A whirlwind tour of the international crime scene

Originally posted on LBHF Libraries:

Stuck for something gritty to read this summer? Stock librarian – and avid reader of crime novels – Andy takes us on a trip around the international crime genre…

International crime fiction has really taken off in the last few years, and not just the Nordic Noir novels.  I have chosen a few of the best international crime novels published over the last year or so.  I hope you enjoy reading about them, and remember – they are all available to borrow in our libraries!

Irene – Pierre Lemaitre (2014) – FranceIrene - Pierre Lemaitre

Commandant Verhoeven is happily married, expecting his first child with the lovely Irene. But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery.. . It is quickly revealed that the killer- The Novelist- is recreating scenes from cult crime novels.

The book is a beautifully written homage to iconic crime fiction. It is also incredibly disturbing…

View original 520 more words

Summer at Maida Vale Library

Maida Vale LibraryThe school holidays are now upon us and this year’s Summer Reading Challenge has started at Maida Vale Library. We have a packed programme of events for children over the next 6 weeks, but for us our summer really began with our Fair a few Saturdays ago.

Holding it on 4 July during Wimbledon on one of the hottest days of the year may not have been the best of ideas, but we still managed to pull in the crowds and had more than double our number of Saturday visits recorded.

Bridget's Bespoke Cakes at Maida Vale Library Summer Fair 2015A whole range of handmade goods were on sale over 24 stalls along with vintage and retro items from yesteryear, jewellery, children’s clothes, toys, DVDs, books and CDs. One of our customers even donated a whole range of unwanted outdoor plants which were all hastily re-potted ready for sale!

Especially popular were local entrepreneurs Moira from Made in Maida Vale and Michelle from Bridget’s Bespoke Cakes who sold a selection of delicious jams, preserves and cakes.

Made in Maida Vale at Maida Vale Library Summer Fair 2015

The fair was even talked about in the local Waitrose, where someone was overheard stating that

“It was really good and I really look forward to another one. I got real bargains and talked to lots of people.”

So hot on the heels of this positive feedback, plans are afoot to hold the next one on Saturday 14 November 2015. In the meantime we have a sale of ex-library stock taking place on Saturday 8 August.

Watch out for more announcements on up and coming events at Maida Vale…


Out and about with Tommy the Tegu

Westminster Libraries were well-represented at Walterton & Elgin Community Homes’ annual Summer Festival on Sunday 19 July. Stef and Lucy, promoting libraries in general and the Summer Reading Challenge in particular, were joined by Kate who provided information on current health initiatives including Books on Prescription.

Queen's Park Library stall at Walterton & Elgin Community Homes’ Summer Festival 2015

We were pleased to find that many of the children we met were already well aware of the Challenge, but this was a great opportunity to speak to parents directly about its positive impact, as well as all the prizes and free events the kids love so much.

Tommy the Tegu at Walterton & Elgin Community Homes’ Summer Festival 2015 Tommy the Tegu finds out what's going on at the local library - Walterton & Elgin Community Homes’ Summer Festival 2015

Beautiful weather, ice-cream and lots of fun and games –  including our Record Breakers Treasure Hunt – made for a busy afternoon and we had over 160 visitors to the stall. The most unusual was definitely Tommy the Tegu, who made a beeline for us while on a walkabout from a mini-zoo attraction. He was quite taken with the Summer Reading Challenge events brochure.


Love your park

Love Parks Week logo“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want to feel they’re in another world.”

While Walt Disney was actually talking about Disneyland rather than a park in the sense that we understand it, most of us will have had the feeling of being in another world while in one of Westminster’s many amazing green spaces, now celebrated in Love Parks Week (24 July – 2 August). Westminster residents and visitors have some of the loveliest parks in London including five  of the eight Royal Parks and several delightful little squares and other public spaces, providing an oasis of peace in a crowded  city.

Secret London, by Andrew DuncanWalking Notorius London, by Andrew DuncanWalking London's Statues and Monuments by Rupert HillBizarre London by David LongRegents Park by Paul Rabbitts

Most readers will be familiar with some of the more noted features of Westminster’s Parks – the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens and so on, so let’s have a look at some of the less famous but just as notable features of some of them.

While you’re in Regents Park, perhaps on your way to see a show, why not have a look at the Secret Garden? Officially known at the St John Lodge’s Gardens, it was designed to be ‘fit for meditation’ and you’re quite likely to find yourself on your own there, though it has been open to the public since 1928. The Lodge itself currently belongs to the Sultan of Brunei but he’s unlikely to disturb you as you contemplate the statue of the Goatherd’s Daughter.

The Goatherd's Daughter - statue in Regents Park

Another monument  that few people notice is the Esme Percy memorial in  Kensington Gardens, near the Palace gate. It is actually a dog’s drinking fountain named after Percy, a once well-known actor perhaps best remembered for his role as Count Karpathy who exposes Eliza Dolittle at the ball in the 1938 film of Pygmalion. This role was specially written for Percy by  George Bernard Shaw.

Also worth noting are the Coalbrook Dale Gates which are about the last surviving remnant of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

St James’s Park has long been a favourite with nature lovers. Approximately 15  species of water fowl live there, most famously the pelicans (four at the moment) who have been in residence since the Russian ambassador gave a pair to Charles II in 1664.

One particularly charming small  park is Victoria Embankment Gardens    which runs along the Thames between Westminster bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. There are regular lunchtime concerts held there throughout the summer. The garden also contains various statues of the great and the good including the poet Robert Burns, the Temperance campaigner Sir Wilfrid Lawson and Robert Raikes, pioneer of Sunday Schools. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has more about these three and the other people commemorated by statues in Westminster.

