Tiny Libraries

You may have read one of my very first blog posts about a surprising find of mine while out on a walk with my BF: a book exchange in a disused phone box.

Kenwyn, Cornwall book exchange

Since discovering that, I have been attuned to this idea of books being shared in interesting places. A couple of months ago I heard a lovely documentary radio programme in the middle of the night, on the BBC World Service, about Tiny Libraries of New Zealand (listen again: The Search For Tiny Libraries).

More often than not, they are run by women volunteers; they are found the length and breadth of the country, but away from larger conurbations where ‘proper’ libraries are funded by local councils. The one thing they all have in common is they are small ~ sometimes open for just for an hour a week, or one afternoon, many have existed for decades. It is a charming and fascinating insight into the importance of books to people in communities. Have a listen. That link (above) definitely works at the moment (Sept 2015) if you are in the UK, and hopefully beyond too.

In the UK, volunteers manning Council-run libraries is becoming an increasingly familiar occurrence. It is thought there are about 350 libraries being run like this currently ~ the so-called Big Society at work. In many cases it is only this approach that is keeping the libraries open at all, with such deep cuts to our local council finances. Perhaps one of the benefits is that the library is taken firmly into the hands of the community, and locals have more of a say about how it can best serve the neighbourhood.

The Community Knowledge Hub website is a useful tool for anyone interested in exploring this further. Many of these libraries are now multi-purpose spaces, with art classes, workshops, a cafe, or even a cinema, thus increasing usage and income. Innovation and collaboration are the name of the game.

But back to the Tiny Libraries. I do so love the idea of a few books being available in rural areas, whether as a book exchange scheme in a phone box, or with a proper library card and lending system, run from someone’s shed or garage or the village hall.

Tiny library New Zealand

tiny library New Zealand

And for those of us who rather take accessing books for granted, how about this: For the past fifteen or so years, Luis Soriano, a teacher from La Gloria, in the state of Magdalena in Colombia has been loading up his donkeys, Alfa and Beto, with piles of books and heading off into the hills to spread the joy of reading to children who have never had access to them before. A tiny library on hooves. Love it.

Donkey library Colombia

Long live the library! Let me know if you have a book exchange scheme or tiny library near you.

Annie Bee x

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Annie Bee In The Guardian

I was delighted to have a very small piece published in The Guardian newspaper last month. I hope you enjoy reading it. As you probably know, I now have 2 chooks as pets ~ Alabama and Georgia. They are utterly enchanting, but no match for Bunty.

Bunty Jenkins III
Died aged 13

Bunty Jenkins III was one of the five loves of my father’s life and the last in the line of three family cats that shared the name.

My brother was given Bunty Jenkins when I was brought home from the hospital, to soften the blow of no longer being the only apple of our parents’ eye. He wanted to call him Humpty Dumpty but, being just two at the time, could only say Bunty.

Bunty was terrifyingly nasty and we were glad to give him to friends when we moved from New Zealand’s North Island down to Christchurch.

Bunty II was a far sweeter character: when she went missing for four days, having been hit by a car, I got my first taste of a family in crisis. Luckily, she hobbled home and was an integral part of our family until she, too, had to be given away when we went to live in Wales for a year.

The difference with Bunty Jenkins III was that she was a cat of such character, beauty and intelligence that when we left New Zealand for the UK, my father announced that she was coming with us or else he would take her to a taxidermist so she could be stuffed and forever sit on top of the TV after our move.

I have no idea what it cost to transport her those 12,000 miles (this was the late 1970s) but I remember she touched down in Hawaii, about which we were very jealous, and then had to be quarantined for six months before we could take her home.

The other four loves of my father’s life were my mother, his children, Wales and rugby (not necessarily in that order). What he didn’t know (or maybe he did) was that the love of Bunty Jenkins III’s life was my brother David.

I only saw my father cry once and that was at the vet’s when the last Bunty had to be put down due to kidney failure. We never had another cat – she was irreplaceable.

DG Jenkins, Bunty III and DG Jenkins

My brother David, Bunty Jenkins III and my father, Graham c. 1976

The full article (with other reader’s pet obits) is here: Guardian Pet Obituaries (July 11th 2015)

Annie Bee x

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