Ten things to bring you back in to the library world ~ a list

I have struggled in earnest to return to Librarianship since leaving it behind in 2011. I have had other distractions and happy days, but never more have I felt the need to re-engage with a career that I am positive and passionate about as now.


So here is my to do list which may help if you are in the same position…

1. Join or re-join CILIP… Read Update as well as blogs and any other library news items to keep up to date with developments

2. Get your CILIP accreditation and/or any other library qualifications

3. Write your personal statement using all library based examples of experience

4. Visit libraries and library projects…get back stage passes wherever possible

5. Brush up on your basic library history…Ranganathan* calls!

6. Seek out opportunities to engage in library based professional activities

7. Engage in volunteer projects for conservation, archiving etc

8. Attend CILIP training days…make sure you’re a member of the CDG

9. Find a teaching course and/or experience

10. Drink tea, put your hair in a bun, don your pencil skirt and heels, and don’t forget your red lipstick. Reading is sexy




*The Five laws of library science is a theory proposed by S. R. Ranganathan in 1931, detailing the principles of operating a library system. Many librarians worldwide accept them as the foundations of their philosophy.

These laws are:

Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.


Book Hive

Rusty Squid created a magical display of animated books that brought text and binding to life. I hope you managed to go and play with books!



Books and the weather…time to reflect!



When it’s cold I tend to start to think about issues such as the Food bank debate, the gas bill, Elderly loneliness and winter mortality rates, and what it would be like to work at some remote Research Station in the icey north i.e Arctic. I also suddenly remember that I was going to invest in one of those super warm cosy coats for dog walking which I forgot about as soon as the temperature went up by 3 degrees.

I’m not going to talk about any of those things here, but suffice to say they are all close to my heart. Of course I’m going to talk about books and what happens to them in the cold.

I recently watched a Bear Grylls wild weekend whereby feeling ultimately challenged I heard Stephen Fry utter that should something happen to him he would like to leave all his First Edition Collections to his colleagues at Cambridge. This and other more frosty situations made me think about books and what they endure.

‘Temperature and humidity have a significant and lasting effect on books. Excessive levels of both can cause mold or mildew to grow on the books. If you see tiny, almost invisible insects inside one of your books as you are reading it, this indicates the presence of microscopic mildew particles. The little bugs live on mildew and are eating it out of your books.’

‘ Extremely low relative humidity, which can occur in winter in centrally heated buildings, may lead to desiccation and embrittlement of some materials.’

This seems only common sense, however, rather paradoxically, cold temperatures are used for storage of collections of books.  Cold storage with controlled humidity is sometimes advisable for remote storage or little-used materials. The significant climatic notion to remember here is rather like when treasures are lifted from the bottom of the ocean they are kept in seawater for preservation, when materials are taken out of cold storage, the radical, rapid temperature changes they experience may cause condensation on them and gradual acclimatization may be required in much the same way.

An outstanding need for the British Library was cold storage for, amongst other things, its cellulose acetate microfilm. British Library has in recent years had to deal with the problem of storage.

In summary, there is the problem of mildew, desiccation, embrittlement and condensation…and when you consider rare books and documents collections, this is a significant issue in the storage sphere and why books matter.

So many books so little space? You may want to reconsider the attic!


“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian…”

What is it about that bookshop…?

There’s a certain trilogy of movies that for me are entwined together by a book and a bookshop…Shakespeare and Company in Paris. What is it about that bookshop?


A rather unusual, welcoming, bohemian refuge in Paris, Shakespeare and Company Book shop is the site for many literature lovers.

‘For Whitman, an eccentric ex-serviceman who travelled around the world before deciding to settle in Paris, didn’t simply own a bookstore. What he created was, in own words, a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop”: a bohemian refuge where down and out, mostly expatriate writers could mingle, write, and even bed down for the night – all in exchange for a few hours’ work in the shop, and on the strict understanding that they read a book every single day.’ *



This bookshop is also the surprising reunion place in Julie Delphys’ and Ethan Hawkes’ trilogy of films, and inspire any romantic to visit it.



