We understand that research can be a daunting and difficult task, here at Westminster Reference Library, we’ve teamed up with the specialists at London South Bank University to give you some tips, tricks and advice on how to undertake your research and how to best utilise your online software!
An introductory digital skills session into Microsoft Office: including Word, PowerPoint and Excel!
Literature hunting – What is a journal article? How to use Google Scholar & learning how to evaluate information!
IT Security – Protecting your device and your files, avoiding dangerous sites and documents!
These workshops are designed for students, researchers or anyone working on a project that involves searching the internet for information. Whether you’re just starting or a more advanced researcher, we’ve got something for everyone!
Janice Johnson is the Digital Skills Training Manager at the Digital Skills Centre, London South Bank University. She has over 16 years’ experience teaching digital skills to staff, students and professional organisations.
Emma Perry is an Information Skills Librarian within the library at London South Bank University. Having worked there for over 8 years, her main role is to teach students in classes and one-to-ones about research, evaluating information and referencing.
Please note, this will be a Microsoft Teams meeting/Teams Broadcast, and, although you do not have to have Microsoft Teams downloaded to your device, you will get a better experience if you have the app.
***Please avoid using Safari – we have had reports that Safari users have issues accessing Teams live broadcasts. Please try using Chrome or any other browser – most people who experience problems when signing in find them resolved if they try using a different browser. We are really sorry for the inconvenience this may cause and are working on finding a solution.
In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor…
Over to Fiona…
This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship. Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace. The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up. While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience. We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.
It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.
It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today. At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.
This book is available in our library using our Select and Collect service!
One of the most exciting things about our Special Collection of Biographies is the opportunity to discover wonderful writers that are often hard to come across in other places. In honour of LGBT+ History Month, I’ll focus on four brilliant autobiographical voices of the mid twentieth century who were once well known but who have sadly faded from view (they should all be household names, in my opinion)! All were gay, and given the times in which they wrote, references to their sexuality are woven through their work in very different ways, from oblique and coded “in jokes”, to more direct engagements with their experiences of relationships against the background of a bigoted society. They would not have wanted their work to be defined soley as representing their sexuality, as would not be the case with heterosexual writers – but they write about their sexuality in ways that tell us a lot about the society they inhabited and the experience of LGBT people within it.
I first discovered Denton Welch’s heartbreaking, hilarious voice in his memoir A Voice Through A Cloud, posthumously published in 1950, which describes his cycling accident aged 20 – he sustained injuries that changed his life and led to his death at 33. In Maiden Voyage and In Youth is Pleasure, Welch smuggles in references to his sexuality which though necessarily hidden in plain sight, are full of joy and a commitment to self-expression. He delights in meeting men under the radar of tediously conventional relatives (and it is important to remember the huge risks men ran at the time, when persecutory laws meant blackmail and prosecution were constant dangers). Under a stylish and often very funny surface is a narrative of courageous self-affirmation: Welch is always uncompromisingly himself. He was also a wonderful painter, and his idiosyncratic voice was admired by figures such as Edith Sitwell, William Burroughs and Alan Bennett. His diaries from 1942 to 1948 are a unique record of a Bohemian world.
R. Ackerley joined the BBC in 1928 and helped set up the influential Talks Department. From 1935 to 1959 he was literary editor of The Listener, the BBC magazine which was a cultural institution.
He was a man of great learning and, like Welch, a wonderful writer. We have volumes of his diaries and correspondence – and the memoirs Hindoo Holiday (1932), describing his time serving as an Indian Maharaja’s secretary and My Dog Tulip (1956) about his relationship with his beloved dog Queenie. We Think the World of You (1960) is a novel, but was based on his own passionate relationship, across the class divide, with a petty criminal who remained married; they were very different characters and significant hearbreak accrued from their irresolvable tensions, but Ackerley writes with subtlety and honesty about their affair, and his surprising friendship with his lover’s wife. He also wrote about the extraordinarily strange story of his father (who had another hidden family – the daughter of this secret menage, Diana Petrie, wrote a fabulous book about it, which we also have in the collection) – as well as a moving memoir of his troubled, exasperating but adored sister.
