Searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Francis Serjeant, librarian, writes:

Warning! Searching the online resource the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) can be addictive as “all human life is here”. Most people use this dictionary to search for a specific individual. However you may not be aware that using the advanced search options and selecting other search criteria will create lists of names of the great and the good… and also, it must be said, the not so good.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - home page
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

To use the advanced search facility, click on one of the “More Search Options” displayed beneath the main search box.

Curiosity led me to check how many people there were with Kensington and Chelsea links by using these terms in the ‘place search’ category option. The result was over 3000! However this figure is misleading, as a casual check of a few entries revealed that the connection was often limited either to their unfortunate death in one of the borough’s hospitals or attendance at one of the borough’s schools.

I whittled down the 1975 Kensington entries to 122 by selecting the “Law and Crime” category from the drop down list of occupations (found in the “Fields of Interest” search category). Amongst the list of lawyers and judges I found John Christie, the Notting Hill mass murderer.

You may wonder why he is included. The DNB does not only include the great and the good. To quote the website “the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century”. In the case of Christie, the miscarriage of justice leading to the hanging of the innocent Timothy Evans, to quote Christie’s DNB entry, “played a significant part to the subsequent abolition of the death penalty in Britain”.

For further details of the case and posthumous pardon of Evans read the Ludovic Kennedy book 10 Rillington Place which can be found at Kensington Central Library, or borrow the DVD feature film version of the book, staring Richard Attenborough as John Christie.

10 Rillington Place, by Ludovic Kennedy
10 Rillington Place, by Ludovic Kennedy

Finally it is also worth investigating the “Themes” tab to display the large number of collective biographies brought together under such topics as climbers of Everest, British monarchs, First World War poets and significant military and political leaders involved in that conflict. Other lists include a number of founder members of institutions and other significant groups.

Happy National Libraries Day!

Today, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

National Libraries DayIf you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

Just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Local Studies Collection, or use the study space we offer.

On Saturdays in Kensington and Chelsea Libraries you can find a range of story times for children and IT help sessions. There are regular events every day that we’re open, with a brilliant programme of special events throughout the year.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Times newspaper archives and Berg Fashion Library (and more) from home too.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

World Book Night success!

World Book Night at Kensington Central library was a really special event as, for the first time, this year it fell on a day when we would normally close at 5pm but the lending library stayed open until 8pm.

Not only were the regular lending services available thanks to our staff members Mandy, Lynn and Nina but we celebrated with free tea, coffee and finger food, free special edition World Book Night books to give away and a fascinating talk by author and musician Max Décharné.

Max Decharne at the Central Library
Max Decharne at the Central Library

He talked about his latest book Capital Crimes: Seven Centuries of London Life and Murder to an enthusiastic audience, some of whom went on to buy signed copies from our partners, Waterstones. The feedback from the public was great, two people came from Maida Vale especially for it, other people said it was a really interesting talk and someone else was extremely grateful for the free books! Max, the author, was impressed with the questions after his talk and very complimentary about the look of the Central library.

Max Decharne at the Central Library
Max Decharne at the Central Library

Thanks are also due to our staff members Mzu and Wendy for their help setting up, meeting and greeting and clearing up afterwards and also to Wendy for her World Book Night bunting which finally found its place indoors!

World Book Night at the Central Library
World Book Night at the Central Library

The Brompton Blog – December 2012

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

Welcome to our fourth blog post from Brompton Library!

Reading Aloud

 

A Little Loud book cover
A Little Loud

On Sunday I was preparing supper and listening to Radio 4. This group of Irish poets were reading out their poetry and discussing it amongst themselves. It immediately brought me into their environment, their history and above all, their imagination. I do hope that our display does offer something a little bit different to our reader’s here at Brompton Library.

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

Katie Collis

Senior Customer Services Assistant

Christmas plans at Brompton Library

With only a few days till Christmas you would think that the amount of people using the service would be reducing, but our lovely library is still full of users borrowing books for the Christmas holiday period (including Christmas themed cookbooks, fiction and audio books to curl up with on the cold winter evenings, Christmas themed children’s books and our selection of festive audio CDs and DVDs for all the family). There are also lots of people making use of our computer and study area, completing end of term coursework assignments, booking flights, and exchanging seasonal greetings with friends and family members via social networking sites and email.

