Photo is of the British Library, mine is a little smaller.
In real life I work in a small(ish) library and love it. Off and on I've worked in libraries since I was around twenty and find them intriguing places. In my past is the university library and a couple of college ones before finally working in an open-to-the-public, real-life library full of crime stories instead of medical text books. So, what have I learnt about these special (and under threat if the whispers are true) places and the people that frequent them?
Crime is king; if someone isn't being stabbed, strangled or generally mishandled then most borrowing adults aren't interested. I love helping a seventy-year-old eager to reserve the next Dexter book before telling me about her grandchildren. Historical crime is even more popular; monks solving crimes are very relaxing I'm told. Agatha Christie still gets borrowed regularly, a friend of mine told me that my town reminds him of somewhere in an Agatha Christie novel so possibly I shouldn't be surprised by her ongoing popularity with all age groups.
I'm a bit obsessed by YA novels, especially urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Dark romance is insanely popular at work - no surprise there. I recently made a Teen Noir display (inspired by Foyles) and watched the books melt away. Breaking Dawn's waiting list was 168 deep at one point last year and Meyer's books are rarely on the shelf for long. Say what you like about her but she's brought people to books in the same way that J. K. Rowling did/does. I love the challenge of finding something for a fifteen-year-old who's finished the Twilight series and has nothing to read. Thankfully, there's plenty to move on to and I get the satisfaction of seeing someone enjoy a book when they hated reading before.
Part of my job is reading stories to 0 - 3 year-olds. It can be a tough crowd but I find that the right amount of picture book (preferably something like Tabby McTatt or my current favourite Where's Tumpty?) and colouring can prevent murderous boredom. I watch these children grow up and start choosing books for themselves. One minute they're doing the Summer Reading Challenge and then something strange happens. The boys disappear at around age 13/14 never to be seen again until they have children of their own and then they're rarely taking books out for themselves. Girls continue to read and indeed there are tons of books for every conceivable type of girl from 1 to YA. There's plenty for boys too but I'm constantly being asked for recommendations by mums who can't get their sons to read anything at all. I'm spoilt for choice: there's the hugely popular Adam Blade books for the 8 - 12 age group and then the fantastic Artemis Fowl series or Rick Riordan, Robert Muchamore, Garth Nix and Darren Shan. There are many, more clever people than me who will understand exactly what happens to boys during this time and what takes them away. Suffice to say that I try not to punch the air when a fifteen-year-old asks to reserve a Warhammer book.
One of the jobs of the library service is to hook readers from the first few months of their life and then keep a hold of them. We do this with cunning and free stickers, muah-ha-ha! If we can hang on to them through the tricky mid-teen years then we tend to keep them for life; a habit of reading has begun. Today I meet people of my own age who never read, don't like it and don't believe that people actually visit libraries. I smile through gritted teeth when they ask me what I do all day in an, "empty," building they've never visited but also feel a little sad - for some reason they missed out.
Not wanting to sign off on a downer but the chances are that many of these places will be staffed by far fewer people in the coming months due to cuts. I hope I get to carry on, but if I don't I just hope that kids continue to have the chance to be lured in by stickers and then stay a lifetime.