Category Archives: Online

The book of the moment

It’s almost time for the announcement of this year’s Man Booker Prize winner!

Where to find the Book Awards section on Westminster Libraries catalogueIt’s not uncommon for individuals or book groups to use book awards as a personal challenge – a colleague in RBKC reads the Man Booker shortlist every year and shares her thoughts with the rest of the staff. Why not join her?

You can find the latest shortlists of all the main awards on the library catalogue itself, making it quick and easy to find out where the books are in stock or to place a reservation.

When a new shortlist comes out, we move the winners from the previous year to the ‘Prizewinning books’ list so that you can still find them.

Latest key dates for book awards:

  • 13 September: Man Booker Prize 2016 shortlist
  • 17 October: Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize) for non-fiction 2016 shortlist
  • 18 October: Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016 shortlist
  • 25 October: Man Booker Prize 2016 winner
  • 15 November: Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction 2016 winner
  • 22 November: Costa Book Awards 2016 category shortlists

Book awards section on Westminster Libraries catalogue

Reading an article entitled ‘Literary prizes make books less popular, study finds‘ made me wonder why, if this was the case, why on earth anyone in the book industry – authors, publishers or booksellers – continues with the whole awards malarkey? It depends on your definition of ‘popular’. The conclusion of the 2014 study was that sales increase, the book reaches a wider audience than it might otherwise, and those readers may not have chosen the book because it appeals to them but simply because it has won a prize. Therefore the proportion of negative reviews increases – the book is less popular in terms of good reviews, but still more popular in terms of increased sales / borrowing from libraries. If they can cope with the poor reviews, the authors can enjoy the kudos of the award, the prize money, and the revenue from increased sales, as well as the knowledge that their work is being seen by large numbers of people.

A Song of Ella Grey by David Almond Neurotribes by Steve Silberman A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

If you’re an avid reader, sometimes it’s good to have your tastes challenged, either by reading a book that’s won an award or that is recommended by someone whose tastes may not align with your own. An online book group I belonged to once held a ‘reading challenge’, where peoples were assigned a book by other members that went against their preferences. I was given some ‘chick lit’ (I quite enjoyed it) and I challenged a friend who hated biographies and war stories to read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (sadly, it didn’t change her mind – but she read it!).

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge One by Sarah Crossan The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neila Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Why not use our handy book lists or even some of the Staff Picks on this blog to find yourself or your children a new, award winning book to read?

[Ali]

The great and the good

George Ryan, pictured in bas relief at the base of Nelson's Column, London

All of us who live or work in Westminster have walked through Trafalgar Square dozens of times, but how many of us have actually looked at Nelson’s Column  properly? Certainly not me until recently when I happened to look at the bas-reliefs at the base of the pillar and wondered what they actually represented. Coincidentally on the bus home I heard a trailer for an excellent-sounding radio programme, Britain’s Black Past which mentioned the reliefs and revealed that at least one of the sailors pictured was black. A bit of research revealed that a third of the crew of the Victory, Nelson’s ship, were born outside Britain (including, somewhat surprisingly, three Frenchmen) and that one of the men pictured, George Ryan, was black.

As we celebrate Black History Month, what other memorials of interest can we find in Westminster?

Well, for a start there’s the oldest monument in London – Cleopatra’s Needle. Nothing to do with Cleopatra, it actually predates her by 1500 years, being made for Pharoah Thotmes III. One slightly odd feature of the Needle is that the four sphinxes, ostensibly there to guard it, actually face inwards so you’d think they’d be fairly easy to surprise…

Cleopatra's Needle, London

Moving forward to the eighteenth century brings us to Ignatius Sancho (1724-1780) who, despite pretty much the worst possible start in life (he was born on  slave ship and both his parents died soon after) became butler to the Duke of Montagu and, after securing his freedom, was the only eighteenth-century Afro-Briton known to have voted in a general election (in Westminster). He wrote many letters to the literary figures of the time such as the actor David Garrick and the writer Laurence Sterne, was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and was also a prolific composer.

IgnatiusSancho

You can read more about Sancho in several books available to view at Westminster City Archives, and listen to some of his compositions.

And if you happen to be passing the Foreign and Commonweath Office, see if you can spot the memorial to him.

A more famous near-contemporary of Sancho, was Olaudah Equiano (1747-1797), another former slave and author of one of the earliest autobiographies by a black Briton.

Olaudah Equiano

Like George Ryan, Equiano (or Gustavus Vassa as he was known in his lifetime) was a sailor who travelled to the Caribbean, South America and the Arctic, having been kidnapped from Africa as a child. While still a slave, Equiano converted to Christianity and was baptised in St Margaret’s Westminster. His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was one of the first slave narratives and was reprinted several times in Equiano’s lifetime. He became a leading member of the  abolitionist movement, as one of the Sons of Africa, a group of former slaves in London who campaigned against slavery. You can see a plaque to him at 73 Riding House Street, Paddington and see him portrayed  by Youssoo N’Dour in the  film Amazing Grace.

