A Poultry Excuse

Here’s a librarian joke for you:

One day, a chicken walks into the library and says ‘book!’ So the librarian lends the chicken a book, and it goes away.

Twenty minutes later, the chicken is back. It dumps the book on the floor, and says ‘book!’ So the librarian gives the chicken another book. The chicken takes it away, then twenty minutes later it’s back again. ‘Book!’

This continues ten times in a row. The librarian thinks, ‘that chicken is one fast reader!’

Finally, she follows the chicken down the road to the local pond, where a large frog is sitting on a lily pad. The chicken puts the book down. ‘Book!’ And the frog says, ‘Reddit!’

Ah, couldn’t resist. And it’s a fun way to introduce the subject of libraries. GHB has been in confessional mode lately, and I reckon it’s probably my turn. So here goes: as a child, I was scared of libraries.

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. But I did find them…intimidating. Which is kind of a big thing to admit, what with me being a published writer and everything. I’m supposed to have grown up going back and forth to the library the whole time like that chicken, right? But I didn’t. I loved books, of course, and I read plenty of them. But my main source of reading matter was the school book club. This is fine, but in retrospect, I know I missed out. Had someone at the local or school library taken me in hand and guided me through the maze, I’m sure it would have been a revelation. But they didn’t offer, and I’d never have asked. I was too chicken to be like that chicken. So the book club was perfect for me; all I had to do was tick a bunch of boxes, and that was it! The next pile of books would be on its way.

My school library was the scariest one. Here’s a picture of it:

This picture was actually taken before it became a school library, hence the lack of books – but you get the idea. It was GRAND. It was IMPOSING. Probably full of terribly Serious and Important stuff, and not, say, How to be Topp or Whizz for Atoms (just LOOK at that ceiling! Imposing!)

I’ve had LOTS of conversations with other adults about libraries, as everyone’s worried we’re losing them. But what does your library mean to YOU? Actually, let me re-phrase that: what does your librarian mean to you? I had libraries, but did that alter my life radically? No. But a good librarian would have done. Such people are indispensable, yet they’re an endangered species, at a time when arguably, we need them more than ever.

Do YOU have a fab librarian? If so, tell me what makes them wonderful. What books did they help you find – the real discoveries?

Or maybe you don’t bother with the library, because it’s too far to go, since the one nearer to you got closed down. Or is threatened. Or your school doesn’t have one. If so, write to your MP and complain. Seriously! In your own words. It need only be a sentence or two.

Or maybe you too are a bit scared of your library? My message to you is: DON’T BE! Get to know your librarian: they won’t bite. I am older and wiser now, and I’m here to tell you they really won’t!

39 thoughts on “A Poultry Excuse

  1. Well, our school has a Library but no librarian! My local library is great and I enjoy taking a trip to it on Saturdays.

    Catherine x

  2. A library without a librarian is like a kitchen without a cook. Tell your school you want a librarian! Even if it’s part-time. Actually, that was one of the problems at my school: no librarian.

  3. PS Catherine, you don’t mention the librarian at your local library, or any discoveries you’ve made thanks to them. We’d like to know!

  4. Morning Fiona 🙂

    I totally agree about saving your library.LETS SAVE THEM 😀

    Brill post x Hope everyone has a good day x

  5. Lovely, lovely post! I LAUGHED OUT LOUD at the joke. I WANT that ceiling (even though we have just had seven different patterns of Artex removed from ours at great expense). And I actually used to work in a library. Best Saturday job EVER. So this means that I have too many favourite librarians to mention (a big shout to all of those at Carlisle Library!), but also that I also got to chat to people when I was stamping their books (SO much fun) and know a little bit of what it’s like to suggest an author to someone or even just point them in the right direction (it’s just great). A Real Librarian does so much more than that, obviously. I used to watch them in action, in total awe, answering questions so many and varied that I seriously think their brains had integral Encyclopedia Britannicas. We NEED librarians and libraries, I absolutely agree.


    PS I found my daughter’s name in a library. Cheers, Anya Seton!

    • Hi Kay, I wish I’d had that Saturday job, instead of working at the dry cleaners! Again: I SHOULD HAVE ASKED. Too damn shy. I’ve made up for it since. I’m sure you did a great job, Kay! 🙂

  6. I work in a public Library, and I can say it is one of the best jobs in the world.
    People really shouldn’t be afraid of libraries, they are such magical, wonderful places and we all try to be really helpful and friendly.
    I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but certainly all the people I work with are like a huge family, all kind, helpful and caring.
    We do everything we can to make sure everyone leaves with a book they will enjoy.
    So come on people, put those fears aside, go and have fun in your library. Say hello to the Library Assistant/Librarian whilst your there, we always appreciate a kind smile and a hello. 😀

    • Thanks for your message, Barmy Bex! I don’t think we’ve got a lot of library-phobes here on Girls Heart Books: not one person yet has said they identify with how I was! But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people like it. There are people who find bookshops intimidating too, but unlike with libraries, I don’t remember ever feeling that way about them. Hooray for people like you, Bex! 🙂

  7. I guess this joke is the answer to the oldest one of all…
    Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Because the library was on the other side.
    Boom boom.
    Great post!

