Category Archives: Online

We have some Issues, Online

Skin Deep: debating body image - Issues seriesInformation overload may be a fact of life when the simplest of internet searches produce several million – often unreliable – results. Combined with the fact that most issues are complex, it is not surprising that people become overwhelmed.

Help is at hand for Westminster Libraries members who can access the brilliant resource ISSUES Online from home or consult printed versions of the series which are held in the Marylebone Library reference collection.

The Issues series includes publications which look into a wide variety of social issues which affect the modern world. While being absolutely ideal for school projects, anyone of any age who is trying to get a grasp of the subject matter covered should take a look at these slim and accessible volumes.

War and Conflict - Issues series Equality and Gender Roles - Issues series Citizenship in the UK - Issues series

As well as being able to browse through the resource to find the item you are interested in, you can also perform a keyword search. Furthermore, as you are reading you will find links to useful organisations, complete assignments to increase your understanding of a particular subject, and a glossary to help clarify what particular terms mean.

To sum up why this is an invaluable resource:

  • Save time
    Why spend hours trawling the web when ISSUES Online provides articles, statistics, videos, e-books and links, right at your fingertips?
  • Critical thinking
    The articles and statistics you’ll find on ISSUES Online are from a variety of different sources: newspapers, charity groups, Government reports, blogs, magazines, etc. This wide range can help you to be aware of the origin of the text you’re reading, and think about why someone might have written it. Is an opinion being expressed? Do you agree with the writer? Is there potential bias to the ‘facts’ or statistics offered?
  • Further Research
    At the end of each article you will find its source, and a web address that you can visit to carry out further research.

Social Media - Issues seriesIntrigued?
PSHE homework assignment looming?
Use your library card number to log in to ISSUES Online free, right now, or pop into Marylebone Library and browse.


Three minutes, forty six point three two seconds

Westminster Mile 2014Thirty years ago, in July 1985, a world record was broken when Steve Cram ran a mile in 3 minutes, 46.32 seconds. Since 1913 when the International Association of Athletics Federations first recognised the men’s world mile record, it has been held by no fewer than six Britons including Roger Bannister, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, but Steve Cram is the last… so far. Read about his memories of setting the record, which held for eight years before being smashed by Noureddine Morceli. The current holder is the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrou.

Many of us will have had New Year’s resolutions to get fit but if, like most of us, you’ve gone back to the sofa, here’s your chance to try again. It’s not too late to enter the Bupa Westminster Mile which takes place on Sunday 24 May. The one-mile running event is the most famous mile in the world, starting on The Mall and finishing outside Buckingham Palace plus free entertainment and activities in Green Park throughout the day. You have plenty of time to train – don’t worry, you won’t be expected to do it in under four minutes! There is also a women-only race as part of This Girl Can, Sport England’s nationwide campaign to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability.

Westminster Libraries have plenty of books to help you – for example Running by Owen Barder and Running: the only book you’ll ever need by Art Liberman. Check out too the popular Couch to 5K programme, which aims to get even the least fit of us running 3 miles in only a few weeks. Best of all, running doesn’t have to cost much – as long as you have a comfortable pair of trainers, you don’t need to buy any special kit. Why not just get out there and give it a go?

Running by Owen Barder   Running, by Art Liberman   What I talk about when I talk about running, by Haruki Murakami   Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

Have a look too at our collection of online magazineswhich includes Health and Fitness and Men’s Fitness. Or for a more philosophical approach, Haruki Murukami’s What I Talk About When I Talk about Running aims to explain his passion for marathons, triathlons and all things athletic while Adharanand Finn wrote a fascinating account of his attempt to find out the secrets of the Kenyan domination of middle and long distance running in Running with the Kenyans (SPOILER: they work really, really hard).

There may not be a British mile-record holder any more, but Paula Radcliffe’s   world marathon record (2:17:18) has stood since 2002 when she set it at the Chicago marathon. In fact Paula has set the three fastest times in history – the fourth place goes to Kenyan Mary Keitany who is more than three minutes slower (about a kilometre in marathon running) than her. Paula will be competing in this year’s Virgin London Marathon this weekend, running it for possibly the last time, along with approximately 40,000 other runners including some of the best in the world. It’s always a great sight – check out where you can get the best view to cheer on friends, relatives or just random strangers.