So we will be running a full service until Christmas Eve when we will close for three days and open again the day after Boxing Day (27 December).

Brompton Chatterbooks

Chatterbooks
Chatterbooks

 Chatterbooks is a very popular reading group for children in Brompton Library. It is fun and free. The group focuses on reading and talking about books, but some sessions include word games, quizzes, plays or other book related activities. The children love reading and it is an ideal opportunity for them to enjoy books. The group meets once a month after school on Mondays. There are eight regular members of the group. There is generally a theme for each month. This month the group met on 17 December and the theme was Christmas.

Chatterbooks is an ideal way to promote a love of reading. Sessions are designed to give children confidence in speaking, writing and reading in a group, choosing books for themselves, and talking about what they like to read. It is fabulous to hear them enthusing over their reading and recommending books to other children.

 

Bitter Truths – Author Event

Bitter Truths author event at Brompton
Bitter Truths author event at Brompton

On a bitterly cold evening on 29 November Brompton hosted its first author event (in my living memory, anyway!). One of our reading group members has published her first trilogy of novels, collectively called the Samurai Revival, and gave a very professional presentation relating to the first in the series – Bitter Truths.

We had an audience of ten who were very appreciative and I think for our first venture into author events which was great.

Stephanie Webb
Stephanie Webb

Stephanie Webb

Lending Librarian

Blog Post from Kensington Central Library – December 2012

 

Kensington Central Library in winter
Kensington Central Library

We’re starting to feel Christmassy at Kensington Central Library- hence the picture of the library in the snow!

Christmas Book Display
Christmas Book Display

The decorations are up in the library and we have Christmas books on display in the adult and children’s library. Pop in to take a look- they may help if you’re lacking in inspiration!

Christmas at Kensington Palace
Christmas at Kensington Palace

We’ve also had some Christmas events with the help of the fantastic staff from  Kensington Palace.

On Saturday 10 December there was a Christmas event for our readers at Kensington Palace in Queen Victoria’s bedroom! Everyone had an excellent time listening to some classic Christmas poems and readings whilst munching on mince pies and Christmas cake.

On Monday 10 December the palace came to our children’s library to make Victorian Christmas cards and decorations. 25 children came along and had a fantastic time with ribbons, lace and Victorian pictures!

Victorian Christmas Crafts
Victorian Christmas Crafts
A Happy Young Reader With Her Victorian Christmas Crafts!
A Happy Young Reader With Her Victorian Christmas Crafts!

We thought for this month’s blog post we’d introduce you to some more of the staff at Kensington Central Library and what they do. Before I hand over to them let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Kensington Central Library!

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

All Change at Kensington Central Library

The recent re-opening of our children’s  library now means that our customers, young and old, are now able to fully utilise the lending library once more.

Kensington Central Children's Library- ready for business!
Kensington Central Children’s Library- ready for business!

Self service equipment has been installed across all service areas bringing us into line with all other Kensington and Chelsea libraries and it has proved a hit with the public, even self-confessed technophobes are being won round to the convenience of being able to issue and return books themselves.

The layout of the library is the most striking difference when you consider the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of the work that has gone into the refurbishment. Gone is the monolithic issue and return counter and the confusing maze of entrance and exit gates, instead Self service kiosks and a book sorter for returns are directly accessible as soon as you enter the library, flanked by attractive shelving for our new book stock as well as current displays.

Further in you can see the result of the restoration of the listed wooden shelving and pillars which literally gleam as a result of a bit much needed bit of TLC. Newer shelving snake along the middle of the library floor replacing the older, taller, metal stands used previously for our CD’s and DVD’s.

And, arguably, our pièce de résistance is the new Children’s and Young Persons space which looks so impressive! It truly is a more welcoming and brighter space for young kids and teens to enjoy.

Kensington Central Children's Library- new under 5s area
Kensington Central Children’s Library- new under 5s area

So please pass it on, we are well and truly open for business.

Mike Green
Mike Green

Mike Green, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Our Young Readers Recommend….

