e a m harris

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Archive for the category “Libraries”

Independent Libraries Conference

More or less by chance I’ve discovered that there are associations of independent libraries in the UK and elsewhere. A new-to-me discovery that I find somehow joyful: bringing together independence and libraries to help each other.

LIA logo

And on 25th to 27th of September this year the UK and American groups are to have a conference.

The formal agenda looks more or less as one might expect, but I would love to listen to the between-formal chat. Do the delegates discuss the latest books or bemoan the cost of quality shelving? Perhaps they share snippets of history and founders’ wisdom. Or maybe they read.


Some library snippets

manuscript from Wellcome collection

There is a world’s oldest library.

Now part of a university, it is the Al-Qarawiyyin library in Morocco.

Founded in 859CE by a lady called Fatima al-Fehri, it contains ancient and mediaeval manuscripts as well as books.

It has recently undergone a major restoration with special moisture management systems installed to protect the precious manuscripts.

Some libraries have birthdays.Birthday candles

Apparently the Library of Congress celebrated its birthday recently. On April 24th 1800 then president John Adams parented the library by approving the necessary expenditure. I doubt if it got a cake with 217 candles on it, but its anniversary was marked in several places, including a collection of trivia from Bookriot.

Some libraries use unique classification systems.

The Levinski Garden Library shelves its books according to the emotions they raise in their readers. Each reader is asked to describe the book’s effect: sad, happy, boring etc. The emotions are colour coded and the returned book gets a piece of coloured tape and is then shelved according to the most recent one.

Manuscript picture from Wellcome Library website
Candles photo credit: chrisotruro

National Libraries Day

Today is National Libraries Day and all over the country libraries are holding special events.

nld-logoIn my opinion a nation’s libraries are a major national treasure. Among other actions, they spread culture, provide a quiet place for the hassled to sit and recover their calm, and store the thinking and creativity of the past.

The also provide pleasant and worthwhile employment – or used to before austerity started harassing everyone.

While it’s the public libraries that are most active today, I like to imagine all the others joining in, in spirit at least. Universities spring to mind of course, but companies, hospitals, government departments, charities, all have their libraries and people to look after them – often volunteers or employees librarianing (I’m a writer – I’m allowed to invent new words!) in addition to their main job.

I’ll be off to my local library this afternoon, and this evening I’ll raise a glass of gin and tonic to all those people who care for our books, journals, CDs, and old papers.

Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts

I never knew there are special literary archives. What a treasury!
I’m also amazed at the quantity of material some archives hold. I hope anyone in the Manchester area gets a chance to visit the exhibition described here.

University of Cambridge Museums

GLAM – the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts – celebrated its tenth anniversary in October with a meeting at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. The Fitzwilliam Museum is a member of GLAM due to its fine holdings of literary manuscripts, including autograph manuscripts of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. GLAM’S aim is to support all forms of literary archives and it unites professionals working in a variety of institutions: national bodies (The National Archives), universities, museums, local authorities, and special repositories.  With such a wide base of members, it is ideally placed to provide a support network for professionals working in the field of literary archives and one of its most significant achievements has been to produce cataloguing guidelines and a thesaurus.

Meetings of GLAM are usually held biannually and include presentations on…

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Kinokophone, libraries of sound and new words

visualized sound

Visualisation of an elephant rumble. (Wikimedia. Authors Stoeger A, Heilmann G, Zeppelzauer M, Ganswindt A, Hensman S, Charlton B)

I came across the name Kinokophone by chance. It is a company dedicated to gathering sounds and using them artistically. They are supported by bodies like the Arts Council, and do some work with the British Library.

Apparently, they invented their name and the word kinokophonography – one of the great new words, a sort of slamming together of Japanese and Greek that rolls off the tongue (after some practice).

All over the world there are libraries of sounds and they’re working hard to preserve and save the various sound recordings – many of which are becoming unplayable. This is an important legacy to hand on to the future.

It’s sad that we can’t hear Shakespeare recite his own poems, but it’s unavoidable. We would have to hang our heads in shame if the same fate overtook today’s poets who are mostly well recorded.

