After almost a month of no blogging, I am back. After finishing my Masters degree and handing in my dissertation, I decided to reward myself with some job hunting and a trip to Barcelona – anyone who hasn’t visited the city before, I HIGHLY recommend it; it is so beautiful.
The theme of this year’s National Poetry Day (@PoetryDayUK) is ‘water, water everywhere’; inspired by one of my favourite poets (and poems), Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The first Thursday of October has marked the special event for the last 20 years. Poetry is a fantastic medium which can express anything. And the best part is, is that everybody can interpret different things from poetry; what may mean one thing to someone, could mean something completely different to someone else.
Matt Lewis writes in an article for The Telegraph: “The aim of National Poetry Day is to celebrate poetry in all of its diverse forms. In doing so, The Poetry Society and its affiliates hope to attract new readers and remove some of the academic, elitist stigma that is attached to verse, making it part of the public imagination again”. Something else which I feel I should mention is how muscians can also promote poetry. Being a fan of Arctic Monkeys, I really enjoyed their slightly altered version of John Cooper Clarke’s ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ which is included on their new album, AM. Anyone who is a fan of either JCC or AM should definitely YouTube the different versions.
On another note, I shall leave you with this:
Possibly my favourite quote to describe poetry.
What libraries do for us – and me is an article written by Malorie Blackman on The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is free’ page which took my interest last week.
Blackman emphasised the point that libraries are the “best literacy resource we have” and with many public libraries closing across the country, there is concern that it could have some impact on literacy rates in children. It is thought that approx. 105 libraries have closed or left their local authority control since April 2012.
Many local councils have announced library closures. Lincolnshire plans to close 32 of its 47 libraries and Sheffield are to keep 12 out of 28 libraries open. Blackman commented on culture minister Ed Vaizey’s quick decision to save Jane Austen’s ring leaving the UK, in August, and said how he should be showing the same concern to save our libraries. Like Austen’s ring, libraries are considered “national treasures”.
There have been numerous complaints that the closures are in breach of the 1964 Libraries Act, which specifies that “every authority must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”. Although despite this the article states that the government are yet to become involved in investigating the complaints.
Blackman questions why these closures are happening in a time where the government has placed emphasis on children’s reading and has also announced plans to reform secondary education, in particular the changes to GCSEs. It is no doubt that libraries offer a fantastic service. Story-telling sessions for young children, homework clubs and knowledgeable staff make up a safe environment where children, and adults alike, can discover and explore.
While libraries make up a significant part of our cultural heritage and have a positive impact on communities across the country, I feel that libraries can only do so much. What I mean by this is children’s parents must also play a significant part in encouraging their children to read and visit the library. Unless a child’s parent takes them to a library on a regular basis, then the child will not encounter the benefits. These library closures also make me wonder whether booksellers will offer more services to make up for those lost through closures? Booksellers could hold story-telling afternoons for young children and themed art and craft days to get children involved in literature. It can also be suggested that bookshops could offer a scheme where parents could trade-in bought books for other secondhand books at a small fee, particularly for those families who may have a low income. Suggestions which hopefully won’t have to be considered.
Blackman’s article finishes with the statement: “Without them [libraries], literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone”. “The Institute of Education stated that children reading for pleasure between the ages of 10 and 16 can drastically improve vocabularly and attainment and is extremely important for a child’s cognitive development”. With this statistic, it can be seen that library closures will have a negative impact on literacy in children.
There are, however, sites such as the Voices for the Library which “advocates for public libraries and library staff”. The site presents some encouraging statistics and stated that although library visits were in essence, down, visits via libraries’ websites were in fact up, with more loans being issued via websites. According in CIPFA, book issues increased in 2009 from 307,571,240 to 310,776,757. In addition it is thought that during the period 2008-9, web visits to UK libraries were up 49%. So while, libraries are closing, library usage via websites are up emphasising the point that “these are times of opportunity, not decline”. Like bookshops, libraries can embrace change by enhancing the use of digital. A great example is the new library which opened in Birmingham recently (you can read my blog post on it, here). The new building is a successful mix of tradition and discovery reflected through the incorporated use of digital devices to enhance learning. Certainly, it is current news such as this which shows just how much opportunity there is for libraries in general.
Saturday 14th September marks one of the biggest promotions of bookshops in bookselling history. Books Are My Bag played a prominent presence at this year’s London Book Fair in April where the hype to yesterday’s launch began.
The campaign is to celebrate bookshops across the country and to encourage people to support their local bookshop; whether it be a small independent or one of the national chains. Statistics on the BAMB website shows that ‘56% of all book buying decisions are in fact decided in a bookshop’. Consumers do not always know what they are after until they find it whilst browsing in a bookshop. Certainly, it seems that mortar-and-bricks bookshops are the way to discover new books that perhaps you hadn’t thought of buying before.
In an article by The Bookseller last week, CEO of the Booksellers Association, Tom Godfray, said that the UK would “wake up to a sea of orange” as booksellers across the country prepared their stores and events during the week. Of course, a big promotional event cannot be without iconic merchandise, and for the event, merchandise came in the form of Books Are My Bag tote bags designed by advertising firm, M & C Saatchi; inspired by Lord Saatchi’s Brutal Simplicity of Thought.
To add to the hype, the event was promoted by a media launch at Foyles in London on 9th September, where high-profile figures such as: Amanda Holden, Andrew Marr, Alan Johnson, Sebastian Faulks and Marian Keyes, attended in support of the event.
The promotion is set to run until 31st December 2013.
I personally feel that the BAMB promotion is a fantastic event in which to highlight our bookshops to the public. With new digital technologies, as well as the rise of online retailers, high street booksellers have slowly been dying out; particularly independents. Many booksellers already host an array of events such as author talks to entice customers over the threshold. One thing that did surprise me, however, was on looking at Waterstones’ website, there is no reference of the BAMB campaign on their main page. There is mention of BAMB on the blog section of their website, but what if the customer does not look at that section? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if bookshops’ websites had the BAMB logo somewhere on their homepages?
Of course, the campaign has been thoroughly popular on social media sites, such as Twitter. #booksaremybag was trending on the launch day, with hundreds of posts from independent and chain booksellers posting pictures of their events, and many customers tweeting about their purchases. It will be great to see how much of an impact the campaign will have on high street bookshops and whether it will entice customers to use their local bookshop more often.