We have some keen young readers returning a much enjoyed book, are invited to share their choice with others by filling in a short review. The book is then displayed with their review recommending it. These recommened reads are very popular-  they fly off the display!

Recommended Reads for Teens
Recommended Reads for Teens

If you’re a teen and you’ve read a fantastic book (or you know a teen who has) then pop in and complete a card!

Penny Girling displaying new books for teens
Penny Girling displaying new books for teens

Penny Girling, Customer Services Assistant

The Biography Collection

As we’ve written about in a previous post, we’ve got an amazing collection of biography books at Kensington Central Library. One of our Customer Services Assistant, Lynn Terrell tells us why she enjoys working with these books:

I love working in the biography collection.  There are such a lot of books, and such a variety.  My own favourites are the books written by ordinary people – not politicians or celebrities, but stories about what it was like to grow up in a village during the Great War, or how it felt to have a grandmother who didn’t believe in self-indulgence (Grandma Called it Carnal by Bertha Damon). 

Part of my job includes creating displays of books from the collection, so that the public have a chance to see some of what we’ve got.  Sometimes I tie this in with other things that are going on, for example, in October, we had Black History Month, and at the moment we’ve got American Presidents, following the recent election.  I try to change the display about once a month, and Childhood Reminiscences will be coming up in March. (Hollywood stars in January, and great lovers and love letters in February.)  It will be interesting to see if others share my enthusiasm for these slightly more obscure but fascinating books.

Because a lot of the books are quite old, and difficult to replace, I have to try to make sure that they are kept in good condition, and sometimes that includes minor repairs. (Photographs in particular have a tendency to fall out, and need to be stuck back in.)  Also, it’s very important that they are all labelled correctly, or they’d end up in the wrong place, and nobody would be able to find them.  Everything that gets put in the biography collection has to be relabelled first, and that’s my job too.

Lynn Terrell
Lynn Terrell

Lynn Terrell, Customer Services Assistant

TextTribe- Our New Online Reading Group

Text Tribe logo
Text Tribe logo

Calling all readers in Kensington and Chelsea! Get involved in TextTribe, our new online reading group brought to you by us and our Triborough library partners Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster.

 Haven’t got time to go to a book group but always wanted to join one? Whether you’re at home looking after the kids or working long or unsociable hours, whether you want to discuss books with like-minded people or hear the views of a wide range of other readers – this group is for you. Once you’ve read the book we’re discussing, make your comments or join in with the discussion on out TextTribe site.

Our first book was ‘Sleepyhead’ by Mark Billingham, the first novel in his successful ‘Thorne’ series (and inspiration for the 2010 TV drama).  As part of the launch of the group, Mark discussed this book at a live event in earlier this month at Kensington Central Library.

  Don’t worry if you missed the event as videoed it especially for those who were unable to attend, and those who sent questions in via Twitter. Hope you enjoy watching them!

In the video he talks about how he became a crime fiction reader (being introduced to Sherlock Holmes at the age of 11 by a teacher), how he moved from being a TV writer and stand-up comedian to first reviewing (for the Ham & High newspaper) and then writing novels, and how Jean-Dominique Bauby’s ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ inspired the plot of ‘Sleepyhead’, his first book.

This video consists of Mark being introduced by David Ruse (Director of Libraries) and Mark’s talk. After his main talk he read a passage from ‘Sleepyhead’ (not filmed) and answered lots of questions.

Here are the four (short) videos of the Q & A sessions with Mark Billingham.

In Pt I, Mark talks about doing the research for his books, the nature of crime writing and the crime series genre, and how he is ambivalent about – and fond of – ‘Sleepyhead’, his first novel.

In Pt II, there are questions and answers about the writing process, why authors need publishers (and editors), and why Mark recommends John Connolly’s ‘The Book of Lost Things’.

In Pt III Mark Billingham talks about genre snobbery, Scandinavian crime writing, setting books in London, naming his characters and how he manages to write a book a year.

Pt IV includes his views on the common features of stand-up comedy and crime writing, how we are all capable of murder, and why he thinks that writer’s block is a myth.

