Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

It’s just a few days until Christmas, and Wales is beautifully cold and icy, with snow on the hills and small flurries of snowflakes adding to the atmospheric end of term feeling. Tomorrow evening I break up for the holidays, and have decided to make my last blog post of the university term festive in theme, by talking about some of my favourite literary Christmases.

One of my all time favourite Christmases as a child was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas in Little House in the Prairie (luckily we didn’t have a telly, so the fantastic books were not ruined for me by the saccharine tv series). I think my mum must have very cleverly encouraged us to read about this Christmas so that in comparison, our own presents seemed plentiful!

In Little House on the Prairie, the blizzards on the American plains where Laura lives with her pioneer family are so bad, that Laura and her sister Mary fear Father Christmas will not be able to cross the creek. Laura falls asleep listening to her parents talking about the stockings they have hung over the fireplace, and whispering about using the last of the sugar for gifts. But in the morning, a visitor arrives, their distant neighbour Mr Edwards, who has been all the way to town in the blizzard to meet Father Christmas and get Laura and Mary’s presents, and swum across the wild creek with their gifts. When Laura and Mary check their stockings, they find a tin mug and a stick of candy each, plus a flour cake covered in sugar, AND a coin. They are overwhelmed at this multitude of gifts. I think this is a great story to read to children at Christmas, and it remains one of my personal favourites.

One of my other favourite Christmases is a classic which is probably on many lists; Christmas in Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, a book which famously begins: “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo”, and is, once again, an account of a fairly poor Christmas, and a reminder of the importance of family, and love and helping others, as the four sisters in the story decide to share their meagre gifts with people poorer than themselves. Incidentally, Little Women’s main character, the feisty, flawed and storytelling Jo is one of my all time favourite fictional female characters!

Moving from America to the UK, another Christmas I always loved was the dark, magical snowy Christmas in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, second in a fantastic series of five fantasy novels for children. In The Dark is Rising, Will Stanton, seventh son of a seventh son, begins to experience all kinds of mysterious events, and learns that he is the last of the Old Ones, and part of the fight of the Light against the Dark. The backdrop of snow and ice and the festive season really creates the atmospheric magic of this book, set at the darkest time of the year.

A lesser known children’s book set at Christmas is Castaway Christmas, by Margaret Joyce Baker, a novel about four children who accidentally end up alone without their parents at Christmas, dealing with floods and all manners of disasters. As a child, I found it exciting and nerveracking, and it made you very glad of a warm home and a fire at Christmas.

The other Christmas I always remember fondly is from another old American classic, What Katy Did At School, where Katy and her sister Clover are stuck at their boarding school in the Christmas holidays, and are very sad, until unexpected Christmas boxes full of presents arrive. One year I was away from home myself at college, and a Christmas box arrived through the post, and I opened it with so much joy, thinking of Katy and Clover and how much they too enjoyed their Christmas boxes!

Finally, a new Christmas book to add to my favourites is a children’s picture book I bought this year, which is based on the now classic poem and picture book, Twas the Night Before Christmas, but with a new twist. The book, called A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas, features a pirate version of Father Christmas with a sleigh pulled by eight piratically named seahorses, and looks to be a great one to read for Christmases to come!

We have a copy of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the children’s books section in the Normal College library down by the Menai Straits, where we keep books for teacher training, shelved at 823 Wil.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is shelved in the same collection, at 823 Alc; and there is a copy of Little Women and the sequel Good Wives in the Main Arts Library here in Bangor kept at PS1017 .L5; plus a book about Little Women called Little Women and the Feminist Imagination : criticism, controversy, personal essays edited by Janice M. Alberghene and Beverly Lyon Clark shelved at PS1017.L53 L68 1999.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (including single copies of the novel, or a collection of all 5 books) is also kept with the children’s books in the Normal Library, at 823 Coo; and there is a copy in the Welsh Library in Main Arts Library on College Road at X/DG 430 COO.

We do not have a copy of Castaway Christmas, a comparatively lesser known book, in any of the libraries; but What Katy Did At School and the other Katy books are housed with the children’s books, close to Susan Cooper at 823 Coo. A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas is not in our collections, but can be bought via the Amazon website.