The American poet and novelist May Sarton wrote 13 volumes of memoir, between 1959 and 1996, all of which we have in our collection (one with a beautiful personal inscription in her handwriting). They are vivid immersions in her experience of the natural world, and in the patterns and processes of her own intellectual and emotional life. Her love for Judith Matlack is a subject she returns to often. Sarton wrote movingly about the courage it took to portray lesbian characters in her novels, which in the 60s were studied by feminist academics. She declared her hope that she not be looked upon predominantly as a lesbian writer, but simply as a writer who engaged with the universal themes of human love. But it is undeniable that her writing about erotic love between women was enormously important in giving it parity with heterosexual love stories and letting tenderness and lyricism challenge concealment and shame.
Lorraine Hansberry is probably the best known of these four writers, due to recent revivals of her seminal play A Raisin in the Sun, with which she became the first African American woman to have a play performed on Broadway at the age of just 29. She was a key figure in the pan-African intellectual movement, and had friendships with other giants of the African-American artistic and political scene such as Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes. James Baldwin was a close friend and devotee and declared her work to be ground breaking, and Martin Luther King was an admirer who expected her to inspire future generations. She inspired Nina Simone with her play To be Young, Gifted and Black, which is also the title of her autobiography.
Hansberry married a man, Robert Nemiroff, and did not reveal her true sexuality due to anxiety about the hostility she might face. However, as she moved into her thirties, she moved towards coming out, describing herself as “committed to this homosexuality thing” – this wasn’t straightforward in the early 60s, but Hansberry had relationships with women and a circle of gay friends. She expressed the resolution to “create my life—not just accept it” – tragically, she shared Welch’s fate of dying in her early 30s. Huge though her achievements were, it is tantalising to think what more she might have achieved, and what her searing intelligence might have added to debates on racial and sexual politics as the decades moved on.
The struggle for equality for LGBT+ people is far from over, and the fight against prejudice must continue. But these four writers shed light on the huge pressures on gay people in the twentieth century to keep their true voices silent and their true loves hidden, and how people of artistic genius negotiated these pressures. I hope you will enjoy getting to know them better through our collection.
This year, Safer Internet Day will be celebrated on Tuesday 9th of February, aiming to explore reliability online- in conjunction with saferinternet.org.uk
There are lots of fun and interesting information you can find online such as blogs, clothing websites, social media outlets- just to name a couple. But it’s important to separate the accurate information form counterfeit materials. As parents, especially, we want our children to explore the digital world, encouraging them to do so through the correct resources.
Below you can find some tips on how to help your children being safe online:
1: Never share personal information
This applies both to parents and children. Parents should think before they share posts, photos and links. They perform as role models for their children, so they should be responsible of what they are sharing online. Parents also, need to explain to their children what it means “personal information”, such as your last name, your local address, pictures or posts on social media and why they should be cautious about sharing. Finally, they should explain to their children that they can change the settings to make their account private so just people they know can see their activity.
2: Monitor their online activities
Parents should be aware of what their children are looking for on the internet. Ask your children to show you which are their favourite websites, applications and games. This will help you to understand better their activity online and to possibly talk to them about any concerns you might have. You can also use parental controls software, which can give you a pretty good picture of your child’s internet activity and can alert you to problems. But it can also inform you about your children’s new interests.
3: Talk and listen your children
Become friends with your children, so they may not hide anything from you. Talk regularly with your children about how they use technology and where are they looking for the information, they need. Explain them that the internet offers a huge range of information, but not all of them are accurate. Having conversations with your children is the best way to support them.
4: Set an example
Talk to your child about your own experience of the online world. Show them sites and apps that you like to explore and explain why you like them. Show them how to use the internet in a positive way – to research things, to do homework, to talk to family, and to find out about the world. This helps them to have a critical eye. Share with them your own less positive experience online and what you have learnt from this.
5: Check the online content with your child
It is important to reassure them that they can always talk to you if they accidently come across with an upsetting content. Parents should stay calm and to do not overreact if their children have seen something that made them feel worried or upset. They should help them to learn how to avoid similar content in the future and to report any content they find disturbing.
