Barn Burning – a short story from The Elephant Vanishes written by Haruki Murakami 

A married man meets a young girl who works as an advertising model and studies pantomime.  They meet sometimes and go out for meals and he enjoys talking to her.  One day her father dies and she asks him to look after her cat while she travels to Africa.

When she returns, she has a new boyfriend in tow, a rich young man with a European sports car.  The girl and the boyfriend turn up at his house with lunch one afternoon and, after a few drinks, the young man admits to enjoying burning barns, an admission that creates an obsession in the older man.

True to his style, the story is simple with many subtle complexities and ambiguities.


Burning – a film directed by Lee Chang-Dong

In the film, the main character, now called Jongsu, is no longer an older married man but a recent graduate with no money or parental support, trying to make his way as a writer.  Making him younger, adds a coming of age element that is reminiscent of Murakami’s other work such as Norwegian Wood.  The relationship between Jongsu and Hai-mae is more developed and her Americanised boyfriend Ben, now a Jongsu’s peer, becomes his rival.

The location of the story has moved from Tokyo to Seoul and Paju, the small town where Jongsu grew up.  Barns are now greenhouses, more appropriate to the South Korean countryside, and propaganda messages can be heard coming over the border from North Korea.  At one point there is news coverage of Trump talking about America in the background, making the film relevant and contemporary, while keeping and expanding on the important elements of the story and paying a lot of respect to Murakami.

Chang-Dong has taken the story and turned it into an unsettling and mysterious film that builds into a gripping thriller.

Beautifully shot and acted with a great soundtrack.

The adventures of a reading group

A researcher working for a BBC World Service series, The Why Factor, contacted us to meet a book group for their latest programme “Why we forget the things we have learned“.

The Why Factor is a BBC Radio magazine programme, a series of 25 minute shows that mixes vox pop and academic specialists, brought together by a presenter.

We arranged for the show’s producer to talk to local book group members (who kindly agreed to participate), and we all met in Brompton Library’s Meeting Room .

Rather shyly, members of our group answered questions fired by the producer who held a huge microphone attached to a tiny recorder. A couple of us (blink and you miss us) were edited into the first couple of seconds of the programme before the show segued into the main essay.

But what was most important, Brompton Library got a mention – and the programme itself was quite interesting.

I was greatly encouraged by some of the observations about forgetfulness made in the programme. Apparently forgetfulness can be the result of a creative brain flying around taking in all sorts of sensory information which can later be selected from, unless it has been forgotten …. When we are in our book group, reading novels, we are turning over the plot and sharing feelings about the characters, etc., but we are also using our creative brains, employing our memories to add snippets of our own knowledge and experience. We are finding new ways of seeing – being curious. In this way, though discussion, people can renew their interest in the novel, go back and re-read it or, if they had not quite got to the end, decide to try again and even finish it!

Quite often a good book encourages interest in the author. For example, recently, having read Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop, members of the group were able to take their interest further by accessing and reading Hermione Lee’s fascinating account of Fitzgerald’s personal and literary life – which is available from our wonderfully maintained biography store at Kensington Central Library.

With a good public library service everyone can be a researcher! Please try to remember that ….

To find out more please visit the BBC website 

Penny, Brompton Library

All about us

A post from our Service Development Manager, Angela Goreham – about what RBKC Libraries have to offer.

R Research for a project that interests you
B Booking a PC, a place at an event
K Knowledge as we all need this
C Connect (to others in the community and the wide world)

L Lending items for your pleasure or information
I Information that will help you with your day to day or forward planning
B Baby activities and information to help new parents
R Reading – a core skill and past time in any format
A Access us at any time and from anywhere
R Resources – varied and plentiful, in different formats to suit different needs
Y Young and old – we’re here for everyone

Are you 1 in 840,344? Or maybe you are 1 in 515,004? They’re odd numbers you might say, but the first one is the number of times the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries were visited between April 2017 and March 2018 and the second is how many items were borrowed during the same period – how many did you account for?

104 people from our local communities supported the Library Service by volunteering with us and over 40,000 people came to one of the events that we held.

They are huge numbers but we always want to beat our previous year’s figures so please come along to one of our libraries, find out what we can do for you and you can help us pass last year’s numbers.