  8. I LOVE libararies! I may not go every week like I’d like to (I HATE HOMEWORK!!) but when I do go I have the BEST time!! Love you libararies! And love this post!! Ella xxx

    • That’s great Ella (and I know how you feel about homework!) But please tell us about the LIBRARIAN! That is what I’m asking for here. 🙂

  9. I love my library!! But the thing is, I don’t need it! I have over sixty books I need to read that are sitting on my bookshelf, but i love that feeling when you buy a new book! So, because I love my library so much, I go in everyday to get a new book and check it out, even though I don’t read it. Mad?

    But our old school librarian left, and she was really nice once you’d broken through her shell of being really mean. We’ve got two now, and neither are partically happy people. Why wouldn’t you be? And to check out books, you don’t have a book card or anything, but we have a laser thing that you put your finger on so they scan your fingerprint! How weird is that?

    I love the smell of libraries too. The lovely musty, booky smell. You know the one I mean?


    • “She was nice once you’d broken through her shell of being really mean”? Dear me. I think I’d have run a mile. And now you’ve got miserable ones! I think you must be able to cheer them up, Amy-Anne. After all, you got the other one to crack a smile!

      Yes, I know that old book smell – and I can totally relate to the sixty-books-on-the-bookshelf! I always have a huge pile waiting to be read.

  10. He he! That’s my nieces fave joke. We tell it to each other all the time with chicken-like actions and a slight variation – we cluck ‘book book book’ so our chicken gets 3 at a time.
    I agree with all your comments about libraries and librarians. I know some fabulicious ones! I’m going to be doing an event at my local library tomorrow because it’s just been relocated (and refitted) right in the centre of our town – a marvelous idea. Tea, cakes and book chat in the children’s and teen section from 2pm if you’re near Dorking Surrey! http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo/activity/chat-and-cakes-with-cathy-brett/occurrence/59727

    • That’s great that they’ve done that, Cathy, and I hope more local authorities think about doing something like this. All these cloned shopping centres going up everywhere; why not put a library in there? I think one or two have done this. Have a great event tomorrow!

  11. The nearest decent library to me is 30 minutes away so I can’t go there often 😦 The librarian there is lovely, but I don’t really know her that well! It’s a pity because its a brilliant library ad I wish I could go there more often!

      • Yes, but it’s not very good, there’s no librarian, and all the English teachers I’ve asked don’t really know how you take a book out officially and I don’t think you’re allowed go there during lunchtime so it’s annoying!

  12. Like Ella, going to the library means a lot to me when I get round to it. It’s like being sealed in my own pod or bubble, as I scour the shelves for new finds or books I’ve been longing to read for ages. The only problem with my public libraries is that they hold mother and baby classes in the same space, so you never have any peace – it’s like a choir of bawling babies is singing in the corner all the time you’re trying to focus!

    • That’s tricky…maybe there are other times you can go? It’s great that they have the mums & babies group, but I understand your frustration: a library is supposed to be a quiet place!

  13. Hi Fiona
    Its funny you’ve written this post, because I spend my life battling with the libraries.
    Libraries are my life. I have visited every library in my borough, and go to three librares (sometimes 4) twice a week 🙂
    I felt so devastated when it was announced they were closing the libraries 😦
    THREE times I wrote to my local MP – Letter, email, and another letter. Not once did he reply. I got 100 signatures on a petition.
    This is what I wrote…

    (I was 11 at the time)

    Dear Mr Robert Rams,
    My name’s Orli and I am 11 years old. I am writing a letter to you about your proposal to sell off and flog off Barnet Libraries. I know you have probably had tons of letters about this, but please read this letter- it’s different, from a child’s point of view which you haven’t heard yet. I’ll tell you a little about me. Every Saturday, and sometimes other days of the week I go to the library. Whether it’s East Finchley Library, Hendon Library or even Edgware library, I have been to every single one. Yes, every single one. Because reading is my passion. Libraries are my life. I’m not going to drone on about how much I love reading, but I want you to know that this affects people- not just me. We love our libraries. Please, please don’t take them away from us.
    Every child, every adult, even you, have worries. Things that keep us awake at night, things that gnaw at our minds, and just don’t go away until they are partially solved. Books are a way of healing this-losing yourself in a book, forgetting troubles or being able to solve them using the book. Some people have not enough money to buy every book they wish, and children AND adults need books- developing their reading, helping them, setting up a career, an ambition perhaps, for children and their children and their children too. I heard about you saying that we should borrow books from Costa Coffee, but, think about this, what if people are not near enough to Costa Coffee? People rely on the quiet, calm atmosphere on the library to study, to read, and to be themselves without anyone saying their wrong. I aspire to be a writer, and I need these books to help me, to lose myself. Buying books is not an option- we NEED reading, you know that, with your ideas about Costa Coffee, and Tesco books. People don’t have as much money as you think- we can’t afford reading- you haven’t thought about that. It’s really important to read for SO many reasons, and now we won’t be able to. Please, please rethink this decision Mr Rams. Please. This is something I am so passionate about, I need this. We need this. Barnet Community need this. Need YOU to help us, so please rethink this. Think about others. The elderly- how can they read now? They care. I care. We care. Please care too. I have attached a petition, where children in my school, children who care about saving our libraries, and all my friends who care too have signed my petition.
    We love and cherish our libraries. Please don’t take them away from us.