This Week’s Book of the Week is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go is the brave and fantastical story by British Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a backdrop of Dystopian 1990s London, we meet three curious and challenging students; Cathy, Ruth and Tommy. They are seemingly ordinary citizens; but have been bred to “provide” and “donate” themselves to the rest of society, and to certain extents quite fatally. For this is a world where Ruth and her peers aren’t just students, but human clones in a world where cloning is state-sanctioned. The three students live their unconventional lives trying to forge happiness out of the complexities of adolescence, human biology and social injustice. Ishiguro writes this book with a delicate level of despair but touches thoughtfully around issues around LGBTQ+, ideas of community and concepts around scientific progress. An elegantly written story with depth and intrigue. Well worth a read!
Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award and for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award! Also a Major Motion Picture!
Download this book today with your library card at:
This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural….
Over to Sara to tell us more!
I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.
Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love!
The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale.
I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core.
If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here
Time to TalkDay takes place Thursday 4th February 2021 and more than ever, it is important as the global pandemic has detrimentally impacted on our mental health- from the elderly to the young.
Every day and in the month of February, we are reminded about the mental health and wellbeing of our family, friends and work colleagues and especially ourselves.
In a fight to save lives and to social distance, we have become socially isolated from our home comforts; the warmth and simple yet powerful acts such hugging and holding hands, so, having small conversations or videos chats with the people you care about can really have a positive impact on us and make a big difference.
The Power of Small
We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us with mental health problems are made to feel.
Time to Talk Day is the day that the nation gets talking about mental health. This year’s event might look a little different, but at times like this open conversations about mental health are more important than ever.
Time To Change need your help to start the conversation this Time to Talk Day – together we can end mental health stigma.
“Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year yet the shame and silence can be as bad as the mental health problem itself. Your attitude to mental health could change someone’s life.”
“Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not. So, we’re asking you, if your mate’s acting differently: ask twice.”
1 in 4 of us experience a mental health problem in any year. And worryingly, the current restrictions on our lives mean men are missing out on support from those around them. So, if a mate says he’s fine, he might not be. A second “How are you?” can make all the difference.
Here is our list of the Top Ten Most Requested Books from 2020 from both Westminster Libraries and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries. It has been fascinating to see what all of our users have been borrowing and we thought you might too.
We also found it interesting that “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, which is ninth on this list, is at currently the most requested book so far in 2021 which is great news for non- fiction and its increasing popularity.
So here is our list of “Ten most requested books of 2020”.
“Trio : a novel” written by William Boyd (Viking)
1968, on a film set in Brighton, three characters’ lives are explored during this tumultuous time. A fascinating novel about lives spiralling out of control and the measures required to right them.
“A Promised Land written” by Barack Obama (Viking)
In this highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama relates his journey from a young man in search of his identity to the highest office in the free world. We gain insight to his experiences of domestic and international politics. What went on behind the closed doors of the Oval office, White House Situation Room and beyond. How being the first President of the United States of America of African – American descent and the expectations that went alongside and more.
An extraordinary, intimate and introspective account from the president who allowed us to believe in the power of democracy.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” written by J.K.Rowling (Bloomsbury)
Set during Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts, it explores the past of his nemesis, Lord Voldemort and Harry’s final battle alongside his headmaster and mentor Albus.
“The Sentinel” written by Lee Child/Andrew Child (Bantam Press)
In the 25th Jack Reacher novel, it is a new dawn for our hero where he finds himself in a no-name town in Nashville, Tennessee stepping in to right the wrongs done to a band of musicians. Packed with action, fresh and perfectly plotted.
“V2” written by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)
A Sunday Times Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year:
An immersive thriller set against a tense historical background. In 1944,Rudi Graf has help create the world’s most sophisticated weapon, the V2 ballistic missile and is ordered by Hitler to fire these at London in vengeance. Second World War buffs will thoroughly enjoy V2.
“Girl, Woman, Other” written by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin)
Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2020 and Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019.
This novel follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters, mostly women, black and British. They relate their stories across country and through the years. Generations of women and the people they have loved and unloved. Heart breaking, hilarious and honest.