I couldn’t imagine anything better than cosying up in one of those battered old chairs, and settling down to a good read…

“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”

*From The Telegraph 

Howards End is on the landing ~ Susan Hill

20131007-071951.jpgLooking for inspiration on a Monday, and perusing the shelves of books that I no longer can envisage their place because I moved home, I discovered an unread jewel of a book, about books. Ms Hill begins her journey by seeking a particular book and on her search discovers a hoard of unread purchases and gifts stacking up her bookshelves. Upon my own discovery I found another book that I had forgotten I’d purchased and had once again added to my online bookshop basket! Obviously I deleted it immediately and got the book down from the shelf instead.

Not a book to rush through, each chapter to be devoured, slowly as the journey intends, walking through stories and portals, encounters and memories. The language is a feast, touching my soul which is also full of books entwined with places and smells and people. I smile. Things I’d forgotten ~ Enid Blyton and my youthful discovery of Orwell and Huxley alongside The Merchant of Venice. I smile again. I used to get up very early as a child just to be the only person awake in the house, creep downstairs and hide behind the long curtains, pressed against the French windows to read.

What an affecting reminder of books I’d forgotten but more touching, books that I have read and places they’ve taken me to. Never was a book more ready for marginalia, to be read with a pen or bookmarks.


thoughts from scarlettlibrarian

My local libraries

If you were in any doubt that in any relative distance, north, south, east or west, from where you are living, that there is a plethora of knowledge, social culture, history and technology, all for free, then look around you! Beautiful buildings, extensive collections, customer service and guidance….


Burnham On Sea Public Library

The purpose-built library was opened in 1985 (on the site of the original County Library headquarters) and is both welcoming and spacious, with a floor area of 667 square metres.


Highbridge Public Library

Since 2000, the library has been sharing premises in Alpha House with the local District Council offices. The library is small but modern and attractive and has proved popular with local people.


Bristol Central Library

Architect Charles Holden built the central library in the Tudor Revival style, and opened in 1906, on the south side of College Green, Bristol.


Bridgwater Public Library

The library is a traditional Carnegie type building dating from 1906, with a more modern extension, and was extensively refurbished in 2004. It is close to the town centre, near Blake Gardens.


Taunton Public Library

A modern, large and well designed library in a good central location for the county town of Taunton, with a recently refurbished cafe. The building houses substantial collections of adult and children’s books as well as audio visual services.

It is worth exploring your local area for the history and culture embedded in your local library.


“thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”

That thing called Marginalia


marginalia [ˌmɑːdʒɪˈneɪlɪə]

pl n

(Literary & Literary Critical Terms) notes in the margin of a book, manuscript, or letter

[New Latin, noun (neuter plural) from marginālis marginal]

I, along with plenty of book lovers, have a concealed fascination for marginalia. The scribbles and notes of former readers are not meant to be ‘spoilers’, but instead tell us that a reader has given time and tangibility to their own thought and reading processes, and wanted to mark the book for future references. As a Librarian, I can remember many an hour on the Issue desk rubbing out marginalia or ‘repairing’ the book so that it was not visible. But as an avid reader, I have marked my books in different ways ~ with pencil notes, neon coloured sticky page markers, and more recently using the notes field facility on my Kindle.


I am enthralled by a former readers’ intellection, captivated by the hidden enchantments, and most certainly in an almost voyeuristic way, enchanted by the handwriting.

‘There has recently been a slight but noticeable escalation of interest in marginalia, partly because of the way in which the Internet has cultivated readers’ enthusiasm for discussion of their own reading practices and peculiarities, and partly because of a preëmptive nostalgia for the book as a tangible (and scrawlable) object at a time of increasing e-reader ubiquity. ‘ ~ The New Yorker, Mark O’Connell January 2012

Edgar Allan Poe, not known for his notes in books wrote in his Marginalia, 1844-1849, ‘In getting my books, I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of pencilling suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general. Where what I have to note is too much to be included within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to a slip of paper, and deposit it between the leaves; taking care to secure it by an imperceptible portion of gum tragacanth paste. ‘

‘The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book.’ ~ George Steiner


In education, we are taught to ‘read with a pencil’ – but not the Library copy of the book!


