Year of the Monkey

Happy New Year!

Charing Cross Library held a Chinese New Year celebration last Friday, 5 February. Over 130 people enjoyed fantastic magic shows, singing, dancing, networking and drinks. This year we worked together with Henan Associations, who brought us some interesting Henan local folk cultural elements.

Chris Lloyd, Community Development Manager, presented a welcome speech. The Chinese Embassy Minister Counsellor (Economic & Commercial) Jin Xu and counsellor Li Hui attended the party and kindly wished all our customers a Happy New Year. The longest-serving Premier Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Denzil Douglas also attended the celebration and gave warm wishes of good relationships among British, Caribbean countries and China.

This weekend the biggest celebrations of Chinese New Year outside Asia will take place in London: find out more.

New Year, New You

Osman ready to fuel the 'smoothie bike' at New Year New You, Church Street Library, January 2016

The last week of January 2016 saw three New Year New You events – one in each borough: first Westminster, then Kensington & Chelsea, and finally Hammersmith & Fulham.

Hand massages at New Year New You, Church Street Library, January 2016

The first event was at Church Street Library on 25 January, with events such as a power walk round the area, followed by a WAES ceramics session: “Have a go with clay – bring out the inner potter in you!” Riding the ‘smoothie bike’ was a challenge, but with the reward of a smoothie at the end, all generated by your own pedal power. There were opportunities to refresh your mind and body, with eyebrow threading, mini facials, hand massages, aromatherapy and Reiki – all from highly trained professionals. The Monday ESOL group sampled various foods and had a taster session of French with our French club volunteer… C’est bon appetit!

The Monday ESOL group at New Year New You, Church Street Library, January 2016

The afternoon saw yoga for relaxation, Zumba for energy and Street Dance for the young and agile. Throughout the day there were tips on healthy eating from the Stroke Association, Munro Health, Health and Fitness trainers offering blood pressure checks, cholesterol and healthy eating tips, along with Kick-It the stop smoking unit.

Cheryl from Kick It Stop Smoking service at New Year New You, Church Street Library, January 2016

Many of the same organisations attended the events at North Kensington Library two days later and Hammersmith Library at the end of the week, though each also had a local flavour. Each event was really well attended and the customers had a great time:

“Brilliant fun on the smoothie bike – harder than it looks!”

“Felt really relaxed after the facial”

“Great atmosphere”

The library was buzzing all day with customers coming back and forth to sample many different activities throughout the day. Would we do it all again next year? YES we would.

[Michaela]

Chatterbooks

Hetty Feather books by Jacqueline Wilson Warrior Cats books by Erin Hunter Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney

Do you live by the Warrior Cat Code?
Who’s your favourite: Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid or Hetty Feather?
Are you desperate to join Cherub?
Or has the retro appeal of Enid Blyton adventures got you gripped?

Whatever you’re into, it’s more fun when you can share your views with others.

Chatterbooks Reading Groups are a great way for children aged 8-11 to chat with friends old and new about what they’re reading, find out about what other books they might enjoy, play games and pick up book-related goodies.

The next Chatterbooks session is at Marylebone Library this Thursday, 11 February, from 4 to 5pm.

Previous activities have included designing your own book cover, word bingo, quizzes, craft sessions and taking part in competitions. Currently, the search is on for children to join the Best of the Best Children’s Book Award judging panel – if you’re keen to apply, why not join the group and get help and ideas for your book review? Bring a friend and start chatting!

Cherub books by Robert Muchamore Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon Books by Enid Blyton

Shhh! (sorry)

It’s time for what has become a National Libraries Day tradition: taking a look at some libraries and librarians in popular culture.

National Libraries Day 2014In 2012, for the very first #NLD, we got very excited about Nancy Pearl, Batgirl and Casanova. In 2013 we explored some of the odder reaches of real life and in 2014 we had some great quotes about libraries. Last year, in 2o15 we ranged from Katherine Hepburn to Noah Wyle… have we now covered everything? Nope!

If any readers have been watching BBC4 recently, and since you’re all highly intelligent types you probably have, you may have had the misfortune to come upon repeats of the 1980s sitcom Sorry! in which Ronnie Corbett plays a middle-aged librarian still living with his domineering mother and henpecked father.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing. I doubt anyone has been inspired to enter a career in library work because of this (though it was inexplicably popular at the time).

Fortunately there are plenty of better role models for aspiring librarians – let’s look at few cinematic information workers, going back to the era of silent cinema…

According to The Image of Librarians in Cinema 1917-1999, the first film to feature a librarian was A Wife on Trial based on a best-selling romance novel The Rose Garden Husband. The heroine Phyllis, played by Mignon Anderson (yep, it’s her real name) is a hardworking but impoverished children’s librarian who dreams of her own garden and who is offered a marriage of convenience with wheelchair-bound Allan Harrington, who has a house and a rose garden. A reviewer for Motion Picture World wrote that it was

“alive with sentiment of an appealing sort and has a touch of what the sarcastic dramatic critics call ‘sugary sweetness’. But it gets it over extremely well and will please the average audience immensely.”

