Why Libraries Matter

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, but found it hard to start, because of course libraries matter, ISN’T THAT OBVIOUS?! Yet, a lot of the time libraries seem to go under the radar… or worse, when they do get attention, it’s for terrible reasons (ie experiencing ruthless cuts). But working in a library during the pandemic has made me acutely aware of just how vital libraries are. Seeing how much people have missed being inside and feeling that spark of joy being back, I understand more than ever why libraries matter so much. And it’ll be my pleasure to share some of those reasons with you now!  

#1 Libraries are a hub for the community. Anyone can join the library and use its resources. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re there for- everyone’s welcome 😊 The are a beautiful (bookish) sanctuary from the outside world! Which is especially useful for shy bookworms 😉

#2 They provide place to work. Granted, this has not been quite the same for a lot of libraries in the last year, but libraries generally provide study space, wifi and computer access- all of which is so important if you’re from a low-income background or struggling to find room to work. I know this was really significant to me as a teen and a young adult. Libraries make such a difference for so many people.

#3 FREE BOOKS! I mean, you knew I was going to put this in here, didn’t you? 😉 Because what is better than free books?! I know I could never feed my bookish addiction without the library. Every year the number of books I borrow goes up. And it’s looking like the same is true for everyone that’s been borrowing at a rate of knots during the pandemic. Plus, it’s not just a great idea to borrow for leisure, because there are plenty of educational books too! You can learn about everything from knitting to ancient Chinese philosophy to law!

#4 Oh, and while we’re on the topic, there are other free resources. With a library card, you can get access to online resources like Borrowbox, Libby/Overdrive and more! You can also get access to online subscriptions (like Which) and a whole host of other things. Personally, I’ve missed out on these in the past, because I didn’t know they were there… so if in doubt, just ask! (Particularly in the pandemic, when libraries have been offering freebies like lending DVDs).  

#5 They provide fun activities– particularly for children. Obviously, this has been scaled back and mostly online because of that thing-that-happened-in-2020-which-we-won’t-talk-about. BUT these are due to come back with a vengeance soooo watch this space (/check your library website 😉)

#6 Finally, and my personal favourite, you can get ideas about what books you might want to read! Lots of library staff can tell you what’s new, what’s exciting and what you might like based on your taste. One of the biggest perks of the job for me is finding books that readers will love- I always enjoy this question- and actually wish more people would ask!!

And that’s all I have for now! Though I’m sure there are plenty more reasons I missed! What do you think? Are libraries important to you? And why? Let me know in the comments!

Does Book Twitter Actually Reflect the Reading Community?

Every year in free speech week, I try to exercise my freedom and talk about aspects of this (apparently contentious) topic. Yet this year I want to do something different. Not because we have reached the zenith of free speech- far from it. Despite the job losses, tragedies and general morose of 2020, the Twitterati have nothing better to do and have been busy cancelling, well, anything and everything. Which is why I wanted to talk about this tweet:

Maybe (most likely) it’s just my confirmation bias talking, but I think it’s such an excellent point. Disclaimer for book twitter: there are some nice little bubbles where you can play around with likeminded people (/primates)… Buuuut it’s not all fun and games. Twitter is kinda known for how toxic it can get. While it’s not the only place cancel culture thrives, it’s certainly one of the hotspots. I can’t tell you how often I go on twitter, see people congregating round an issue and think “oh no, who’s getting cancelled today?” Even if it’s a case of valid criticism, the platform doesn’t exactly lend itself to nuanced conversation and this leads to things getting heated pretty fast. And too often publishers get a whiff of the smoke and are scared off- but this needn’t be the case.

You see, (and forgive me if this is obvious) twitter is not reflective of the public at large. This is hardly a revelation. Looking at just some of the research (focusing on the States, given that 70% of users are from there… which you should bear in mind if you’re from outside the US like me), most twitter users in the US are more likely to have a college degree and have a higher income than the national average. Just 20% of US can be classed as active users (ie go on the platform once a month)- and of that number 80% of tweets come from the most active 10%. Meaning we’re only hearing from about 2% of the population. It probably isn’t any wonder then that (and many people will hate me for saying this) twitter often strikes me as an elitist club. As much as people claim that twitter is designed to give a voice to the voiceless, that it’s a great way for the powerless to have some power for themselves, that the gangs running rampant on there are noble “working class” vigilantes… I can’t see any evidence it’s representative of this. Observationally, I’d say the vast majority of big users are marketing/PR people, the so-called faces for faceless corporations, journos, professional activists and politicians. Ordinary people (ie consumers) aren’t represented on there for the most part… making me question, why is it taken so seriously?  

Time and again, it’s proven to not be a good source for elections for instance (which makes sense, given that even if a politician gets 100,000 likes, this isn’t a huge number considering… especially considering this can come from a global audience). Likewise, buzz on twitter doesn’t mean much- as excitable as twitter can seem about a reboot, this may not translate to actual fans buying tickets.