Mark was an excellent guest many thanks to him.

Next Book for TextTribe?

We asked Mark to nominate the next book for the group, and he suggested ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly, saying “It’s the last book that made me cry” and adding that it’s the sort of book that you press into friends’ hands, and if they don’t like it you don’t want to be friends with them any more! An excellent choice, and an interesting change – not a crime book, but written by a crime writer.

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things

There will be copies of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ in all Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Libraries, so get hold of a copy now!

Blog post from Kensington Central Library- November 2012

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

We were so impressed with the monthly blog post from our colleagues at Brompton Library that the staff at Kensington Central Library decided we just had to join in!

Each month we’ll tell you about the fantastic services on offer at the central library for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, such as any special events we’ll be holding and we’ll also introduce you to the staff. We hope you’ll enjoy finding out more about Kensington Central Library but please do let us know via the comments section if you’d like us to cover anything else.

Kensington Central Library’s New Lending Librarian

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

As part of the new Tri-Borough structure Kensington Central Library has a Lending Librarian, Jodie Green.

I look after all lending stock at Kensington Central Library – this means all the items you can borrow from the library such as books, CDs, DVDs, audio books and even eBooks! If we don’t have an item which you think we ought to have in stock, we have stock suggestion books in the adult and children’s libraries- please just speak to a member of staff & they’ll jot it down. Looking for something to read in a hurry? We always have a display of books recommended by our staff, it’s right by the new enquiry desk near the library entrance.

Staff suggestions display at Kensington Central Library in November 2012
Staff suggestions display at Kensington Central Library

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

Kensington Central Library’s Reading Group

Our group at Kensington Central Library meets in the evening, on the third Monday of each month to discuss their latest read. At the moment, the group benefits from private use of the Local Studies area after it closes, where they can freely enjoy a round table discussion. Attendance averages between 8-11 members, with a good mix of age and gender, which makes for lively debate. It’s sometimes a shame that I have to remind them when the library is closing – whereas I’m sure they’d happily continue into the night! Each month, at the end of the session, the group hand me a list of titles that they wish to read. It’s my job to source as many copies as possible of their preference, in time for the group’s next meeting.

Kensington Central Library’s Reading Group is open to all and welcomes new members. This month (November) the group are reading ‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee. It’s not necessary to register – so if you like to talk about books, why not pop along and join in?

Amal Sakr, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Halloween Story and Craft session- Thursday 1st November 2012

Although Halloween was the previous day, the children’s area in Kensington Central Library was home to spider-webs and spooky goings on for the half term story and craft session. A story about a witch’s cat grabbed the attention and imagination of the twenty or so children who attended, inspiring them to decorate a simple cat-shaped mask with spangles, fluff and colours of their choice. A great time was had by all, and with the promise of another story and craft session over the Christmas holidays many will be back again to hear a tale and make something lovely to take home! I was the storyteller and I was helped by 3 other members of library staff and various parents and guardians!

A witch reading a story at Kensington Central Library!
A witch reading a story at Kensington Central Library!

Gemma Baker, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Kensington Central Reference Library: Information Event

I will introduce myself and what I do at Kensington Central Reference Library in the next blog post but I wanted to tell you about a brilliant event that will be happening next week.

On Monday 12th November, 11.00am-6.30pm the Open University will be here. If you haven’t studied with The Open University before, or you have had a few years away from study, this event is for you! Come along for an informal conversation to get answers to your questions about qualifications and modules, study methods and other aspects of learning with The Open University. No appointment necessary- just drop in.

Nina Risoli, Reference Librarian

And a final word from the Customer Services Manager at Kensington Central Library:

I have been involved in the training of the library staff in using the self service kiosks that have recently been installed in the library. This means that staff are able to confidently support customers with the new technology. The new sorter machine which is used to return library items is proving particularly popular with children who are enjoying returning their books, CDs and DVDs this way. We have had lots of positive comments from customers about our new look lending library. The children’s and young people’s library is currently undergoing building works and both our customers and our staff are looking forward to the reopening of it before Christmas. Whilst this space is being made brighter and better, we are still offering a range of children’s stock in our temporary children’s area and continuing with our extremely popular baby rhyme time and storytime sessions.