Wishing everyone a fantastic fictional Christmas, and it would be interesting to hear about other people’s favourite literary Christmases, I’m sure I’ve left some good ones out!


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This is the presentation for SENRGY postgraduates (forestry, land conservation, countryside management, etc) on library resources and literature reviews.

Library Resources and Literature Reviews for SENRGY Students

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Reading Habits

This is another blog post doing the rounds of the librarian blogs. I saw it first on Woodsiegirl’s blog: Organizing Chaos.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

I love to eat meals and read at the same time. In fact I hate to eat without reading. One of the best things about being a grown up is that nobody can tell me not to eat whilst reading. I haven’t really got a favourite snack.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

No, the thought horrifies me. Sometimes I rip pictures out of magazines, e.g. last week I ripped a picture of a green sequin skirt I liked out of Grazia. But that’s the nearest I get to defacing reading material. Oh, ahem, except for when I was quite little, when I used to like nibbling the corners of pages in books.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Often I don’t, I just lose my place and have to re-find it. If I’m feeling really organized, I slip in a bit of scrap paper, or maybe an event flyer. Bookmarks sound like a good idea, maybe I should get some?!

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Fiction mostly, both for adults and children. I do read some non fiction as well.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard copy for me, I like to read at my own pace, and skim when I feel like it. I’m far too impatient to sit and listen to an audiobook. Plus I really love words, written words, voices somehow aren’t quite as exciting. The only exception I can think of here is Felicity Kendal reading My Naughty Little Sister, which we had as a record album when I was little, I loved that!

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

I can put down a book at any point, and often have to if I’m busy. I’m also the kind of person who will sit in front of the telly with my laptop on and a book and a magazine beside me, so I’m quite happy switching between information!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

No, never. I just keep reading, and hope that one day I’ll have read it enough times that I will know what it means.

What are you currently reading?

Nothing! I need some new reading material! The last two things I read were: Dancing at the Dead Sea, a book about the environmental crisis by Alanna Mitchell, which was really good (review on my blog), and Hello magazine, with some nice pictures of Jerry Hall in her garden with chickens. I have eclectic tastes…

What is the last book you bought?

I think it was Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo, a reversal of the slave industry, where a white woman called Doris is kidnapped and taken into slavery; it was well written and very thought provoking.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I can read more than one at a time, in the sense of dipping in and out of different books, rather than actually being able to sit and actually read say five books at exactly the same time; I would probably need some more eyes and brains and arms to be able to do that.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

All day would be good, but I have to go to work. So I guess evenings is my favourite time for reading. As for place, I love to read on my bed, with my cat beside me.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

I prefer stand alone books mostly, but if a book is really really good, it’s very exciting if it’s part of a series.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Most of my favourite books are children’s books, and my all time favourite is Where The Wild Things Are, which I would always recommend to parents. Meg and Mog is good too.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

Roughly by genre. Fiction is together, non fiction together, children’s books are together, and big books are together. Actually, I guess big books isn’t a genre. So, genre and size.

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Bangor University has a few libraries, and I’m normally based in the Main Arts Library, where the arts, humanities and social sciences books are kept. As a result, the focus of my blog posts and the enquiries I’ve helped with have tended to cluster in these subject areas; but my post in User Support (Bangor’s equivalent of Subject Librarians) is supposed to cover all the subjects (excepting Health and Law which have their own specialist subject librarians).

As a result, I decided recently to work an afternoon a week in the University’s Deiniol Library, where the science and psychology books are kept, for two reasons: 1. To offer user support to the students based mainly at that library, and 2. To get to know the science library resources better.

I did my first Friday Deiniol session just over a week ago, and enjoyed a quick browse around the shelves, getting an overview of the collections. So, finally, here is a blog post focusing on a library resource from the Deiniol Library.

Dancing at the Dead Sea: Journey to the Heart of the Environmental Crisis is a sobering, informative book by Alanna Mitchell, written in a very readable style. The book is a series of essays focusing on different places in the world the author visited to see the impact of environmental change (see also Mark Lynas’s High Tide for a similar approach), comparing the current oblivion of many people in the world to the “sixth extinction” of species with the disbelief Darwin encountered when he first presented the theory of evolution to a Vistorian public accustomed to a Christian belief system about creation.

