National Libraries Week – Isle Of Wight Libraries

Like most areas, the Isle Of Wight had a planned week of activities to celebrate National Libraries Week.  We wanted to use the occasion to highlight the good work that is going on in the libraries.  On the island we have a mixture of council-run and community libraries and both, despite what the powers that be might want us to think, continue to thrive.

One of the libraries I work at wanted to offer something completely new for the week and we got to racking our brains.  I had mentioned a bookshop I had been into in Bath where a customer was sat with a member of staff who was talking to them about their reading interests and acting as a personal shopper for them.  I mentioned how this would be a perfect job and an idea was formed.

We decided to hold a Reader’s Advisory Day.  A quick visit to the internet suggested that this is something which happens in libraries in less cash-strapped areas than ourselves and that some people in certain areas (although we didn’t find any evidence of this in the UK) have this as their job title.  There were some basic resources on the internet to ensure that you got the best out of making recommendations, but these largely involved listening to what the person you were advising was telling you!  And who was deemed the most appropriate person to be the said Reading Advisor.  How about someone who spends their time reviewing and blogging and writing about books?  So that’s how I  became the Sandown Library Reading Advisor for a day (or the Book Doctor as colleagues have termed me, or the Book Guru, which is probably worse!).

Here’s how we advertised it.


To be honest, people didn’t flock to make appointments as they were unsure what it was all about.  Nevertheless, we made cakes and in a fit of getting carried away by the idea decided to pitch a mini-marquee in the middle of the library for me to work from.

On the day you couldn’t help but notice something was going on in the library and I had people in my tent with me talking about books for the whole of the time the thing was running.  Basically, we chatted about what it was they liked about their favourites and saw if that rang any bells in my head (sometimes it didn’t sometimes it did).  When it didn’t there are loads of online resources out there (including Amazon and I’m pleased to say New Books magazine and the Nudge website where many of my reviews and interviews can be found).  We ate cake and had a very nice day.  The whole thing was deemed a success- although it took us a while to remember how to take the marquee down!



It was great fun but all that concentration did leave me a little tired by the end of the afternoon.  We are certainly going to do it again in the future and my line manager wants me to work the idea for other libraries on the island.

Some of the authors I recommended during the day:   Chris Cleave, Ann Patchett, Frederick Backman, Robert Harris (more than once actually), Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, C J Sansom, Frances Hardinge, Ann Tyler, Rachel Joyce, Nina George, Stephen King, Joe Hill, David Gemell, Rory Clemens.

National Libraries Day – Our Book Bingo Launch


It’s great when you get inspiration from the blogosphere. I know a number of you have been using bingo cards to set reading challenges- that got me thinking. Yesterday was National Libraries Day and I volunteer at my local community library which stopped being funded by the Isle Of Wight Council and was taken over by the Shanklin Town Council, one paid member of staff and a team of volunteers. Fund raising in circumstances like these is important. So with the seeds of an idea sown I visited one of those bingo card generating sites in an attempt to devise something that will raise funds for the library and perhaps more importantly – get library users talking about and excited about books.

I put in about 50 categories which will get people using various sections of the library, selecting books off their bookshelves or maybe supporting their local charity shops. The randomly generated cards chose 24 of these. I didn’t want to be too specific because I didn’t want to put the general reader off (24 books is quite a challenge!) but thought it would be fun to put in a few that might require the odd bit of research. I included some that will get people recommending and talking about what they’ve read and we’re following the system set up with the children’s summer reading challenge where the children bring in the books they’ve read and talk about them with the library staff before they get their reward. When you’ve proved you’ve read the book then you get a sticker to cover up your square (we’ve gone for an attractive, sparkly balloon design!)

To turn it into a fund-raiser we’re charging £3 a card with a small prize for everyone who completes a line and a six month deadline for the Full House. The fairest way to do it, after much deliberation, is to have a draw from those who manage to complete the whole card after the closing date. Fund-raising wise, it doesn’t matter if people do fall by the wayside (although I’m sure everybody will be able to do at least a line) because you get the money upfront at the beginning.

We started the volunteers off a few days earlier at a “do” and they are chomping at the bit. I’ve already talked more about books than I would do normally. For National Libraries Day we had a launch of our “Friends Of Shanklin Community Library Book Bingo” and invited the High Sheriff of the Island and our town mayor. The local press and radio were also in attendance and it was a radio item on the hourly news bulletins throughout the day (even got to hear myself interviewed on the radio). The response has been incredibly enthusiastic and because it’s running for six months and there’s not a race for the finishing line then we can get people enrolled over the next few weeks or even months. And all because I saw something on WordPress…..


“Playing” Book Bingo for the press

I’ve read two books since the volunteers started off and I’ve got my first two stickers. I’ve covered up The first in the series for “Death In Profile” by Guy Fraser-Sampson (the first in the Hampstead Murders series) and by an author whose name begins with a vowel for Vaughn Entwistle and his “Angel Of Highgate”. Both of these books will be reviewed on here soon. I’ll be giving you a monthly update on how things are going. It will take me a while to get the Full House – I’ve got quite a few I’ll need to borrow from the library shelves on my card and I’m already grappling with a significant pile with review deadlines – so I better get on with reading…………………..