Archive for the ‘Public libraries’ Category

Tour of 21st Century Library – Saturday 21 June 2008

June 22, 2008

On a cold, damp windswept day, a building site on Tyneside is not the place you’d expect to find 10 librarians and the Head of Newcastle City libraries! This is the heart of £40 million public library innovation for the 21st Century. We were here to see work in progress on a guided tour of the new Newcastle City Library. Tony Durcan, Head of Libraries, enthused about the new City Library, that is expected to open in the summer of 2009.

Despite being a building site, it was clear to see that this building would reflect inspirational modern library design from across Europe, notably Malmo in Sweden, the Black Diamond library in Copenhagen, in Denmark, and others.

On the ground floor the building opens up to a spectacular atrium and this floor will serve as a meet and greet space. At the cutting edge of modern library technology, the new library will use RFID and there will be self-issue and self-return points near the entrance, which visitors will be able to view.

One of the main design features is for the building to be functional with flexible areas to cater for the many different functions the building may be used for. Some of these functions include an exhibition space, a performance space, reading areas for story telling for different age groups, and a PC and Mac open access area. Needless to say, there will also be books!

One of the floors will be given over to Newcastle’s Heritage, and will house the local studies and family history centre. What gave me a real wow feeling was a viewing platform on the 5th floor which provides a spectacular panoramic view of Newcastle.

The new library will also feature public art in the form of drawings printed onto the glazed windows. The drawings represent the answers to four questions asked to a cross-section of one thousand people of the Newcastle public: What makes you happy? What would you change? What do you fear? What gives you hope? In this way, the public art piece contributes to making the library a monument to the people of Newcastle.

In an age of concern for the environment, the new library building will be sustainable with solar panels on the roof and rainwater will be recycled for flushing the toilets. Other materials have also been recycled from the old library building, e.g. some of the floor slates.

Tony Durcan, Head of Newcastle Libraries, said that the new library needs to be ‘visible so it can be seen from Greys Monument, and transparent so that people can see inside the building from outside’ and he hopes the building will ‘delight and inspire’ the visitors who come here.

I was excited by this opportunity to visit the new library building in its building phase. I am even more excited at the prospect of coming to visit the new library and will wait with bated breath for my invitation to the opening!

For more information on Newcastle Libraries, follow this link.

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Who done it murder mystery

March 28, 2008

What happened to poor George Hargraves? He was found strangled in his bedroom. Who committed this terrible crime? This is ladies and gentlemen, a sombre occasion.

Not a real mystery, but one concocted by crime writer, Martin Edwards. A mystery with four possible suspects for the audience to play detective and work out who is the killer.

 The four suspects were very abley played by library staff of our local public library, who read out their statements. Finally, the possible solutions on paper were collected from the audience and after an interval, 3 winners emerged, each winning 3 copies of Martin Edwards’ crime novels.

 This Victorian murder mystery evening was a lively event taking place in the local public library as part of the National Year of Reading. This iniative aims to encourage people of all ages and abilities to read more. Such an event illustrates how public libraries are not always ‘stuffy’ places but they can engage people in fun and brain-teasing activities and encourage reading at the same time.

Jihad literature: terrorist charges dropped

February 23, 2008

This month five Bradford students won their case in the Court of Appeal in which their conviction of holding Jihad literature was dropped. They had been jailed last year for “commission, preparation or instigation” of terrorism after it was discovered that they held extremist Jihad literature.  They were released because the Lord Chief Justice found no evidence against them that they intended to commit a terrorist act.

This case has implications for the library service and may now influence the policy of the MLA guidelines on the selection and treatment of controversial material, that was released in January for consultation. The case suggests that other people will now legally be allowed to download extremist material as long as they don’t intend to use it to commit a terrorist act.

This kind of ruling mirrors what happened to issues such as pornography and violent literature in the 1950’s and 60’s when there was a series of prosecutions for obscene literature including the novel ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’

Don’t shhuuuut our library!

December 10, 2007

A ten year overdue book! What would you do? Charge the customer? Or send him on an anger management course?

Jack Dee plays a black comedian who has been asked to hold a gig in the local library in order to save it.

He has a run-in with the librarian over payment of a £6 fine. The librarian is portrayed as the usual stereotypical image of a person wearing spectacles and a tweed skirt. It is interesting to see how the media portrays us and how this image persists!

Just in case you are wondering: Jack Dee’s character refuses to pay the fine, but is sent a letter later by the council for him to attend an anger management course!

Branch library closure

September 9, 2007

The Council is considering plans to demolish the local branch library to make way for the building of a new supermarket. The Council faces stiff opposition from local residents and dedicated library staff who do not wish to see the last branch library disappearing and yet another supermarket being built!

A contemporary topic but in this case, it is the subject of a play written by Alan Plater called ‘I thought I heard a rustling!’ It is not often that a library becomes the centre stage for a dramatic play.

The play centres around the fate of a local branch library in Eastwood in the south of England. The library has recently taken on a new writer in residence, a Geordie ex-miner turned poet. He is asked to review a play trilogy by another character, who we later learn, also covets the writer in residence post. The senior librarian and we, the audience, gradually learns that the Geordie is no poet but is a professional liar.

These three characters form an unlikely alliance and stand together to try and stop moves for the branch library to be demolished. And they succeed.

 A lively and enjoyable play – which also makes a dig at the preponderance of Sub-committees and working groups that operate in libraries today.