    He never replied.

    PS: I always love your posts Fiona!

    • What an amazing letter, Orli! So incredibly passionate and well-argued…How incredibly insensitive of Mr Rams to not even bother to reply, let alone act on it. 100 signatures, and he ignores it? Incredible. The Costa Coffee thing is so stupid – and Tesco’s? Does this man have any idea about books at all? Does have the slightest inkling what a librarian actually does? Well done anyway. A fellow author suggested recently that you could have online libraries, which I think is a great idea. Not the same as having a place to browse, but if you could consult a good librarian online, a proper human being that understands your likes/dislikes etc, and NOT a robot, that would be good I reckon. You could even do it with ebooks. This is my point: it’s all about the librarian’s role.

    • Done! As I’ve mentioned above, this shouldn’t be about preservation, but about moving libraries into the 21st century. People who dismiss library campaigners as being stuck in the past are missing the point: as I say, we need those librarians more than ever! Because, duh, there are more books in the world than ever before.

  14. I am a children’s librarian and I agree with Fiona that it is all about making our expertise available in the most appropriate way for children of the 21st century. A lot of my working time is taken up visiting playgroups and children’s centres to promote the library to parents, but I do also talk to students when the schools visit the public library..about books, reading and online information. My favourite part of my job is being asked to recommend good books to read …but I dont get asked as often as I would like and sadly I cant be in all libraries at the same time! SO maybe having some kind of live online presence is the answer – there are already some good online library sites for kids such as Stories on the Web – is Facebook the future? What do young library users of the future think?

    • Great to hear from you, Fran; it’s people like Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey who need to hear your voice. You perform an invaluable service, but are overstretched. And it’s about making books – in whatever form – available to those who may not have a single one in their home, and don’t know what they’re missing. I looked at Stories on the Web, but I didn’t like the design, and it wasn’t very accessible. We need something that draws people in, is easy to use, contemporary-looking and streamlined. I would gladly put my tax money to something like that, staffed by a team of top librarians!

  15. Great stuff, Fiona. My little local library is closed tomorrow, while they put in self-service machines to replace half the professional librarians. At least the campaigning here has meant there will (currently) be no closures, unlike in Brent – but the casual assumption that a library is simply a static roomful of books depresses me no end.

  16. As a kid, I loved libraries because I had a strong pull to storytelling from such a young age. This is odd given that I had trouble with my reading and writing up until 4th grade due to the constant mistreatment of other children driving me to distraction. Whilst most kids might have escaped more into literature, I became this bag of nerves that was worried every single time I met kids my own age. My mum and dad were a bit clueless about what to do, but one day a relief teacher noticed that I was having trouble and offered to help me with my writing. If not for her help, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to push through the nervousness and anxiety to become the happy reader and writer I am today. The key is mentoring, for without it a generation of readers will be lost. It doesn’t matter if it is a teacher, relative, friend or librarian.

    • Hear, hear, keikomushi! And I agree that there are other people that can fulfil that role. Some people are lucky enough to have a wonderful parent or teacher who passes on their own love of books, and understands their own specific needs. But it is just that: luck. It’s a lottery. Ensuring that everyone has access to a good librarian would see to it that it’s NOT a lottery. Lovely to hear your story, keikomushi. 🙂

  17. Great post!!!

    Libraries are a great place to be if you want to hang out with other people who love reading.

    In a story I’m writing, the main character’s only comfort is the library, where she can escape all the troubles going on at home.

    Libraries can be slightly intimidating, like the huge one in Willesden, but I still love it, since now it is the only library near to me, since they’ve closed the one in Neasden, boo hoo!!!

    Please sign Shakira’s petition to reopen Brent Libraries!

    • Have done, Hikma! It’s all very well closing libraries if they’re no longer appropriately situated or whatever, but you need something to replace them with if you’re going to do that. Making people travel further isn’t the answer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s