There are plenty of smaller parks and open spaces in Westminster. Some, such as Orange Square are simply an open space (a ‘pocket park’) with some seats (and a market at weekends) but are still a pleasant place to rest and contemplate the London scene. A particularly charming and busy little park  is  Paddington Street Gardens (2015 venue for Library in the Park) which was originally a burial ground for St Marylebone Church and which has been a park since 1885. One notable feature is the statue of the Orderly Boy who looks very young to be doing the job (it’s an old name for a street cleaner).

You can find more about London’s parks in the many guidebooks in the travel section of your local library. Particularly excellent are Andrew Duncan’s  books of London walks (it’s not uncommon to bump in to other travellers clutching copies of Secret London  or Walking Notorious London while you’re following one of his routes). Statue lovers will enjoy Walking London’s Statues and Monuments. Time Out have also published some excellent books of London walks while other interesting titles include Bizarre London  and Regents Park : From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present. Why not resolve to check out some new parks in Love Parks Week – there are plenty to choose from!


Marylebone Library in the Park: now and then

Marylebone Library in Regent's Park, 1942. Image property of Westminster City ArchivesIn 1942, The Ministry of Labour called on councils to attempt to persuade the public to have what we would now call a ‘staycation’. You can read more about library activities in July to September 1942 in Marylebone Library does its bit.

In 2015, we did it again! On Friday 17 July and Saturday 18 July, Marylebone Library was out in Paddington Street Gardens with the original cupboard, staff in full period dress, hats, books, memorabilia, flyers and registration forms aplenty. Registrations were made, books were issued, awareness was raised, our services advertised, our events promoted… and it was sunny!

Marylebone Library in the Park 2015

Moreover, encounters happened – cross-cultural ones: Australian, French, Turkish and Spanish visitors, all enjoying the story about the Library in the Park, admiring the cupboard (“Is it really that old? Over 70 years!”), commenting on the books, the hats or the future of libraries.

Marylebone Library in the Park 2015 - ration books and identity cards displayChildren tried on the Brodie helmets, ready to leave with them on… Oops, those we do not lend! And then there was a lady, Kitty, born in the 1930s. She showed the ration books and coupons to a boy who was passing by, telling him stories from the war, what it was like – the bad, the good, the changes – two generations 70 years apart brought together by this little slice of living history.

It felt good. We had taken the library to the park, hoping to get the people from the park to come into the libraries. We had linked the inside and the outside, the past and present, the young and the old, an encounter between 1942 and 2015, meeting with stories and history! And isn’t that what defines a library: a place to meet with stories, history, and people?

Marylebone Library in Regent's Park, 1942. Image property of Westminster City ArchivesMarylebone Library in the Park 2015


Fab Times at Charing Cross and St John’s Wood

It was back to the 1960s at Charing Cross Library last Friday when we recalled the days of Beatlemania with Aaron Krerowicz, America’s only full-time professional Beatles scholar.

Books and music by and about the BeatlesUsing a mixture of slide show, music clips and audio interview extracts from the band, he described the Beatles career from start to break-up. He showed how they developed, both musically and lyrically, and demonstrated the influence of other musicians, notably Carl Perkins and Bob Dylan. Paul McCartney claimed:

“If there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles”.

Aaron also described the innovations that the Beatles themselves pioneered, some of which could only be achieved on a studio recording..

It was considered a matter of personal preference which was the best of the Beatles albums, although it was generally agreed that Abbey Road had the best contributions from the pen of George Harrison.

The enduring appeal of the Beatles is undoubted – only next door the Garrick Theatre has been staging Let it Be, a tribute to the Beatles, while earlier this week the Metro had a feature about a Soho restaurant that was displaying a collection of previously unseen photos of the band on tour in the USA.

The audience, some 40-50 strong, were predominantly (like myself) people who had lived through the Beatles era. Many were quite knowledgeable about the group themselves and Aaron gained some new facts himself during the Q & A session. The discussion could probably have gone on for several hours, but sadly we had to draw matters to a close and prepare the library for opening the following day, with a reminder to the audience that, if they wanted more, Aaron would be giving another different talk at St. John’s Wood Library the next day, before returning to the States.

A ‘fab’ time was had by all:

‘Great informed presentation, fantastic’

‘Lively and well documented presentation’

‘Wonderful music lesson!’


St John’s Wood Library also enjoyed welcoming Aaron Krerowicz on Saturday 18 July for his presentation ‘The Beatles’ Alter Ego, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Aaron Krerowicz at St john's Wood Library, July 2015

As St John’s Wood Library is a stone’s throw away from Abbey Road, it was a delight to have such an expert here to tell us about the production, collaboration and inspiration behind the iconic album.

Aaron Krerowicz’s books will shortly be available to borrow from St John’s Wood Library.


Are you ready to read?

Join the Record Breakers Summer Reading Challenge!

Schools are now breaking up for the summer and 6 weeks of long holiday lie ahead… what will your children be doing? Visit your local library this summer to see all the events and activities for children which are on offer. There are events on throughout the 6 weeks, so there is lots to choose from!

Record Breakers logoIf your children like a Challenge, why not bring them to join this year’s Record Breakers? All they need to do is read 6 library books over the holidays, and they’ll receive stickers and rewards for telling us about them.

It’s free to join, just visit your nearest library to sign up – all they need is a library card. There’s a medal for everyone who reads 6 books!

What weird, wonderful or wacky records will you and your kids discover?