Celebrating black voices in literature – classics

If the last few weeks have taught us anything it is that we should be lifting black voices, authors, artists, etc every day of the year, not just when there’s a protest or when it is Black History Month. With that in mind we searched through our online catalogue to find the best in black literature and over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting different genres from non-fiction to Young Adult.

This week we’ve chosen four classic books that have stood the test of time and continue to be read and read again by literature lovers. Filled with complicated characters experiencing the full spectrum of emotion these books are rich and timeless. Continue reading “Celebrating black voices in literature – classics”

Celebrating black voices in literature – young adult

If the last few weeks have taught us anything it is that we should be lifting black voices, authors, artists, etc every day of the year, not just when there’s a protest or when it is Black History Month. With that in mind we searched through our online catalogue to find the best in black literature and over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting different genres from non-fiction to Young Adult.

This week we’ve chosen Young Adult fiction and non-fiction which is at the forefront of the fight for diversity in publishing. Young Adult readers are demanding change and campaigning for publishers to open the doors to diverse voices and we couldn’t be prouder of them. Continue reading “Celebrating black voices in literature – young adult”

Census from Punch Historical Archive

I have recently been making the most of my time by using the very popular library edition of Ancestry, as a library member, via the RBKC libraries website.  In Ancestry, censuses from different years are widely used as a tool for researching a particular address or person.  It’s possible to find out more about how they lived, who they lived with, names, ages, occupations and so on.  It’s a great resource if you are interested in your family history, or even the history of the house you live in. Continue reading “Census from Punch Historical Archive”

Celebrating black voices in literature – adult fiction

If the last few weeks have taught us anything it is that we should be lifting black voices, authors, artists, etc every day of the year, not just when there’s a protest or when it is Black History Month. With that in mind we searched through our online catalogue to find the best in black literature and over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting different genres from non-fiction to Young Adult.

This week we’ve chosen four adult contemporary fiction books. We have a long way to go before black voices are as elevated as they should be in the literary world but if we continue to fight for diverse voices at every level then we can hopefully see more black authors nominated and winning the big literary prizes. Continue reading “Celebrating black voices in literature – adult fiction”

Celebrating black voices in literature – non-fiction

If the last few weeks have taught us anything it is that we should be lifting black voices, authors, artists, etc every day of the year, not just when there’s a protest or when it is Black History Month. With that in mind we searched through our online catalogue to find the best in black literature and over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting different genres from non-fiction to Young Adult. We’ve chosen four books this week that look at antiracism and help us understand race, bias, and privilege. Continue reading “Celebrating black voices in literature – non-fiction”

Books we love

Join us every Sunday for our new series, Books We Love.  We will be sharing staff reviews off all the books they have been catching up with lately.  This week Richard from Brompton library is talking about Nutshell by Ian McEwan. Continue reading “Books we love”

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.

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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.

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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?)

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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.

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