Tag Archives: Ruth Rendell

“It’s a lovely job – I’ve been so lucky”

Jennifer, library assistant at Maida Vale LibraryMeet Westminster Council’s longest serving staff member:
Jennifer is a Library Assistant at Maida Vale Library and has worked for the council for 46 years.

Having grown up in Weston-super-Mare, Jennifer was working in Bristol Libraries until a friend got a job with Westminster City Council in 1970. Inspired to write “on the off chance” that there might be library work available, she was offered an interview in Marylebone and then a job, returning to Bristol to work out her notice. That done, she moved to London and started work at Mayfair Library the very next day.

While the change from Bristol to London took some getting used to, Jennifer found being in the centre of the capital with all its opportunities really exciting and has never looked back. She soon moved from Mayfair Library to Maida Vale Library and there she has stayed.

Maida Vale Library“Maida Vale Library is so full of character, it used to be a Methodist Church and has appeared on television in Minder, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and lots more”.

Of course, working life was quite different 46 years ago. One of the main changes that Jennifer has noticed is a more egalitarian environment:

“I remember how formal it was. There was no calling anyone by their first name,  we were all Miss, Mrs or Mr and then our surname”.

And libraries themselves have changed and grown.

“The job has changed significantly from when I first started. Back then it was just books. Now we are a one-stop shop, social centre, we offer pension advice, English classes, toddler groups and we are the only council department where anyone can come and see us.”

Books by Ruth Rendell in Westminster LibrariesOf course there are still books too, and Ruth Rendell, who visited Jennifer’s former workplace of Mayfair in 2013 and lived locally until her death in 2015, is a particular favourite.

“She describes her characters so well and the places she sets her books are ones I know.”

When talking to Jennifer her enthusiasm for her work and workplace is palpable. It’s great to know that the library service can inspire such dedication that we have the longest serving employee in the whole of the council.

“Do I enjoy it? Well I would have to, to stay this long! I love the work, the people, and the environment. I love seeing my regulars and having a chat whilst building relationships within the community.”

Thanks Jennifer.



You’ve got a Friend in Mayfair

Residents of the Mayfair area, do you know about the Friends of Mayfair Library group? It was set up by local residents interested in supporting the library, raising money for disabled access and events and generally making the library a hub of activity and our events room into the ‘Village Hall’ that the area lacks.

Over the last two years the Friends have been busy raising money and organising a variety of events, including steak tasting, scrabble nights, a PG Wodehouse walk, a weekly art appreciation class (currently running) and just last week the author Ruth Rendell gave a talk to a packed ‘village hall’.

Ruth Rendell visit to Mayfair Library, February 2013What will they be doing next? Take a look at the Friends of Mayfair Library on Facebook. Anyone can join the Friends – pick up a membership form from the library, or email mayfairlibrary@ymail.com for further details.

Mayfair Library is also the home of Westminster’s Reading Group book store. We hold duplicate copies of books which are available to be borrowed across the Triborough area (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea)by library reading groups and also by library members who go to their own reading group.

We can deliver a set of books to a library of your choice within the three boroughs and you will get an extended period to borrow them – all for no charge! For the full list of titles take a look at the Reading Group Store. Contact kblench@westminster.gov.uk to borrow a set or for further details.


All bow for the Baroness of Crime!

Books by Ruth Rendell / Barbara Vine in Westminster LibrariesThe red velvet was brought out and draped at Mayfair Library to welcome the Labour peer and author Baroness Ruth Rendell when she visited last Thursday.

A packed house of very appreciative fans listened to her describe her early years as a writer, the progress of her career over almost 50 years, her many awards and why she also writes as Barbara Vine – she wrote A Dark-adapted Eye and as a psychological thriller it didn’t feel right to publish it under her Ruth Rendell name as it was “different”.

Ruth said more questions were asked in the evening at Mayfair than at much bigger venues – we really didn’t want her to leave!

She appears both practical and straightforward: when asked where she draws her inspiration for her psychopaths and criminals – was it from studying psychology? – she revealed that one sees strange people all around and she doesn’t need to study because she observes.

She was also asked whether she likes the characters in her books, and replied that it is just fiction and she doesn’t like or dislike them. Chief Inspector Wexford from her Wexford novels is most like her, he holds same social and political values and she finds writing the Wexford novels easier than others.

And when asked if she is going to continue writing she replied

“Of course, I enjoy writing – and what else would I do?”

Ruth Rendell at Mayfair Library, February 2013We put on this event assisted by the Friends of Mayfair Library, and after refreshments, a book raffle, book signing, much applause and a presentation of flowers, everyone left knowing they had been in the presence of a legend.

The latest Barbara Vine is out this month – ‘The Child’s Child’ – and we are already looking forward to next year and another novel.

Some comments from the audience:

“A truly delightful evening – Ruth Rendell came across as a very modest author, charming and relaxed.”

“The author was splendid – articulate and lucid.”

“I really enjoyed the evening – very biographical… and it was good to see the audience asking so many questions – some very much to the point.”

A rapt audience for Ruth Rendell at Mayfair Library, February 2013


War, crime, and aliens

The very thought of you, by Rosie AlisonChurch Street Library had a bumper series of free events to celebrate its recent reopening, including visits from three fascinating authors and a very entertaining illustrator:

Rosie Alison, author of The Very Thought Of You, kicked off the series with an account of writing her first novel. Set during WW2, it deals with the evacuation of children from London to Yorkshire.  Death by Design, by Barbara NadelMany former evacuees in the audience responded to her sensitive handling of the evacuation experience.

This event was followed swiftly by award-winning crime writer Barbara Nadel, who drew a large audience for her energetic and amusing talk focussing on her latest book Death by Design.

You can't eat a princess! by Gillian Rogerson, illus. Sarah McIntyreThen Sarah McIntyre held a workshop on Wednesday 1 September. Sarah is the illustrator of You Can’t Eat a Princess! – a tale about aliens who love eating humans and chocolate. This was our first event with live illustrations and it pulled in a big crowd of Church Street children.

Sarah McIntyre at Church Street LibrarySarah gave a lively reading of the book, demonstrated how to draw an alien (answer: any way you like), and got the children drawing their own pictures.  As Sarah observed, children are particularly happy to have their own artwork praised by a professional artist.

Tigerlily's Orchids, by Ruth RendellFinally, we were extremely proud to host an event with Ruth Rendell, also on 1 Sept.   She gave a reading from her latest book Tigerlily’s Orchids and then took questions from the audience.   This event drew a large crowd, and many of the audience had travelled across London to attend. We were particularly interested to learn that Ruth Rendell – a local resident – often draws inspiration from the sights and sounds of her local area. A brilliant occasion which marks a new era for Church Street Library.


Ruth Rendell at Church Street Library

Ruth Rendell at Church Street Library