Marginalia is a revealing business. It gives us provenance, copy-specific evidence, and a passage into the thoughts of other readers, who may just turn out to be someone significant in history. Doesn’t ‘reading with a pencil’ also tell you something about yourself? You are taking the time to consider what has taken the author sometimes years to have written.


‘thoughts from scarlettlibrarian’

A history of saving Libraries

Why is it that we always seem
 to be fighting
 to save our Libraries when
 they're importance and
 place in the community
 has been evident since the
 days of the bibliothekai
 of the Library of Alexandria
 set up by the Ptolemaic kings at the end of
 the third century BC?


It’s time to address the history of saving Libraries, in order to try to better understand the fight, and why ultimately we should have confidence that Libraries will endure.


Essentially when the Library of Alexandria was set up as a learning centre, it was to ensure that the teachings of Aristotle were preserved and preserved in a public rather than private collection which was the vogue of previous times.

Comprehensive Access

In 1627 French scholar Gabiel Naude published a modest Advice for Setting Up a Library where he wrote that there is nothing…’“that renders a Library more recommendable, than when every man finds in it that which he is looking for and cannot find anywhere else; therefore the perfect motto is, that there exists no book, however bad or badly reviewed, that my not be sought after in some future time by a certain reader.”‘*

After the Nazis began their looting and destruction of the Jewish libraries, the librarian in charge of the Sholem Aleichem Library in biala Podlaska decided to save the books by carting away, day after day, as many as he and a colleague could manage, even though he believed that very soon “there would be no readers lefts.” After tow weeks the holding had been moved to a secret attic, where they were discovered by the historian Tuvia Borzykowski long after the war ended…..it was an act of rescuing memory per se. The universe, the ancient cabbalists believed, is not contingent on our reading it; only on the possibility of our reading it.‘*

Enlightenment and Public Libraries

During the Renaissance Libraries in Europe became officially public (from 1609), but at this time, funding and endowing or building an institution was still the privilege of a benefactor not the community. In 1890 Andrew Carnegie asked rhetorically “What is the best gift which can be given to a community?” He went on to say that a free library is the priority, but sadly not everyone agreed. ‘In Britain, for instance, the truism that “a public library is essential for the welfare of a community” was not officially proclaimed until 1850, when the MP for Dumfries, William Ewart, forced a bill through Parliament establishing the right of every town to have a free public library.’*


Manguel has written that often times a Library will diminish or disappear hardly without anyone noticing. An example he gives is in 2003 when the Anglo-American army stoody by while the National Archives, the Archaeological Museum and the National Library of Baghdad were ransacked and looted. ‘In a few hours, much of the earliest recorded history of humankind was lost to oblivion’.* He concludes that numerous volumes of manuscripts and medieval chronicles vanished despite the fact that they had escaped the pillage of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

So then, where there has been such an extraordinary and tremendous effort to build, maintain and fund libraries for a variety of reasons not in the least preservation of the history of humankind, is there now and for at least the last 10 years, a reason for them to be first in the economic splicing line from Government? I think that the likes of William Ewart, and even Thomas Carlyle would not be amused! What is interesting, and should predominantly inspire confidence is that, throughout the struggle and contention for Libraries, it is a fact that since the conception of the Library of Alexandria in the third century BC, Libraries have prevailed!

papyrus scrolls

This is only a brief look at the history of saving Libraries, I will be taking another look into this soon. Part II to follow!

‘thoughts from scarlettlibrarian…’

Please see Voices for the Library for the latest information.

*Manguel,Alberto (2008) The Library at Night. Yale University Press, London.

What is it about books that matters?

Why do we keep books, spend money on books, and keep looking after them in libraries?

battered books

When I think of saving Libraries, I always think about how and why books captivate me.

Firstly I want to highlight an article by David Pearson, Guildhall Library, that was written up in the Cilip Rare Books and Collections Group Newsletter November 2012 issue:

What is it that’s worth flaunting?