“Troubled Blood” written by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)
Troubled blood is the next thrilling instalment in the highly acclaimed bestselling series featuring Comoran strike and Robin Ellacott.
A mix of supernatural eeriness and head-scratching mystery with a juicy whodunnit at its core.
“Hamnet” written by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)
The winner of the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2020, Hamnet is an emotionally beautiful work of fiction examining the effects of love, death, and grief on family life.
Agnes, Hamnet’s mother is the main character of the book, that focuses on his short life and the aftermath of his death. It explores love, and a marriage once unbreakable almost torn apart by loss, it examines the strong bond between twins, and everyday domestic life that must continue. Hamnet is William Shakespeare’s son, whom one of his most famous works Hamlet is named after.
“Shuggie Bain” written by Douglas Stuart (Picador)
Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart’s debut novel and won the 2020 Booker Prize.
It is a gritty but beautiful novel based in Glasgow in the 1980s. It explores the affects of poverty and addiction and the bond between mother and son. Shuggie Bain, the main protagonist of the novel, is a fussy and snobbish boy, and is picked on by the miners kids for being different, but he believes, and hopes that if he tries hard to be normal like the other boys, he can help his mother break her addiction and leave the mining town far behind them.
“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (Viking)
Described as clever, moving and highly funny, this murder mystery has broken many records this year, as well as being the most requested book of 2020 in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries!
Set in a retirement village, a group of elderly residents meet up weekly to examine unsolved murders. When a fresh murder occurs on their very own doorstep, The Thursday Murder Club cannot help but get involved and see if they can crack the case. With plenty of humour, this whodunnit is in the same vein as Agatha Christie, and with plenty of high-jinks, it is the start of a wonderful new series.
This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami. What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.
The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’
Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.
If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.
A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.
“Be the light in the darkness” is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, 27th of January.
The theme“encourages everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide…We can all stand in solidarity. We can choose to be the light in the darkness in a variety of ways and places – at home, in public, and online.”
To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, Chelsea Library held a virtual Chatterbooks last Saturday, reading the novel Friedrich, with a group of local children. Ten copies of this poignant book were bought, giving an opportunity to our young readers to read it.
Hans Peter Richter – ‘Friedrich’
Superb, sensitive, honest and compelling
Hans Peter Richter wrote his novel ‘Friedrich’ in the style of a memoir. When the book was published in 1961, it was one of the first German books to deal with the Nazi period.
It is about two German families, who live in the same apartment house. It is the story of friendship of the non-Jewish narrator and his Jewish neighbours. ‘Friedrich’ begins in 1925, when the narrator was born, and ends in 1942, when he is 17. It takes place during the period when the Nazis came to power and into the early years of World War II.
“Before every genocide, perpetrators divide society into those considered worthy of human treatment, and those who are not. Distortions are deployed using propaganda and stereotyping to identify and victimise a specific group (or groups), followed by discrimination – often enshrined into law. The darkness leading to genocide also causes deep emotional trauma. For those affected, fear, hopelessness and dread all have a profound and long-lasting impact.” https://www.hmd.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HMD-2021-Theme-vision-summary.pdf
This is exactly described in Hans Peter Richter’s novel.
A snowy day in 1929, the narrator is five years old and watches from his window Friedrich and his mother playing in the snow and making snowman. He is begging his mum to hurry up, so they could go downstairs and join the Schneiders. Eventually, they are ready, just about to leave, when this incident happened. The landlord, Herr Resch insulted the child, as soon as Mrs Schneiders went inside, and the five-year-old was on his own. The narrator’s mother did not say anything comforting to Friedrich or to her son, just to move away from the window. Neither did she want to be associated with the Jewish family (hence her delaying getting ready), nor did she want to get into trouble with their landlord.
Richter’s style encourages the reader, not only to learn about growing up in Nazi Germany, but to develop a nuanced view of the characters and circumstances of the period. The novel provides an accessible and complex picture of the issues of this period, tied to a historically accurate chronology.
Since the narrator and Friedrich are two, eight year-old boys, young readers more readily engage with them. As the boys grew older, the situation in Germany was getting worse.
This extract from “The Ball” (1933) illustrates that the boys were eight years old.