Libraries like Café’s? Uh, what?

Yes, I am getting on my soap box about libraries again but I feel the need to talk about it.

Wakefield One, Wakefield. Source: Wakefield First

I have been meaning to write about this since seeing a report in the Daily Mail (a UK daily newspaper) that talked about an independent report calling for libraries to become more like Costa Coffee shops. You can read the original report here. What has spurred me to finally write about it today (not least of all because I haven’t posted this week) is a quote MyLittleBookBlog posted yesterday:

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries”Anne Herbert

I have no doubt the authors of the report mean well and agree with Mr Sieghart when he says how important libraries are to those who are the poorest in our society. I also agree that Wi-Fi has to become a necessity for libraries to continue to survive and thrive (digital book lending on e readers anyone?), the need for comfy sofas and toilets as well as offering other services to make the library a community hub but the part that made go “uh, what?” is the suggestion that hot drinks should be offered in libraries. I think he has missed something very important in that regard. If libraries offer hot drinks along with everything else, doesn’t the library then become a café with books to browse and read?

There is a reason why there is a rule in most libraries that I have visited that no food or drink is allowed near the computers in the library at least: it’s called health and safety and making sure that other people don’t gag over horrible food smells! By all means offer food and drink but NOT in the library itself!

I am proud to say that most libraries in the Wakefield area offer comfortable areas to sit and read, toilets and programmes for the community as well as a place for the older members in the area to meet and talk to other people. Frequently, the library staff are the only people they talk to all week. In my mind, the libraries offer a great value for money service. A library building that offers everything that the report says need to be all libraries is the Wakefield One building in Wakefield however hot drinks and food are only available in Create Cafe downstairs and food and drink is not allowed near the computers.

So it is possible to cram all of what this report is saying libraries need to do but libraries like coffee shops? Uh, no. I doubt libraries are actually heading for disaster if they don’t incorporate all of this but let’s maybe have more like the libraries in the Wakefield area and Wakefield One but keep libraries and coffee shops as separate entities. Possibly the best compromise available.

P.S.: Find out more Wakefield Libraries and the latest news by visiting the Wakefield Libraries blog and check out Wakefield (and it’s library) during the Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival taking place Friday 20 to Sunday 22 February 2015.

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Chocolate and Fiction

Things happening in my personal life got me thinking about this. Christmas being just around the corner and being almost synonymous with chocolate makes now a good time for me to post about it.

Does chocolate show the light and dark of societal inequality? Source: GoodSearch Images

Food is often read about in books, both to tell the reader more about the characters as well as to fuel the characters. I have been thinking specifically however about chocolate and it has led me to realise the possible symbolism of chocolate in children’s literature (as I could only think of examples from children’s books).

The first story that came to mind was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the obvious one. Now, I want to admit I have only seen the original and remake films of the books and have never read the book. Please bare with me! In the classic Roald Dahl story, chocolate, in my mind, represents childhood and wealth. Charlie Bucket is poor. He buys the chocolate car with the little money he has. He is one child among many. In comparison to the other children who are desperate to get a coveted golden ticket to visit the fabled Wonka factory, he merely wishes to eat the chocolate because it is so rare for him to be able to have chocolate.

The same story plays out in the most recent remake film of the story, starring Johnny Depp. This suggests that chocolate is still seen as a luxury item within modern society and possible divides the haves with the have-nots, an issue that has popped a lot as of late in America and here in the UK. This I find quite extraordinary considering that the book was first published in 1964, the original film released in 1971 (starring Gene Wilder) and the remake in 2005.

The inequalities in society that chocolate could represent in fiction then led me to think about the Malory Towers series. I will grant that the books were set in a different time frame but the same themes and ideas are represented. When chocolate is mentioned in the stories, from the first book with Darrell to the last with Felicity, it is bought as a luxury item and by brand name, Cadbury’s. When a scholarship girl or a girl who is at the school thanks to a kindly uncle or other relative sees another buy some chocolate, they are described as staring or being surprised at the ease at which the chocolate is bought.

Specifically in regards to childhood, chocolate and sweets of any kind are talked about much more often in the earlier books of the Harry Potter series. There is an element of wealth involved as Harry buys practically everything off the trolley that the witch brings down the train. In the earlier books, before the stories become very dark, Harry, Ron and Hermione are very young, childlike. There is a certain innocence in the earlier books that’s lost as they grow older and things get darker, particularly after the third book. The third book is about family. Chocolate is also mentioned as a healing substance in Prisoner of Azkaban and I read Goblet of Fire as the story that effectively ends Harry’s childhood specifically.

Perhaps I am reading too much into things but in children’s literature at least, the possible symbolism of chocolate and what it says about our society seems staggering to me. It is especially so, to me at least, that the stories that have stood the test of time (and being remade for a modern audience) still carries the same message that permeates through our society. Have you any examples in other types of literature? Am I reading too much into it or do you think the same? Don’t be afraid to comment below.

Nom Nom Nom Book Group – The tastiest new reader group in Wakefield!

This looks yummy!

Wakefield Libraries

Nom, Nom, Nom Book group – The tastiest new reader group in WakefieldWAKEFIELD LIBRARIES

Wakefield Libraries present The Nom Nom Nom book group – the tastiest new reader group in Wakefield, the launch of which will take place in the Rhubarb festival marquee at 2.15 on Saturday 22nd February. The group will be an informal reader-group, meeting monthly whose members are interested in food and cookery and want to share experiences and recipes with like-minded individuals. Members of all cooking abilities are welcome, you don’t have to be of bake-off or masterchef standard to enjoy your food and cooking it!

The Nom, Nom, Nom book group will meet monthly on the first Saturday of each month 2-3pm at the Create café, below Wakefield Library and Museum at Wakefield One, Burton Street. The inaugural book club meeting will  take place on the 1st March and the club will give members the opportunity…

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