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager
Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager

Who is Katie Collis?

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

Katie Collis runs the monthly Reading Group at Brompton Library. In addition to her recent reviews of the 2012 Man Booker shortlist, each month she will discuss a book that has caught her attention:

‘My Reading Group are a talented lot and their families are no exception. One of them was kind enough to give me a free copy of her daughter’s book, The Harbour by Francesca Brill. Set in Hong Kong prior to the Japanese invasion in 1940 it follows the romance between Stevie Stieber (journalist) and Major Harry Field, who is investigating suspicious political activity on the island. This tracks the journey of their relationship amidst the decadence of colonial life and through the desperate traumas of war. I was really blown away by this book, I think that the author has penned a thoroughly believable novel and all the strings in the plot fit well together. Brill never shies away from the tough aspects of war and for me it was a chance to learn more about the history of the island. I highly recommend this book. Amazon have also named Francesca Brill as one of their ‘Rising Stars’!

At Brompton library, customers often praise our wonderful collection of books and book displays. Last week Saturday, an American tourist commented on what she described as an extensive collection of ‘amazing books’ that is ‘plentiful’ She remarked on the differences between libraries in San Francisco and Brompton library, wondering whether there are any other libraries in the Kensington and Chelsea area that offer a wider range of books. When I described the collection held at our other branches that are even bigger than Brompton, she exclaimed ‘Wow!’ 

Rahima Begum-Miah
Rahima Begum-Miah

by Rahima Begum-Miah – Library Assistant

John Christie: Serial killer of Rillington Place

Rillington Place
john Christie of Rillington Place book cover

Crime historian Jonathan Oates talks about his new book, a definitive account of one of the most infamous series of murders in the 20th century.

John Christie murdered at least eight females – including his wife Ethel – by strangling them in his flat at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. Shortly after Christie moved out of Rillington Place the bodies of three of his victims were discovered hidden in an alcove in his kitchen. His wife’s body was found beneath the floorboards of the front room. Christie was arrested and convicted of his wife’s murder, for which he was hanged.

Jonathan will be joined by John Curnow of the 10 Rillington Place website and retired Metropolitan Police Superintendent Terry Johnson.

Details:
Thursday 8 November, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library
Price: £5 (£3 concessions)

Ticket and booking information:
Tickets are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries. 
Payments in person or by post should be made in cash or by cheque only. Please make cheques payable to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Payments by credit or debit card can be made via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.
For more information please call Librariesline on 020 7361 3010 or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk

Ruston Close
Ruston Close

Haunted libraries…

It might sound like a leg-pull, but you do realise that the library that you visit is haunted, don’t you? No? Then read on…

 Let’s start with the oldest library in the borough, North Kensington. Built at the turn of the nineteenth century, this old building has seen a lot, and remembers a lot too. I myself have experienced events that are hard to ascribe to anything other than paranormal activity, doors opening and slamming shut by themselves and lights turning themselves back on whilst locking up the building. I kid you not… and these shenanigans would invariably occur in the winter months, when the nights draw in and the shadows appear to run from themselves. When most of the other staff have already made for the tube or the bus and you are alone…or so you believe.

North Kensington Library, sometime in the 1890s
North Kensington Library, sometime in the 1890s
North Kensington Library, June 1935
North Kensington Library, June 1935

Then there is Chelsea library, based as it is in the Old Town Hall. An old building again and one that seems to harbour its share of denizens of the unknown. How about hearing footsteps in the basement stacks and expecting to see a colleague appear but…nobody does. Or what about a sighing and whispering voice said to have been heard, again in the basement area. Spooky stuff, oh yes!

Chelsea Old Town Hall
Chelsea Old Town Hall

Even here at Central library you might feel the goosebumps rise if you were to go down to the stacks buried deep in the basement of the library. That feeling that, although you know you are the only human present in the area, tells you that you are not alone. Somebody else is there with you…

Kensington Central Library, black & white
Kensington Central Library

 All of the above could of course just be a work of fiction, a load of old rubbish dreamt up by an overactive imagination.

 Well, keep telling yourself that dear readers…