The BUPA Westminster MileAnd if it inspires you to enter the Westminster Mile, all the better!


Your Library – Anywhere

With the Easter holidays just around the corner, we thought now might be a good time to remind you about the handy ‘Library Anywhere’ mobile app. With Library Anywhere, you can easily search for, renew and reserve items on the go. You can also scan a book barcode anywhere – for instance in shops, at friends’ houses – and immediately find out whether the book is in stock at your local  library.

Library Anywhere logo

Library Anywhere – free from the App Store and Google Play – gives you access to your account information, the library catalogue and opening times, and much more.

iPhone and Android users

  • Download the ‘Library Anywhere’ app free from the App Store or Google Play.
  • iPhone users also have the option to download the ‘WCCLibraries’ app free from the App Store.

Blackberry and other smartphone users

  • You can also use the app interface in a ‘universal version’ by going to The Barcode Scan feature is not available in this version.

A Cinema Pioneer

Clapper board / reels of filmIn 1921, your school or university careers adviser would have been unlikely to recommend you the profession of ‘film critic’ for the simple reason that it didn’t yet exist as a full-time job. While film-going was already the most popular entertainment for the masses, the movies still weren’t taken seriously by the intelligentsia and were mostly reviewed in trade journals.

So when Caroline Lejeune from Withington, Manchester, fresh out of university,  announced her intention of becoming a film critic, there were probably a few dropped jaws in the family home. Luckily for her, CP Scott, editor of the Guardian, was a family friend and encouraged her to move to London, take a postgraduate degree and write a regular column in the Manchester Guardian which she kept up until 1928, transferring to the Observer until her retirement in 1960.

I was reminded of Lejeune by an excellent article in the Guardian which links to a few of her reviews. She loved Hitchcock (though abhorred Psycho), hated Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood and admired Eisenstein. Sadly, she’s probably best remembered now for her scathing review of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, but she deserves far greater recognition.

You can find out more about her life in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (her biography is written Dilys Powell, another notable female film critic)  or from her autobiography Thank you for Having Me. But, most importantly, if you want to read her criticism, check out the Guardian and Observer Archive (log in with your Westminster Library  card). For more writing on cinema, check out the International Index to Performing Arts or why not pay a visit to Westminster Reference Library to explore the excellent Performing Arts Collection?


Music on the go

Which of our online resources do I love the best? It has to be Naxos Music Library.

Naxos Music Library from Westminster LibrariesApart from holding complete catalogues and selected recordings of over 640 record labels (such as Chandos, EMI Classics, Harmonia Mundi, RCA Records, Sony Classical, Teldec, Virgin Classics and Warner Classics), you can listen to classical music, jazz, world music, classic rock, and easy listening.

It covers a huge range of both standard and specialist repertoire, holds more than 108,359 CD-length recordings equivalent to 1,582, 955 tracks, with over 800 CD-length recordings added every month.

There are libretti and synopses for more than 700 operas, so no more sitting in a darkened theatre trying to figure out who is really a girl dressed as a boy or who stabbed who. There are over 40,000 composer and artist biographies and graded music exam playlists (ABRSM and Trinity/Guildhall), perfect for students of all ages and also for their addled parents.

For someone like me who is passionate about music this is truly a wonderful way to bring together so many of my favourite things, particularly when I know it’s all been professionally sourced. No more wondering if those Wikipedia entries are really that accurate…

But there’s something else about Naxos that you might not have realised. A few years ago Naxos launched an App, so you can set up a playlist account, install the App on both iOS and Android devices and use this to access Naxos. All our public library customers can access Naxos “on the go”, I have the Naxos app on my phone, it works brilliantly, and it couldn’t be simpler to get started.

You’ll need to be a member of our libraries as your email address and password will also act as your login credentials for the Naxos Music Library mobile App.

Go to the Naxos home page from our Westminster Libraries Online Resources page and click on the Mobile app link:

Naxos title bar with link to mobile app

Follow the instructions for Public Library Card Holders and hey presto! You’re now ready to save personal playlists, and enjoy Naxos Music Library anywhere. Log in to the Naxos Music Library App today and enjoy!



It was a library, Jim, but not as we know it

Browne system issue tray. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Happy National Libraries Day!