I learnt a lot from the book, being new to the term the “sixth extinction” for starters, and being horrified to realise a little more about the extent of the crisis the planet is facing. Madagascar, I discovered from Dancing at the Dead Sea, is home to many of the most unique species in the world, but is losing forest at an alarming rate and therefore many of the animals and plants which lived in these habitats are also waning and vanishing. Lemurs (which live in Madagascar) are apparantly seriously endangered, as are one in three primate species, and the really worrying thing here is that this book was written in 2005, so the situation is potentially even worse today.

Alanna Mitchell also travelled to Suriname, a country in the Amazonian rainforest, which I had only vaguely heard of, which she describes as “the mirror opposite of Madagascar” (Mitchell, 2005, p.173) where, due to efforts to preserve the rainforest, 90% of the forest still remains, some protected by the Central Suriname Nature Reserve which was created in 1998. In addition to finding her account of the situation in Suriname interesting, I was intruiged to read about the Bush Negro people, who are descendents of African slaves brought to Suriname by the Dutch. I have been reading a bit about slavery recently, and it was incredibly sad to read a little about the Suriname slaves, as apparantly the Dutch were extremely cruel slave owners; with the book comparing some figures: apparantly around 330,ooo African slaves were brought to Suriname, a similar number to those taken to the United States, “By the time of emancipation, the United States had 1 million slaves. Dutch Guiana had only 25,000 left…” (Mitchell, 2005,  p196).

Another chapter in the book describes the situation in the Arctic, which I have read a little about in other sources (including Mark Lynas). The Arctic is on the forefront of climate change, and entire ways of life are changing, both for the humans and animals who live in the Arctic, as the snow and ice recedes. It’s an incredible loss in so many ways, and unsurprising that the polar bear, fast losing its snowy habitat, has become one of the emblems of climate change, and one of the ways people who know about these things use simple but powerful symbols to try and reach the rest of humanity and make them aware of the seriousness and severity of climate change.

I have no answers, I am only amazed by my own ignorance, and hope to read, learn and do more. I recommend this book as an interesting and worrying read, and hope to get hold of the author’s newer book: Seasick, about the crisis facing the oceans and marine life (unfortunately we do not currently have this one in the library).

Dancing at the Dead Sea is kept at the Deiniol Library (Bangor University), shelved at GF75.M58 2005, and can be borrowed as soon as I’ve returned it to the library.

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I have been looking in our electronic databases for articles about libraries making use of mobile technologies, only to inevitably find that queries for “mobile” and “libraries” also return some articles about library services which move around. In the UK, most mobile library services are done using library vans (I still think that as a librarian, I really must own a former library van one day, anyway, enough of that for now). However, an interesting article I accidentally came across during my search revealed that in Kenya, they are using camels to deliver mobile library services to nomadic pastoralists.

The article is in the Emerald database, which contains a range of electronic journals, but mostly journals for the subjects of business and librarianship. The article, by Richard Masaranga Atuti and J.R. Ikoja-Odongo, is called Private camel library brings hope to pastoralists: the Kenyan experience, and is published in the 1999 edition of Library Review, Vol 48, No 1, pp. 36 – 42. Bangor University members should be able to log into the article here: Private camel library brings hope…(Emerald).

To find the article, search on the library databases list for Emerald, click on Emerald Journals (twice), and type camel library into the search box, it will be the first article in the list which returns.

The article describes how the camel library works: “Work begins with the loading of books in four boxes which carry a total of about 300 books. The rotating stock is mainly fiction, text books and reference materials. Book boxes together with a tent, two chairs, a table and umbrellas are loaded on the camels. Then they move out in a caravan on a particular route to the service centres, villages (manyattas) and their service point or stops like schools. On arrival at the stop, the items are unloaded. The tent is pitched and information materials displayed on shelves fixed to the walls of a tent. A floor mat is spread inside the tent to allow those who want to read within the tent to do so. Others borrow information materials for home reading. Meanwhile the camels are released to recuperate.” (Atuti & Ikoja-Odongo, 1999, p39).