There are six libraries within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – find out more about them and what we offer by either visiting us in person or our website or you can call us on 020 7361 3010.

Dementia Awareness Week 2017


Hot on the winged heels of Mental Health Awareness week (thank you to all colleagues and partners who helped get that information out there) we are promoting Dementia Awareness Week (14 to 21 May 2017), an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, in our libraries.  There are so many myths around Dementia and that is why we recommend the Reading Well books on prescription dementia list.

This is a varied carefully chosen collection consisting of evidenced and researched information books, alongside fascinating and moving personal histories. It also includes a children’s picture book to help younger readers understand beloved members of their families who have been diagnosed with one of 100 conditions that come under the umbrella of Dementia.  Check out the craft book for creative ways of engaging those living well with Dementia.  It is a helpful and uplifting collection.

The second initiative I want tell you about is the Dementia Friends sessions happening this week which are run by a trained Dementia champion. They are relaxed and informative sessions that engage us in such a way that unhelpful fears and misinformation around the subject can be openly discussed and real facts and practical tips on creating Dementia friendly services and how to reach out and support those living well with Dementia come to light.

There are Dementia Friends sessions later this week  at two libraries in our neighbouring borough, Westminster.  These sessions are open to everyone and I urge you to recommend them or even come along yourself:

◾Tuesday 16 May, 1pm at Pimlico Library
◾Friday 19 May, 11am at Church Street Library

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator

Phone boxes and micro libraries


You might ask, what is a picture of a pair of phone boxes doing here? But look again – what’s that word around the top of the nearest box – not TELEPHONE, but LIBRARY!

Located in Banbury, Oxfordshire, this former BT traditional red telephone box has been fitted with shelves and converted into a micro library.

It all started in 2014 when a local resident started leaving books for strangers in a working phone box. News spread by word of mouth and soon the ‘library’ was attracting many people to borrow, take or donate books of their own. Makeshift shelves were provided for the growing collection. But then there was a complaint about a potential health and safety issue caused by falling books and shelves and BT threatened to evict the books by March 7th 2015. A social media campaign was launched and within 24 hours the phone box had got local and national media coverage.

The BT spokesman said: “There were 1,093 calls made from this box in the past year. We had a complaint about the wobbly shelving from a Banbury resident, and we can’t just ignore it. If we had ignored it and little Janet or John had been injured by a collapsing shelf and books, there would have been hell to pay.

If people want to adopt a phone box in Banbury, please contact us and we will see if we can open a new chapter in this running saga, and bookworms in Banbury can review the situation and plot a new course for a library.”

Banbury Council indeed offered to adopt the phone box. BT then offered to provide a second, decommissioned phone box to house the books alongside the original box which would remain as a phone box. This duly arrived, and was fitted with shelves by local company Hawkins Steel. The new phone box library was formally opened on July 18th 2015 and has continued to flourish since.

You don’t have to go to Oxfordshire to see a phone box micro library, as there is also one in London, which actually preceded the Banbury version. This is situated on Loampit Hill, Lewisham close to St. Johns station. However, unlike Banbury, this was set up in an already decommissioned phone box, bought from BT for £1 by Sebastian Handley in 2014, who then spent another £500 fitting it out with shelves and books. The Lewisham Micro Library has continued to flourish and even has its own Facebook page.

Banbury and Lewisham residents can rest assured that as well as their micro libraries, there are still council-run public libraries in their areas,but who knows – maybe this sort of community initiative may increase in the future.

Indeed there are several rural locations where phone box libraries have been created, sometimes replacing former library provision. Since 2009 the village of Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset has had a phone box library set up by local people after the mobile library ceased visiting.

Micro libraries do not necessarily have to be housed in phone boxes. There are a number of instances of bus shelters being so equipped, such as this one at Kingston on Soar, Nottinghamshire.

Copyright Ian Calderwood


At several railway stations too, bookcases or shelves have been provided where commuters can take or donate books for free – Stratford is one example in London.

BT has had a programme in place for several years, whereby old phone boxes no longer required can be adopted by local councils for other uses. Amongst other uses for old phone boxes are free mobile phone charging points – called Solarboxes, housing for defibrillators, and one fitted out as an art gallery in Settle, North Yorkshire. Closer to home, Kingston on Thames has an art installation consisting of a row of phone boxes leaning against each other like toppling dominoes.