Olaudah Equiana Plaque, London

One black Briton who needs almost no introduction is Mary Seacole (1805-1881), who fought racial prejudice to nurse and feed  soldiers in the Crimea and who was so popular with her former patients that the Times reported on 26th April 1856 that, at a public banquet at the Royal Surrey Gardens:

“Among the illustrious visitors was Mrs Seacole whose appearance awakened the most raputurous enthusiasm. The soldiers not only cheered her but chaired her around the gardens and she really might have suffocated from the oppressive attentions of her admirers were it not that two sergeants of extraordinary stature gallantly undertook to protect her from the pressures of the crowd.”

You can follow the famous war correspondent WH Russell in the Times Digital Archive (log in with your library card number) – he was a great admirer of Mrs Seacole. And if you haven’t already, do read her extraordinary autobiography The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. There are two plaques in her honour in Westminster – one at 147 George Street and one at 14 Soho Square.

Mary Seacole

Less well-known than Mary Seacole  is Henry Sylvester Williams (1869-1911), a Trinidadian teacher who came to London in the 1890s, studied Latin at King’s College and qualified as a barrister in 1897 (though he earned his living as a lecturer for the Temperance Association). He was a founder-member of the Pan-African Association, whose aims were

“to secure civil and political rights for Africans and their descendants throughout the world; to encourage African peoples everywhere in educational, industrial and commercial enterprise; to ameliorate the condition of the oppressed Negro in Africa, America, the British Empire, and other parts of the world”

In 1906, Williams was elected as a Progressive for Marylebone Council and, along with John Archer in Battersea, was one of the first black people elected to public office in Britain. You can read more about Williams (and the other people listed here) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and see a plaque erected by Westminster Council in his honour at 38 Church Street.

Bringing us nearer the present day are two former residents of Westminster who everyone knows. Guitarist Jimi Hendrix, discussed before in this blog, lived for a short time in 1968 at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair, and you can see a blue plaque to him there.

Jimi Hendrix, blue plaque

And we finish on perhaps the most famous memorial of recent years – in 2007 a bronze statue of Nelson Mandela was erected in Parliament Square in the presence of Mr Mandela himself.

Nelson Mandela stature, Parliament Square

You can find out more about the people in this blog by checking out our library catalogue and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as our Newspaper Archives. Plus if you want to know who the first Black British woman to write an autobiography was, don’t miss the event at Paddington Library on 27 October!

[Nicky]

From Summertime in Venice to Autumn in St John’s Wood

A musical lunch was held at St John’s Wood Library on Silver Sunday for members of the Home Library Service, along with other local residents.

Barrie spins the discs at the HLS Musical Lunch at St John's Wood Library for Silver Sunday 2016

From vinyl to digital: our resident vinyl expert and HLS staff member Barrie played vocalists from the past, from the well known Frank Sinatra to the lesser known Jerry Vale (“Summertime in Venice”). We then experimented with listening to music via the internet on our libraries’ tablets.


Silver Sunday“Fascinating old records and played like a professional DJ”

“Many thanks, it has made a great difference to my life, coming out to an event”

“Thank you for your imaginative organisation”


HLS Musical Lunch at St John's Wood Library for Silver Sunday 2016

[Elaine]

How Business Information Points can help you get the job you want

Westminster Libraries Business Information PointsWestminster Libraries have four Business Information Points (BIPs) which are aimed at helping people start up their own business by providing access to a wide variety of online resources, books and magazines. However, have you ever thought about how these resources could help you not only start up a business but also find and gain the job you really want?

In Westminster Reference Library we have witnessed just some of the ways in which it can be done. To start with, library users are afforded that extra bit of time they need on the library’s BIP computers to find and apply for jobs as well as do their business research, administration and planning. And the online resources – both the In House Specials and the 24/7 resources – have come in handy as well. Indeed, just a few days ago someone used Marketline to help prepare a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on a company with whom he had an upcoming interview.

Careers 2017COBRA the Complete Business Reference Advisor (log in with your library card number) shows people how to start up and run a successful business. However, it is also helpful in showing which qualifications you may need, organisations you could contact and what to do in order to start out on your own or find a job in a particular area. Similar to this is the yearly careers directory, a book which explains in brief which qualifications you will need to begin and progress in certain careers as well as what each job entails, how much you will be paid and what the future prospects are.

Market research databases such as IBISWorld, Marketline and Mintel can all help you to research the best sector to aim for. This is important as it might take time to prepare for a career through gaining the necessary experience and qualifications.

You can use Experian and Marketline to find out which companies you can approach and look at to find the job and experience you wish to gain. Experian can also help you learn about key names and connections, this can also be done with Who’s Who UK (log straight in with your library card) which is searchable by keyword as well as just name.

Use these databases to learn about companies and markets, plus the experience and qualifications you will need to help you in any applications you make. When it comes to actually applying for jobs they can help you prepare for those tough interview questions. Most libraries also have books to help you do any tests which you may need to perform during the application process.

How to pass professional level psychometric tests by Sam Al-JajjokaHandling touch job interviews by Julie-Ann AmosThe interview book by James Innes

The BIPs in Westminster are located in Westminster Reference Library, Paddington Library, Church Street Library and Pimlico Library – come and see us, and keep an eye out for BIP events that might be of use in your career planning.

