17 December, 2007

Reading and public libraries

Mark Twain famously declared that rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated. It's a bit like that with books and reading - while participation in the online / digital world is revolutionising the way that people access information and entertainment, there are still many people who enjoy reading books for information and pleasure.

On Saturday I was delighted by a recitation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre. Dickens' novels and short stories have stayed enduringly popular and have always been in print. As was the usual format of the Victorian age, Dickens published serialised novels, and each new part of his stories was eagerly anticipated by the reading public. A Christmas Carol was written in 1843, and remains as engaging and entertaining today as it would have been when it was first published.

Two contemporary authors who use a similar style are Alexander Smith, the Scottish author who writes a serial novel in daily episodes through the pages of The Scotsman newspaper entitled '44, Scotland Street'; and Helen Fielding, whose Bridget Jones books had their origins in a column published in The Independent and The Daily Telegraph in 1997 and 1998.

Over the summer holidays we are running two programs - one for children and another one for adults - that promote the love of reading. The Summer Reading Program for primary aged children is themed Superheroes read and there are plenty of activities and ideas for reading.

The Summer Read is a program for adults and features Victorian authors. We are thrilled that Barry Heard, author of Well done those men which is one of the feature books on the Reading Victoria list for this summer, will be visiting Ivanhoe library on Thursday 17 January at 6.30pm - 7.30pm. Barry has had a very interesting life story; his experiences during the Vietnam War have shaped his life in unexpected ways. We are launching our reading wiki at Barry's talk and he has agreed to be our first author of the month. More on wikis soon!
Earlier in the year we developed a Strategic Framework for Reading - where we have outlined our goals in reading and literacy development for the next 5 years. Our main focus is to ensure the collection is matching needs and wants, providing programs and activities that encourage reading and literacy, and develop online tools and social spaces where people can share their reading experiences. We are providing increased support for book clubs and now have dedicated book club collections. Ask at your branch for more details if you are interested in accessing them.

Are you reading as much as you used to? Do you think younger people are? I am interested in your feedback and thoughts.

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