Similar logic can be applied to book twitter. A lot of readers don’t hang out on twitter. As the above tweet shows, it’s not necessarily going to reflect how well a book performs (especially since big names are so often targeted). It’s always been pretty debatable whether this particular platform even sell books. Anecdotally, I can also say that a lot of readers see the fires burning and run away. And even if they do stick around, a lot of people don’t want to get into the middle of a confrontation (giving the false impression that the debates are one-sided).

Which is why I wish publishers would take twitter with a pinch of salt. Instead of going off how angry someone can get in 140 characters or how many clapping emojis a person can use in one go, maybe just maybe, they can hold their nerve and wait for the general reading public to vote with their wallets. Maybe it’s time we ignored the drama flaming on twitter.

Ooh err, hope I don’t get burned at the stake for this one! 😉 But given I do actually like free speech- I’m open to hearing your thoughts! What do you think about book twitter? Do you think it’s representative of the reading public? Let me know in the comments!

My Pratchett Journey- So Far… A Love Story

booklove orangutan.png

I’m absolutely giddy for today’s post! Because today, on the day of love, I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell head over heels with Pratchett books. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the giant orange monkey you see now. In fact, once upon a time when I was a wee uni student, two of my closest friends (hi if you’re reading!) were astounded to find that I was a barely familiar with the Discworld. Sure, I’d heard of Pratchett (who hasn’t?)- I even had vague but pleasant memories of The Wee Free Men from when I was younger- yet I’d never launched fully immersed myself in the wackiness of Pratchett’s universe. That, of course, was a mistake 😉

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”

mort nice editionBecause I knew, the second I started reading Mort that I was reading something special. And, incidentally, so did the rest of my train carriage, where I sat for four hours, smothering laughter through my hand. I instantly fell in love with the humour. I mean, even years on, I still find myself randomly cracking up over the Great A’Tuin- a giant turtle hurtling through space with four elephants resting on its back which support the Discworld… Seriously, I just finished that sentence and I’m laughing again!  Really the jokes and wit *never* gets old.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

“Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, “The mountain is, and is not.” They would think, “The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.”

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”

hogfatherSoon I’d leapt into the rest of the series- in fact the Death series ran away with me- I couldn’t stop with that one. I absolutely loved the quirks and eccentricities of the entire world- not least of the characters! I still chuckle over the fact that Death enjoys a good curry- that is so quintessentially English and I love it!! (chicken tikka masala is the national dish after all). Plus, oh my goodness, the stories are so unconventional! If you’re looking for a different Christmas story, you won’t get anything better than the Hogfather.

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom”

witches abroadAnd actually that leads me onto the pure genius of the ideas. Not only is Hogfather a lovingly satirical take on the way we all act around Christmas, but it also gets right into the heart of the love of stories. Actually, this is a running theme with Pratchett- and is especially noticeable in the witch’s plots, such as the play with fairy tales in Witches Abroad and the *double double toil and trouble* Shakespearean mischief of Lords and Ladies. It’s this complexity and depth which makes the series *so awesome*.

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

going postalAs you know, I absolutely *love* satire, and this is such witty and intelligent fare. And on such varied topics as well! Sometimes it’s simply about some good fantasy tropes like dragons in Guards, Guards. Sometimes it’s on a much larger scale, like questions around war, in Jingo. And sometimes books like Going Postal are just about that weird British obsession with the post office dammit- incidentally this is one of my favourites and the only one I’ve reviewed.

“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.” 

guards-guardsAnd yet there’s more to it than all that. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love time and again with so many bonkers, wacky and fun characters from the series! If they were simply flat archetypes for satirical fodder, they wouldn’t be half as endearing as they are. But no! They are so much deeper than that. Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for the plot- NO!– he actually comes to learn about and sympathise with humanity. Vimes, the slightly world weary copper, who manages to upstage everyone with his unbending sense of right and wrong. Granny “I can’t be having with that kind of thing” Weatherwax, who takes common sense to a whole new level. Vetinari is the kind of despotic politician I can admire (thank you Sir P for giving me the opportunity to utter such odd sentences). Then there’s other favourites like the Death of Rats, Susan and Moist. And lastly, but certainly not least…

“Ook.”

unseen academicalsThe Librarian- who inspired me to create this blog! For those of you who don’t know, the Librarian is one of my favourite Discworld characters. My monkey owes its existence to the great big monkey in the sky… or something (*ahem* that sounded more poetic in my head…) Say hello to my little friend!

“If you try to to take my bananas from me, I will reclaim them from your cold dead hands.”

shepherd's crownAnd so we’re coming to the end of my journey so far… And the fact that I can say “so far” is something else that I’m happy about. Because, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m not done yet- and that only makes me more excited!! I have heard so many wonderful things about books I haven’t got to- not least the Shepherd’s Crown– and I’ve got to say I can’t wait!

So have you read Pratchett? Are you inspired to pick any up now? Let me know in the comments!