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...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Great Gifts for Writers

If you're still looking for the perfect gift for the writer in your life, here are a few ideas. I'm not sponsored by any of these places (although if you click on any of my Amazon links I get pennies), I just trawled the net so you don't have to.

1. I'll start as always, with my favourite - the USB Humping Toy Dog . Because you can't overestimate the importance of backing up. What? It doesn't back up, it just humps? Who knows?

2. For something classier (and for someone who wants to look properly literary without letting on you're not sullying themselves with actual paper books) this classic book cover for your Kindle is £25 from Not on the High Street.

For under a fiver, this neat Writer's Block: Ideas to Jump-start Your Imagination gives daily prompts to get the creative juices flowing (ooh er missus - it makes such a mess of the cushions).

Careful with sensitivities here - the Literary Gift Company has pages of items made from 'pre-loved' books. If your favourite writer is struggling to finish their masterpiece, now might not be the best moment to suggest it may one day be turned into a handbag, some very expensive ear-rings or - the horror! - confetti!  

They also sell pen nib cufflinks for £12, although I know writers who don't own a sirt. You might be better off buying them food.

If you go in search of gifts for writers there are always a ridiculous number of mugs, witty posters and quote-woven cushions. As if budding writers spent most of their time lounging about drinking hot beverages and staring at the walls.

Talking of which, Cafe Press have some great amusing writerly gifts - including  this frighteningly accurate bumper sticker (£3.50) and mug (£10.50).

...and of course, there's always the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2014 which all writers say they want, but few actually open. They could, of course, always borrow one from their local library. The same cannot be said of mugs.

From a shameless mug to a shameless plug. As this is the season of Silent Night, what better time than to buy a copy of my poetry collection? The Silence Museum is both thought-provoking and funny... and you could tell the lucky recipient: 'I know her. Well, I read her blog. Occasionally.'

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas Jumper Day

Never known to miss an opportunity for looking a little bit silly, I'll be wearing my rockin' robin sweater today for Save the Children's 'Christmas Jumper Day'.

I don't work on Fridays, so wearing it won't have quite the same impact as if it was worn by a managing director giving someone the sack, a novice surgeon preparing for the first cut, or anyone who drives a hearse.

But it may raise a smile at the doctor's and greengrocer's.

You can support it by wearing your cheesiest knitwear and / or texting 'WOOLLY' to 70050.

There are some great examples of famous figures rendered woollier on Gumtree's blog like Batman here

...Although I have a terrible confession - mine came from Primark, and so was almost certainly made in a sweatshop by children in the third world - exactly the sort of kids the charity is trying to save.

I hereby swear that I will not buy from this store ever again.

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...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sunday Gallery - Another Pretty Library

Yes, I'm in exotic places looking at sexy new libraries again. 

Can you tell where I am yet? The hip, hop and happening city of Birmingham. This beauty is the second biggest library in Europe, I'm unreliably informed. I love the light and shade inside, the roof gardens with cracking views and whole look of the place generally. It might be my new favourite. 

A roof garden with a view!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Lost Toys

I came upon this sorry sight in the Children's Library: talk about left on the shelf!

I'm not impressed* with the John Lewis Christmas advert - a queasy saccharine Disneyesque idyll crawling with anthropomorphic fluffy animals giving each other improbable presents.

But just LOOK at this bunny's face!

* Although David Hartley has much more to say - and say better in Rabbiting On