National Libraries Day

Today is National Libraries Day and all over the UK there are special library events to celebrate it.N L D logo

Our country has so many libraries – public ones, schools and colleges, public and private institutions, commercial organisations, and all of them are worth celebrating.

While looking up local events and other library related things, I remembered that not all libraries are still around. Wikipedia has a long list of lost book collections. How much knowledge has gone up in smoke or been eaten by termites?

So along with celebration has to go determination to keep all that thought and creativeness safe.

Your Favourite Manuscript: The Results – Medieval manuscripts blog

I’ve never thought of having a favourite manuscript, but apparently a lot of other people have.

It’s interesting to see what others pick out for special mention – I particularly liked the burnt royal manuscript. To me it looks like a ‘found’ work of art.

In some of them the writing looks to me more like decoration – but that is a measure of my ignorance. If I could read it, it would look like writing.

Your Favourite Manuscript: The Results – Medieval manuscripts blog.

Library weeding

weeding manual

On the BBC website today I came across an article titled The Library of Lost Books, about old, discarded library books being turned into works of art. The book collection concerned is curated in Birmingham by artist Susan Kruse, and from 6th to 24th of this month the artists creating the artworks have an exhibition at the Library of Birmingham.

Having read about it I wondered if any other libraries had similar exhibitions or projects, so I googled ‘discarded library books’. I expected to have to try several search terms and to find there wasn’t much. How wrong can you be! Google found over 4 million items. Most of them are probably irrelevant but even the first page gave me lots of things to think about.

There was an article on Why we Weed, several on systems used to do the weeding, and even a ‘how to’ manual (see picture).

The Canberra Times had an article on The Library of Discarded books in which the author complained about so many books being destroyed and the whole activity being ‘done secretly’. I was surprised; in my local libraries there are always shelves of unwanted books for sale and I assumed this was the usual way of getting rid of them. But not so in in Australia apparently. Now I wonder if the books up for sale are just a handful of what is weeded out and, in the dead of night, muffled carts haul loads of unwanted works to landfill.

A google of ‘artworks out of books’ proved a better search for my original question, and again there were a huge number of hits. Perhaps someone could tell the secretive Australian librarians that there is an alternative to landfill.

What is paradise like?

I’m indebted to the lovely lady at The Unlikely Bookworm blog for a fascinating quote. She has a list of quotes on her home page and they are all worth considering. The one I’m particularly taken with is from Jorge Luis Borges.

“I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library”

I’ve not seen this quote before. I have to admit that such ideas as I have of paradise are pretty conventional: green fields, sunshine, babbling brooks, golden sands, palm trees etc.

Thinking a bit deeper I realise that it wouldn’t be paradise without as many books on as many subjects as I want. But an actual library …

I can’t picture paradise as a building, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t have both an outdoors and an indoors. Or perhaps an outdoor library? Would that work? Having been thoroughly rained on at a number of outdoor theatres, I think probably not – after all, there has to be rain in paradise or there won’t be any flowers.

The speculation is fun, but Borges, like all great writers, suggests ideas beyond simple words. In this case perhaps he’s suggesting that books are a little piece of paradise in the here and now.

A new literary festival

In Hawarden, in a lovely part of North Wales, is Gladstone’s Library. This is an unusual place: a residential library where one can go to study, to write, to use the collections or just to rest.

I stayed there some years ago when studying for an Open University exam.  Most of the other residents at the time were doing the same thing. In coffee and meal breaks we shared exam woe stories and encouraged each other to think positive. In between we found it a great place to really get stuck into the revision, while someone else did the cooking and cleaning.

Over the years it has also become a place for writers and often has a writer in residence.

whats-on-gladfestNow the staff are branching out with a literary festival – called Gladfest (a bit of an unfortunate name as there seem to be other festivals with the same one). This year is its first year. It runs from 6th to 8th September and if it’s a success will become an annual event. For a small place like Hawarden it will be a major cultural happening.

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