Loves of the Famous

In honour of Valentine’s Day, this month’s Biography Store display at Kensington Central Library is on the theme of Loves of the Famous.

Many couples have walked on the world stage as separate individuals in their own right – but what of the more intimate stories of the relationships between them?

How have the relationships between Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip, between Bill and Hilary Clinton or between Gilbert and George helped inform the work they do?

What was the experience of the partners inhabiting the shadows behind their more famous significant others – sometimes, as in the case of Alice B. Toklas, made the subject of the other’s art?

Then there are the private passions which became part of the mythology and iconography of some of the biggest Hollywood stars – Burton and Taylor, Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy.

ElizabethRichard
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Amongst the biographies of the famous which focus on all aspects of their private and public lives are those which concentrate on marriages, affairs and liaisons, sometimes official, sometimes clandestine, and show that the same passions and problems recur in all human love stories.

Kenedy
Jackie and John F Kennedy

Some of the most intimate records of relationships are love letters by the famous – though sometimes famous for very different things than their romantic passions (who knew Ramsay Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, was such a one for sweet nothings?

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Or that Albert Einstein called his first love “my little everything” and worried constantly that he might have upset her?)

Einstein

Henry the VIII could be pretty risqué and was not backwards in coming forwards in his letters to Anne Boleyn.

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Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Some of the love letters included are intensely private, and the writers would never have imagined they would be read by anyone other than the addressee.  Some have become famous as works of literature and historical testaments in their own right, like Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis”, his letter written to his former lover Lord Alfred Douglas from Reading Gaol, which shows that the intimate minutiae of feelings come before the retrospective resonance of socially significant moments.

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Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

Some – like the correspondence between Abelard and Heloise in the 12th century – are classics of world literature, and prove that whatever the forms of expression used, human emotions are still very recognisable across the centuries.

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Wallis Simpson and Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII)

One of my favourites is one of those many books in the Biography Store Collection which give an intriguing insight into previous times – it’s Royal Love Letters, a collection from 1911.  The publisher is none other than Mills and Boon, and it seems not only the content of their books but their presentation has definitely been spiced up in the last 108 years.  This is a decorous volume – although maybe the deep purple binding hints at the passionate content – and the illustrations are of various royal personages looking very correct, not a steamy clinch in sight.  A list of other available titles doesn’t quite set the pulse racing, and apparently Mills and Boon didn’t only produce romantic titles in the Edwardian era: “Rambles in the Black Forest” and “Nerves and the Nervous” were amongst its non-fiction offerings.

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Barack and Michelle Obama

We hope you enjoy our Valentine’s selection of the romances of some of our most celebrated figures.

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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.

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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.

Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.

Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and in the West London Clinical Commissioning Group area there is Time to Talk, a free psychological therapy service.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led Book Break groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

It is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or see what eBooks and eMagazines we have. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator

Christmas overload already?

Escape the tinsel, mince pies and mulled wine madness with a good book- tell the family you’re off to wrap some presents, disappear into the spare room with a cup of tea (or g&t) for a couple of hours, and let them get on with Christmas  while you lose yourself in a bit of reading…

Yes, we have got the odd Christmas Romance

 

And some familiar faces

 

But if you want to get away from the whole yuletide thing, try something different

 

Or how about learning a few words of Japanese, Greek or Italian to wow everyone over the turkey?

 

We’ve got plenty of eBooks if that’s your thing!

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Classics are always a comfort in times of stress

 

And if all else fails –

You can always go it alone

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

#MondayMotivation – Learning Online

Your library membership is access to a world of information.

We are encouraging you to get the most from your local libraries, by making use of our great range of free online learning courses. Getting access to quality training materials can be expensive – but you can get them for free from us and once registered, you can have access to these materials whenever and wherever you want.

Let me introduce you to Learning Nexus, Universal Class, Go Citizen, and Driving Theory Test Pro!

Continue reading “#MondayMotivation – Learning Online”

Calling all science buffs!

Did you know this week is science week?

And in honour of Science Week Britannica Online have created a special microsite to celebrate some of the scientists who have made remarkable inventions and discoveries, leading to major advances in the field of science.

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You will find links to articles about a variety of people who have made contributions to the scientific community. These articles will help you complete the quiz, word search and crossword.

Britannica Online have also created a diagram that shows well known scientific fields and their notable scientists; many scientists fall into more than one field!

Take a look and try the quiz! You’ll also find lesson plans, activities, biographies and other media to entertain and inform.

 

 

 

Kensal Library: What we’ve been up to!

Natasha, Senior Customer Services Assistant at Kensal library, writes…

It’s been a busy six months at Kensal Library, with a packed program of events for our young users. Below, we share pictures from some of the stand out sessions.

March: African Dance Session

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We had an African Dance Session in March. As you can tell from the photos, it was a great experience and everyone had a lot of fun and enjoyed the music.

Mother’s Day Craft

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We made wonderful Mother’s Day rosettes in March and the children couldn’t wait to give them to their mums.

Bear Hunt in the Library!