[Owen]

The digital revolution in our lives

ICT training in Westminster LibrariesWhile helping to plan the forthcoming ‘Computers in the Fall’ IT training for beginners, I began to think about the huge changes the digital revolution has brought about. A great place to start when looking into this topic is Issues Online. We’ve written about this great series before on Books & the City and I went straight to check recent additions to its contents. This can be done by going to Issues Online (log in with your library card number) and selecting a topic: in this case, The Internet. Among recent additions to this resource were surveys and statistics of digital usage.

The first link I checked was a snapshot of key digital statistics (January 2016) which revealed that from a total UK population of 64.91 million there are 59.47 million active internet users. Social media and mobile phone/tablet/pad active accounts statistics were also compiled. ‘Active accounts’ recognises the fact that many people have more than one device and use several social media platforms and therefore does not refer to individuals. The survey found 33 million active mobile phone users and 38 million active social media users.

These figures whilst impressive do not provide much detail. Some idea of how people use the internet can be found in a second survey from YouGov which asked the question ‘Which is the most important consumer invention?’

Issues Online - The Internet of Things Not surprisingly, examples from the digital revolution ranked highly. In first place at 55% was the invention of the smartphone (62% of 18-24 year olds put smartphones first). Age differences are reflected in the methods of digital communication that appear in the survey results. For instance, there was a large age discrepancy in the ranking of Facebook in the survey. It was ranked second by the under 40s but only fifth for older people surveyed. Older people were more likely to use Skype as a means of communication.

If you feel that you are being left behind in the digital revolution, there is hope. Take a look at the topics we’re covering in the ‘Computers in the Fall’ training at Marylebone Library – from mouse skills for beginners to how to shop safely online. Choose your topic or topics and just turn up – there is no need to book in advance.

[Francis]

The latest from Westminster Community Information

Seals Argue like a pro

Feel like there are one or two things to discuss at the moment?

Want to sharpen up your debating skills?

Westminster has not one but three debating clubs within easy reach; the Society of Cogers, the Sylvan Club and Debating London. You can just go along and listen or get more involved and take part in debates.

Two of the groups meet in pubs, which may be of interest, and one offers debate training (for a fee). You can find them listed on the Westminster Community Information web site.

Debra on the Community Information stall in Paddington LibraryPaddington health event

In late April I attended one of the regular health events at Paddington Library.

Here are some of the things you asked me about:

  • A young man wanted to know about knitting groups in the borough
  • A Malaysian lady who wants to start her own business running classes in Malaysian martial art (silat) and Malaysian cooking asked about business resources
  • A lady wanted to find a diabetes support group
  • A mature student was looking for social groups in the area.
  • An older lady was asking about handyman services and draught-proofing grants.

I will attend other library health events in the future and look forward to seeing you there and answering your questions about community information in Westminster.

[Debra]

Who Lived Where: The London Blue Plaque Scheme

William Ewart's blue plaque at Hampton Public LibraryWith over nine thousand plaques mounted on buildings scattered throughout the capital, the London Blue Plaques scheme is well known. In some streets of central London, almost all the buildings display a plaque, or even more than one. What you may not be aware of is that the interesting scheme celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Here’s a short history:

William Ewart, a Liberal MP, suggested that the government should start this scheme to honour significant London residents in 1863. The idea was rejected due to cost, but three years later in 1866 the Society of Arts (later the Royal Society of Arts) took the scheme on.

Napoleon III's blue plaque in Kings Street, St JamesThe first two plaques were erected in 1867. The first commemorated the poet Lord Byron at his birthplace, 24 Holles Street off Cavendish Square, but was later destroyed with the demolition of the house. The second plaque in Kings Street, St James was erected to the exiled French emperor Napoleon III London residence.  This has survived.

William Ewart is in the select group who are commemorated with more than one plaque. English Heritage, the current custodians of the scheme, now restrict the scheme to a single plaque per person however many addresses that individual had. William Ewart is commemorated in central London but also his former house which is now Hampton Public Library in south west London (see picture above). This is a particularly fitting commemoration as, whilst an MP, William Ewart introduced a bill that became Britain’s first Public Library Act setting up a network of free public libraries..

The London Blue Plaque Guide by Nick RennisonI think it is fair to say that for many years this scheme has favoured establishment figures and there has been a definite bias towards males. Currently only 13% of the total commemorate women. Recognising this, English Heritage is making concerted efforts to get proposals from the public for female candidates.
Westminster is home to plaques for several ‘non-establishment’ figures, including Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole and, unusually, one commemorating an event rather than a person: The Cato Street Conspiracy, which was a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1820.

Mary Seacole's blue plaque in Soho Square, London   Blue plaque for the Cato Street conspiracy, 1820

Biographical details for these and other blue plaque entries can be found on the English Heritage website. You can find out more in one of the many Blue Plaque guides available from your library. However, for a more comprehensive, detailed biography why not use your library membership to consult the Oxford Dictionary of  National Biography online? Nearby, Kensington Central Library also holds a Biographies special collection of approximately 80,000 books, to which annually over 1,000 new titles are added.

[Francis]