Ask any person on the street “What is a library?” and they will probably say something like “A public building with books you can borrow”. That is indeed the case, but a modern day library offers much, much more, and a library card is the key. How? It’s all down to the development of computers and especially the Internet and World Wide Web in the 80s and 90s.

St. Marylebone library book label and pocket

Just a generation ago, things were very different. With no computers, most libraries issued books using the Browne system. Books had a pocket holding a card which gave the book’s number and author/title details. Readers were given a number of pocket tickets with their name and address details. They tendered one of these for each book borrowed and the book’s card was placed in the pocket ticket and then filed in a rack before (or behind) a date due marker. On returning a book, the racks would be searched for the matching card and the ticket returned. Returns and renewals could only be done at the library where the books were borrowed. Readers with overdue books would get posted reminders.

City of Westminster catalogue card

The library catalogue was a large set of drawers in which were inserted 5in x 3in cards for each book – one filed by author, and one by title or class number. The catalogue would only show books at that library, and would not show whether the book was in or on loan. When new books were added or old books withdrawn, the cards had to be manually filed or removed. By the 1970s, new technology saw the introduction of a system-wide catalogue on microfilm or microfiche. But it would still not show whether the books were in the library or on loan.

City of Westminster tokens

With fewer alternatives available, reading was a far more popular activity, and the library was so busy, especially at lunchtimes, that in 1952 Westminster dispensed with the Browne system. Instead readers were given plastic tokens which they handed over for all but the most expensive books. There was no record of who had out what books, so no overdue letters could be sent, but once a year each reader was written to and they had to produce all their tokens or pay a forfeit. This system was to last until a computerised management system was introduced from 1984.

City of Westminster renewal letter

As well as books, readers could borrow gramophone records, although there were strict rules about their care. The records themselves were not on the shelves. Instead there were display racks of the cards from which borrowers made their choice and then exchanged the card for the recording – supplied in a carrying case.

City of Westminster Gramophone library rules

Reference libraries had shelves upon shelves of atlases, dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias etc, often out of date even before being published. Some directories even came in loose-leaf binders so that update replacement pages could be supplied. [I remember it well. Ed.]

Westminster Libraries still lend books, but now you can browse the catalogue of all the branches from home or while out and about on your phone, check the availability of books and reserve them online. Not just for Westminster but also Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries too. You can renew items online and return them to any library in the three boroughs.

Westminster Libraries catalogue, February 2015

We no longer have gramophone records (or the cassettes which followed them) but we do lend CDs, DVDs and Talking Books on CD. You can even get something to read or listen to without visiting a library building at all, as we have e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks too.

E-books from Westminster Libraries

When you visit ‘in-library’ there is more on offer than just what we lend. There may be reading clubs or writing groups, author talks, computing or English classes, careers advice sessions, and a range of health promotions. There may be children’s homework clubs and holiday reading clubs and craft events. It varies from library to library, but the website will have all the details – and if you follow us on Twitter – or just keep an eye on the right hand column of this blog – you’ll get updates on all our special events as well!

BTL Ravel workshop with Pimlico Academy students, April 2014

Those groaning shelves of reference books are much reduced now, replaced by public computers to use and study space with free wi-fi access. But don’t go thinking that there is any less information available – far from it! With the 24/7 library your library card gives you access to a staggering wealth of information for free on our subscription databases. Business information, the arts, family history and worldwide newspapers are amongst the resources available – much of it accessible from anywhere that you can get online and, as it says, available 24/7 – not just when the library is open.

Marketline - one of our many online resources

People have predicted the end of libraries in our present digital, connected world. Well they may have changed in ways unimaginable a generation ago but they are still a thriving, valued part of the community. Who knows what changes another generation will bring? I expect and hope there will still be something people call a ‘library’. But will it contain books? – well perhaps the trend is already starting…

Charing Cross Library 1948

[Malcolm, who has seen and embraced it all in his 40+ years at Westminster]

Happy National Libraries Day!

National Libraries DayToday, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

If you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer. This Saturday in Westminster Libraries you can find:

These are just the special events this Saturday – 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.

Regular library users – or even lapsed ones – will enjoy the Twitter-based quiz we’ve got going on this morning. We’re posting pictures of details, features or aspects of many Westminster libraries and asking you to work out which one it is – take a look at #HowWellDoYouKnowYourLibrary? on Twitter to have a go. We’ll also be posting the pictures on here and Facebook later on.

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!