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We had the bear hunt in conjunction with Go Golborne in May.  The children wore great bear hats and the hunt around the library proved to be as adventurous as any real bear hunt! All of this was followed by tasty, healthy snacks.

A stall in front of the library about healthy eating also proved to be very popular.

Mini Beasts & Creepy Crawlies: 

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In June we had a Minibeast workshop hosted by Holland Park Ecology Centre.  The children had a chance to hold and examine a hissing cockroach or a giant Madagascan millipede.  Lots of interesting questions and observations were made and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the workshop.

Now it’s finally summer and we are looking forward to this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – Record Breakers – which starts on 11 July.  Come along and register for great incentives and a super gold medal if you complete the challenge.Summer Reading Challenge Logo

Introducing Universal Class

Universal Class Logo
Over 500 educational courses – free!

Librarian Owen Grey writes…

Alongside Learning Nexus, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has recently invested in a fantastic new online resource for library users interested in the pursuit of lifelong learning!

Universal Class is a real treasure trove of online learning, with over 500 free courses to choose from, in almost any subject area you can think of. All you need to do is join the library (if you are not already a member) and sign-up online.

Subjects range from ‘Office Skills’ and ‘Psychology’ to ‘Performing Arts’ and ‘Finance.’ Each course comes with dedicated instructors, module based lessons, assignments and tests. You can sign-up and look for the course you are interested in anywhere, anytime: among the many benefits of Universal Class is the ability to learn at your own pace, and in your own time. This flexible approach is especially useful for those of us juggling multiple priorities in our day to day lives!

Of particular interest to existing customers of Kensington Central’s Business Information Point will be the online business courses, which are available to anyone wanting to study business, start a small business or need help with their existing business.

So – whether your interest lies in Mindfulness, Web Development or Creative Writing – visit our Universal Class information page and take the plunge! The service is completely free for library users. A whole world of knowledge awaits you…

If you want to find out more before getting started we will be holding introductory ‘Online Learning’ sessions during Adult Learners’ Week in June.

Dates
North Kensington Library: Tuesday 16th June 9.30 – 1.30
Kensal Library: Thursday 18th June from 2.00 – 5.00
Brompton Library: Friday 19th June from 9.30 – 4.30

 

A City Reads “Rivers of London”

“Good afternoon. My name’s Peter Grant, I’m from the police and this is my colleague Beverley Brook, who’s a river in south London.”

Rivers of London, p146

April in Libraries means CityRead, a London-wide book club, and this year’s book is the aptly named ‘Rivers of London.’ Part police procedural, part high fantasy complete with wizards, ghosts and vampires, Rivers of London is above all grounded in its setting – the grand, gritty, sprawling mass of London.

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch
Get a copy free from your local library

On Monday, author Ben Aaronovitch visited Kensington Central library as part of his tour of ALL the London boroughs (do check out his highly entertaining blog, wherein he charts this heroic journey). The event was a roaring success and it was followed later in the evening by the Central Library Reading group, who met to discuss the book.

Ben Aaronovitch at Central Library
Ben Aaronovitch at Central Library

It’s still not too late to pick up a copy at your local library – we even have some free copies to give away – and join the biggest book club in London. If you missed your local reading group, you can always share your thoughts about the book with us in the comments below.

I canvassed my colleagues – many of whom read and loved Rivers of London – for their quick reviews and thoughts.

Mike, Director of Libraries, wrote:

Harry Potter grows up and joins The Bill. Subterranean excitement, with murder and supernatural goings on along London’s lost rivers… whilst Rivers of London isn’t something I’d have chosen for myself I was very glad I read it and can also see exactly why it works so well as a CityRead title.

Librarian Sandeep, said:

A gripping series of books with great touches of London which you must get round to reading. Surely the TV series cannot be far away where Peter Grant and co would be brought to life! Also, look out for the graphic novel, which Ben is drip-feeding via his blog and Twitter.

Community Development Manager Chris, said:

It’s the best fiction book I have read in a long time. Ben’s love of the West End, where a lot of the book is set, and of London generally underpins the book and sets the scene, but the main joy of the story is the fascinating characters he has created and who develop as the books progress through a  series of supernatural mysteries. When I first heard of the books I was doubtful I would enjoy them (I never liked Harry Potter for instance) but once you try them you are hooked!

Stock Librarian Sally said,

What I loved the most about Rivers of London was how, as a Londoner, I recognised so many of the places the story takes us – from Covent Garden to Wapping; the old school glamour of J. Sheekey Oyster Bar to the Bow Magistrates Court – but all with added little nuggets of history I never knew or suspected. This is a great book for Londoners; it made me love and appreciate my home city a little bit more.

And lastly, Adewale wrote:

A misleading title! I thought it was going to be a about the rivers of London! Was disappointed that  neither the Rivers Quaggy nor Ravensbourne were mentioned – very good read, though!

Click here for more information about what’s on this month at your local library.

The Cityread London website has more information about what’s going on around London, and how you can get involved.