‘Simultaneously, there is a growing interest in books as objects, as material culture, in asking what can be learnt from their physical characteristics. That is certainly observable in the academic activity around the history of the book. The growing interest in studies of marginalia and the history of reading is demonstrated through the quantity of new books published on these subjects. There is a growing development of the copy census as a methodology; looking at lots of copies and seeing what can be learnt from copy-specific evidence. Custodians of historic collections acknowledge that increasing numbers of researchers are coming to them interested not so much in the books as texts, but in the characteristics of particular copies or of collections. The growing numbers of web-based guides reflect this. That is my theme in Books as History’ 2008 (1)

So I want to just expand on what I believe David is referring to as ‘The value of books’.

Marginalia: Have you ever considered the uniqueness of scribbles and notes in the margins of books? As a Librarian I really should be dismissive of this as damage, however, in my heart, I have a real fascination for it. A previous reader, from a myriad of backgrounds, and what those comments reveal. A thousand different minds ‘seeing’ something different in the written text!

History of reading: ‘In the second century, and as a result of the Alexandreian summaries and collations, an epistemological rule for reading was firmly established, decreeing that “the most recent text replaces all previous ones, since it is supposed to contain them”.’ (2)

Copy-specific evidence: Book plate, Library stamps, or binding, can call be classed as copy-specific evidence about a particular book or its reader and/or owner.

Provenance: Not so different to marginalia, is the wonder of the provenance of a text. Consider an inscription, possibly one of the most famous ones is that of a young King Henry VIII, “Thys Boke Is Myne Prince Henry” – in letters almost an inch high. This is becoming one of the most significant subjects in rare book collections – ‘Determining the previous history of a particular item now in the British Library can be important to researchers, for example when attempting to reconstruct the library of an historical figure or identify the authorship of manuscript annotations.’

It does seem that increasingly we are being seduced by the e-book…Kindles and the like are without doubt, a very handy tool for readers, and I am guilty as charged. However, I am also finding more and more fascination with having books, the object at hand and all of the animation of the senses that they bring. Help the British Library continue successfully with their book conservation work so that we may enjoy these unique editions throughout the century.

‘Every reader exists to ensure for a certain book a modest immortality. Reading is, in this sense, a ritual of rebirth.’ (2)

Are we Informationists?

Typewriter blue

Are all Librarians Informationists?

Essentially the term was initially used to describe Medical Librarians who were individuals with extensive clinical expertise, acute familiarity with organizational structures and processes, as well as being information systems technical savvy.

There doesn’t seem to be one set educational pathway or formalized set of skills or knowledge for informationists. However, there does seem to be some diversity and evolution from the original definition outlined above taking place now. The evolution of the term can be found in other sectors e.g financial services, academia and research, governance and strategists. Although you may feel your expertise begets you this title, it only really refers to individuals with acute industry knowledge and the wherewithal to combine their librarianship with technical know-how.

So how does this compare to the Embedded librarian role?

~ Informationist: Librarianship + extensive research specialisation + formal education in sector e.g clinical
…it also extends to industry expertise, acute familiarity of organisational structure and processes

~ Embedded Librarian: Librarianship + extensive research specialisation + project involvement + partnerships
…embedded also means being a part of any outcomes

Based on this, my opinion is that not all librarians are Informationists, but a lot more of them are than we think! If we all plan to move forwards with librarianship as the century proceeds, it would be prudent to see where there are gaps that can be filled by such a role. Certainly I can see that being an Informationist would be a sustainable ‘librarian’ role for the future as we look to see where the skills set of the librarian can be used across different corporate and educational sectors.

battered books

Industry expertise and familiarity with organizational structures and processes would usually be the remit of management, and although the librarian or informationist can be a manager, it would be less effective to utilise their skills set in this way. That said, because the skills set does include basic librarianship knowledge i.e categorization, organisation, information retrieval, research, it does place them in the prime position to take this role, and to evolve it even further.


” thoughts from scarlettlibrarian”