farley. This will all be in Wallasey Central Library at 2.30pm and include two new pieces including this one:

Sticky Books

Here come the sticky books:
puppy books, freshly chewed, gluey
‘How to...’s and kiddies pop-ups, aromatic
from the nappy bag, slim volumes of bitter
poetry smeared with conciliatory chocolate,
novels fluffed from under settees, used, coasterwise
for beer cans, cat books itching with fleas.

Here come the sticky books: fumbled
from crumb-filled carrier bags after nights
at pensioners’ bedsides next to teeth and tinctures.
Gummy on the counter top, a reptile book
reluctantly returned by a man with filthy talons,
along with soiled allotment manuals, and well-thumbed
sex encyclopaedia, tacky to the touch,

Here come the sticky books: fished from
the flotsam of handbags, powdered and perfumed,
travel guides sandblasted, bleached and smelling
suspiciously of coconut, cookery books
dusted with flour, butterfingered, garnished,
eggs on their faces, pages with glazed crusts.

Here come the sticky books:
the coffee-cupped, hair-sprayed, bubble-bathed
and baked beaned books. The snotted on,
sneezed at hard backs, the wept over romances
with their rim of salt. The nautical adventures
and Haynes manuals, all well oiled
with perfect fingerprints for forensics later.

Here come the sticky books:
wanting a buffing with dusters and spirit.
Never lick your fingers in a library. I wouldn’t
like to test for substances between these sheets
– shit and semen, coffee, stamens, condiments
ash and ear wax, cat hair, gum, and dough
blood, sweat and tears - or is that just Bordeaux?

© Clare Kirwan

Don't worry - we do clean them up or chuck em if they come back nasty. And we get fresh new books every week - why not pop into your 'local' today and get the latest titles... but look after them nicely, won't you?

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

I haven't got around to doing a review of 2013 yet, and neither have I applied myself to quiet reflection on the year to come.  But meanwhile...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Librarian Action Figure

We all know that Batgirl was a Librarian, right? But even I was surprised to see this: Librarian Action Figure.

In tracking down one of these 'must have' be-cardiganned figurines 'with amazing push-button shushing action' I discovered the librarian it is modelled on: Nancy Pearl was an inspiring Seattle librarian whose projects included 'If all Seattle read the same book'... (...what? it would end up in tatters... that's what), radio broadcasts and a highly successful series of 'Book Lust' reading guides.

Nancy Pearl says the largest problem facing libraries now is:
"We have yet to balance the three important functions a library has in a community: information access, providing people with books... and offering quality programs for our patrons. The pendulum swung way over on the information access side and has yet to right itself. We graduate people from library schools... knowing how to build a website, but not knowing how to recommend a book..."
Wirral Libraries have merged, not entirely seamlessly, with the Council's One Stop Shops. It's not hard to see the logic - I come across a far greater number, and wider range of local residents since working in the library than I ever did in 'Public Relations'. I just hope, as librarians are whittled down, book ordering is farmed out to external agencies and we un-qualified minions are retro-fitted as 'customer service assistants' that we don't turn over too many pages at once and lose our place.

So maybe we need to unleash our special powers - not just the shushing action, but a but more stamping and putting things back into order.

And, of course, we're going to need special outfits...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Movies about Libraries

When I asked why there were no songs about librarians, I was immediately and roundly rebuffed HERE.  Prompted by a friend, who came up with a few of their own, I couldn't resist asking on Twitter what movies there were about libraries, and was met with similar silliness from various tweeps   

Lady And The Stamp    @Gamiliell   

‏Silence please of the lambs    @Gadgerpvfc67  

‏Rumble Fiche     @carrhill 

‏One Fine A Day     @CarolDrummond4  

‏Das Book     @kilt_monster  

‏The Truth about Catalogued & Dog-Eared     @Martinquinn66  

‏‏Tome Raider  and  Dude, Where's My Card?     @Trudski2012

Lost in Circulation     @lumdog2012

‏Me, My Shelf, and Irene    @larrymeath

‏50 First Due Dates     @WiselinePRT 

‏Dewey The Right Thing     @dkobert  

The Da Vinci Barcode     @mitdasein   

Hello Trolley!     @larrymeath   

Rushhhhh     @JPKillham

Mississippi Browsing     @DanCarpenter85

Anyone care to add any more?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sunday Gallery - I may be only an artist's model, but I'm still life

I forgot to mention that I 'sat' for the local art group in the summer... don't panic, it was the portrait class, not the life drawing... ie I kept my kit on!

It's a curious feeling to sit and be perused by more than a dozen strangers, being measured up, sketched around, filled in, fleshed out, greened and purpled.

I was commended on my stillness. It's not a talent much sought after in this world. I'm only wanted in bird hides, the bedrooms of light sleepers... and the library of course.

I had the artists' permission to snap pics of works in progress but have not named the individual artists. Would you like to see what I turned out like? 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Lost Property

I was on relief at another branch this weekend and had occasion to hoik out their lost property box in search of a small boy's lost 'thing.'

I came across this rather lovely collection of lost book marks - kiddies ones with clowns on, little old ladies' flowers and prayers, joyless corporate giveaways and Celtic metal ones that'd rip your page out soon as look at it. There were punishment bookmarks of stiff leather, flimsy hand-crafted affairs, notes from lovers and postcards from the past.

A colleague of mine once found a twenty pound note marking someone's place between the covers. Another swears she found a rasher of bacon.

What's the strangest thing YOU ever used as a book mark?  And can you guess what the other most common item is left in a library (apart from books, obviously?)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Proof, if proof be needed

So one of the important things to do when putting a collection together, or presumably any publication, is to proof it carefully.

If you're anything like me (prone to a lack of attention to detail, and very easily distra.... oh look, a sparrow!) you might want this to be somebody other than you. If you're lucky you could send your work to someone like David Bateman* for a quick comment on the generality of it and get back 3 pages of typos, spellos, syntactical errors and punctuational faux pas.

I just thought I'd share a couple of the things he picked up on in the first version of The Silence Museum:

untidy bottom of “previously published” paragraph

two different styles of ellipsis on same line

inconsistent capitalization of line-starts

'a lone parenthetic comma'    and    'rogue hyphens'

"For “Flambe” the “é” you need is in the Insert menu.(“Menu”! I made a funny! Ha ha ha ha etc.)"

"Almost unbelievably, this line definitely needs another comma.  Insert it bravely!"

I thought it would be nice to thank him in the front of the book. 'Thanks to David Bateman, who taught me everything I know about ellipses'**  Then I decided to include an additional short poem about him in the collection, but I didn't send it for re-checking because it really was very short, and mentions how he taught me everything I know about ellipses. You know what's coming here, don't you? I spelled ellipses with just one 'l'.

Dho!... I mean Doh!

What's the worst typo or similar you've missed until it was too late?

* David Bateman is an excellent 'silly and serious at the same time' poet, by the way. There's not much of his stuff on the web, but check out the link for his classic 'World's Greatest Impressionist' poem

** There's only ever three dots in an ellipsis