The film was successful enough to spawn a sequel, The Wishing Ring Man, with Dorothy Hagan as Phyllis, now a mother of two.

Our next cinematic librarian appears in The Blot, a 1921 film film directed by one of the few female directors in silent films, Lois Weber, who made more than 100 films though only about 20 survive. The Blot, filmed at  the University of Los Angeles, is about a genteelly impoverished professor whose librarian daughter (played by Claire Windsor)  is courted (well, pestered) by one of his obnoxious wealthy students who hangs around her workplace – though the ending leaves it ambiguous as to whether she is won over by his charms.

The Blot, 1921

A more famous film librarian came along in 1932 when Carole Lombard, later the highest paid female star in Hollywood, appeared in No Man of her Own, alongside her future husband Clark Gable. Gable plays a gambler hiding out in a small town who finds his way to the library and follows Lombard to the reserve stock in order to get a better look at her legs. Photoplay magazine wrote that

No man of her own, 1932 “Carole, with lines as scintillant as her persons and clothes, turn in delicious love-making episodes that more than redeem the story, a rubber-stamp affair about a card-sharper who reforms for love”

Sadly the film only has one scene in the library but I guess it’s one recruitment angle that might appeal – the suggestion that your next reader might be the biggest star in Hollywood!

Lombard died tragically in a plane crash in 1942 at the age of only 33 and Gable, heart-broken, joined the American airforce and flew five combat missions.

Adventure, 1946

His first film after the war saw him romancing another librarian, this time played by English actress Greer Garson, then best known for  his Oscar winner role as the upper class British housewife Mrs Miniver, The film was Adventure, famously advertised with the tagline “Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got Him”. Gable plays a rough sailor who is wooed by Garson’s stereotypical strait-laced librarian (though at least she doesn’t have a bun or glasses).

The  film was a commercial and critical flop and rightly so as Gable, frankly, behaves appallingly in the scene where he approaches Garson in the reference library, behaving disruptively and trying to smoke. Obviously, in a romantic comedy, we know what’s going to happen, but please don’t try this seduction technique In Real Life.

Another Oscar winner played a heroic small-town town librarian in 1956’s Storm Center. Bette Davis plays the widowed Alicia,  sacked after refusing to withdraw a book called The Communist Dream from the library and the chain of events this sets off ends with a child burning the building down. Fortunately this causes the residents to have a change of heart and a new library is buiit and Alicia reinstated.  Bosley Crowther in the New York Times wrote that

“they have got from Bette Davis a fearless and forceful performance as the middle-aged widowed librarian who stands by her principles. Miss Davis makes the prim but stalwart lady human and credible.”

A less heroic librarian was played by Sylvia Sidney in the Technicolour crime drama Violent Saturday. Sidney plays that rare thing in fiction (and in real life!) a larcenous librarian who steals a unattended purse after receiving a letter from her bank telling her that her overdraft is being withdrawn. When she tries to pay the stolen money into the bank she is caught up in an armed robbery on the ‘violent Saturday’ of the title. Sadly, as the New York Times  pointed out, Sidney doesn’t get the screen time she deserves:

‘Lost and forgotten in the scramble of the writers and directors to include all of these people in the happenings is Sylvia Sidney, who plays the lady librarian. She is fortunately given a fast brush. The last expression we see on her baffled visage as much as says, “What the heck is going on?”‘

Something wicked this way comes, 1983

Nearly as rare as criminal librarians in cinema are male ones, but one heroic gentleman librarian is Charles Halloway, the middle-aged librarian played by Jason Robards Jr who saves the day in 1983’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name. Halloway uses his librarianly skills to research and defeat  the mysterious carnival owner Mr Dark who has a tattoo of every person he has tricked into servitude. The film was the first major Hollywood feature to use computer generated animation but Halloway needed no such trickery  to defeat Mr Dark – just the wisdom and research skills that all reference librarians possess.

Party Girl, 1995And to finish off, possibly the most popular cinematic library worker with actual librarians is the one played by Parker Posey in Party Girl. Like most real librarians, she has a lively social life and when she’s arrested at an illegal rave, her godmother bails her out and then offers her a job as a library clerk to pay off the fine. She soon discovers the joys of the Dewey Decimal System and abandons her wild ways for study and helping her friends in their careers using her new-found library science skills. For a generation of librarians, it’s like looking in a mirror!

So remember, when you visit a library on National Libraries Day, that you never know what the person behind the counter might have been up to…

[Nicky]

Happy National Libraries Day!

National Libraries Day 2014Today, 6 February is National Libraries Day – we’d love to see you at the library today!

If you haven’t been in for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

We’re holding an online competition to celebrate both National Libraries Day and the fact that this week has been National Storytelling Week:

Can you tell a story in fewer than 140 characters?
If you’d like to try, post your story on Twitter before midday on Monday, making sure you include the hashtag #NLD132.
There are prizes for the most retweeted story and we’ll pick our favourite reading- or library-related story too.
Find out more, and join in the judging by retweeting your favourite story at #NLD132.

This Saturday in Westminster Libraries you can find:

In addition to these special events we have literally hundreds of other events going on every day of the week across our network of libraries. Keep an eye on the Forthcoming events page for one-off events and at the regular events section of your own library’s events page for regular activities.

Or just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Archives Centre, use our amazing special collections or use the study space we offer.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Guardian newspaper archives, Naxos Music Library and KOMPASS business directory (and much MUCH more) from home too.

And if you can’t get to the library at all because you are disabled or caring for someone at home, don’t forget that we have a Home Library Service for you.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

The healing power of music

Westminster Music Library was proud to play host last Saturday morning to Sergio López Figueroa, a composer, social entrepreneur, and founder of the exciting Big Bang Lab. The event was Humming in Harmony, a fascinating collaborative exploration of music and self through the most surprisingly simple medium: humming!

Humming in Harmony - Big Bang Lab

The morning’s session was just the first of many, which will take place at Westminster Music Library on Saturday mornings (10.00am-12.00 noon) and Wednesday evenings (5.00-6.50pm) from now until May 2016.

The premise of Humming in Harmony is simple: all music is vibration. Humming, in particular, offers a way for us to feel these vibrations within ourselves – especially when combined with the various techniques and exercises Sergio utilises in each workshop. By encouraging silence and focus on the vibrations humming produces within ourselves, the participant becomes much more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Using these principles over the course of these sessions, participants should learn increased concentration, and improved focus not only on oneself but on others.

Our series of Humming in Harmony sessions will include an all day workshop on 14 May to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The connection is not accidental: Sergio has designed Humming in Harmony with mental wellbeing as one of the central focuses. In previous incarnations, these workshops have been delivered in care homes, community centres and workplaces, with a wide range of children and adults who may have experienced isolation, mental, or physical health conditions. Sergio stresses the health benefits of mindful activity, and tailors each workshop around the needs of participants.

If the experience was a little strange at first, our attendees soon felt relaxed thanks to Sergio’s open and approachable manner. His enthusiasm for music is infectious, and everyone was soon enjoying the sensation of listening to themselves hum – a curiously calming activity which I suspect most of us have never tried before! Sergio, accompanied by his faithful glockenspiel, had us freely exploring our vocal ranges before pairing us off to do partner exercises based on the musical interval of the perfect 5th.

Humming in Harmony with Sergio Lopez Figuera (Big Bang Lab) at Westminster Music Library, January 2016 Humming in Harmony with Sergio Lopez Figuera (Big Bang Lab) at Westminster Music Library, January 2016

The whole “vibe” of the session encouraged exploration, improvisation and group participation. Sergio was happy to hear feedback and suggestions from all who took part, which is just as well, since many participants were keen to express their amazement at what a unique experience peaceful group humming can be. Our session ended with a ten-minute “group hum” in the key of A. Had Sergio managed to teach us a ten-minute piece in this short session? No – instead, he had equipped us with ideas and techniques, leaving us to “compose” the piece as we went along. As the piece came to its natural end, the short silence that followed was broken by the exclamations of fascination at what we’d just managed to achieve. In just one hour, the group of strangers had been transformed into an ensemble, creating music together with just the basic framework Sergio had provided.

It truly was a fascinating morning, and I am keen to see what else will be explored along the way as Humming in Harmony unfolds. If you’d like to find out more about Humming in Harmony, email: info@bigbang-lab.com. The next session in Westminster Music Library will be held on Saturday 6 February at 10.00am, follow this link to book: www.meetup.com/London-Music-and-Wellbeing

 [Jon]

Tweet a Short Story competition!

National Libraries Day 2014Are you feeling creative?

To celebrate National Libraries Day on Saturday 6 February and National Storytelling Week (30 January – 6 February) we have a short – very short – story competition!

  • Tweet a short story in 140 characters
  • It must include the hashtag #NLD132
  • Entries must be tweeted between midnight (12.00am) on Saturday 30 January and 12.00 noon on Monday 8 February

The winning story will be crowd judged:

  • £30 First Prize for the tweet with the most re-tweets
  • £20 Second Prize for our favourite library or book-themed tale

We will contact and announce the winners via Twitter: follow@WCCLibraries to find out more.