There is a 2005 article in the Observer newspaper about the camel library, and how much it means to the people (particularly the children) visited by the mobile library. As a lifelong book lover myself, I can only imagine the joys the camels bring to some of these lovers of reading.

To support the camel library, you can donate to Book Aid International who work in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa supporting projects, including the camel library.

The BBC have some photos of the camel library.

In Ethiopia there is a donkey mobile library, which you can read about in a 2009 BBC news article.

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Tomorrow (August 1st) is the Celtic harvest festival called Lughnasa (or Lughnasadh).


There were four major feasts or festivals in the Celtic Year: Samhain (Nov 1st), Imbolc (Feb 1st), Beltain (May 1st) and Lughnasa (Aug 1st).

Lughnasa was the feast of the Celtic God of Light, known as Lugh in Ireland and Lleu in Wales. In Ireland, the festival was celebrated for a whole month (usually mid July until mid August).

Lleu appears in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh legends, as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the son of the goddess Arianrhod. He marries Blodeuwedd, a women made from flowers, but she betrays him for her lover Gronw Pebr. They attempt to kill Lleu, but he shapeshifts into an eagle, and the magician Gwydion turns him back into a man.

“Nasa” or “nasadh” means commemoration, and the festival commemorates or mourns the passing of the god-king, and the rebirth of the god-king or sun.

About the festivities

At Lughnasa, tribes would gather together, marriages would be arranged and games and festivities would be held (Lugh is associated with chess, ball games and horse riding). The games would include wrestling, horse riding, dancing and other games and sports which became associated with the festival over the years.

Traditionally, in Ireland, the festivities were held at sites with distinctive natural features, either in high places such as mountains, or beside water features such as wells, springs and lakes, or in locations which had both height and water such as mountain lakes.

In Ireland the festivities have continued in various forms for hundreds of years, and Maire MacNeill’s book on Lughnasa collects folk memories of the Lughnasa feasts from across Ireland.

Harvest Festival

Lughnasa was a harvest festival. In Ireland the festival celebrated gathering in the most important food crop in Ireland: potatoes (although this was originally corn, as potatoes were only introduced to Ireland in the seventeenth century).

In the last few weeks before the new harvest, most households had very little food remaining, and therefore the harvest festival was a joyous celebration of food. Some people believed it was important to eat well on the first day of the feast to ensure being well fed for the rest of the year (just as people today sometimes believe that what you do on New Year’s Eve affects the rest of the year ahead).


Lughnasa was added to the Christian calendar by the Anglo Saxons, and named Lammas (which means loaf-mass).


Nowadays, many neo-pagans and Wiccans celebrate the Celtic festivals, as part of the natural cycle of the year.


Finally, I should mention that according to Maire MacNeill’s book, rain was often associated with the Lughnasa or Lammas feast day of the 1st of August!


Sarah Costley and Charles Kightly: A Celtic Book of Days. Thames & Hudson: 1998. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4 COS.

John King: The Celtic Druids’ Year: Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts. Blandford: 1994. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4 KIN.

Maire MacNeill: The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: 1962. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/DA 97 MAC.

Caitlin Matthews: The Elements of the Celtic Tradition. Element Books: 1989. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4a MAT.

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I had actually completely forgotten that today (4th June) was the day for voting for European Parliament members, and only remembered when I checked Twitter this morning. In all honesty, I don’t know who is standing for election in my area, and where I have to go to vote, I just know I have a voting card, and had a couple of flyers through the door from parties I don’t support which have been binned.

Therefore, this morning’s first quick job was to use my librarian skills to find useful web links for voting, which I thought I would share with any blog readers, as it took me a while (and bear in mind I’m a librarian trained in finding information speedily, so by a while, I mean more than five minutes!) to locate some useful websites.

This is the list of current European members of parliament for Wales. Click on the MEPs (Member of Parliament)’s names to find out a little more information about them.

About My Vote has lots of useful information about the European Parliament elections.

The BBC website has a guide to all the parties standing for election.

BBC Wales has a list of Welsh candidates.

Wales Online has a list of 20 reasons to vote in the European Parliament elections.

This is the website of the European Parliament.

And just to finish off with a selection of library resources…

We have a book in the Deiniol Library (located in building no 47 on this University map) called The European Parliament, by Richard Corbett, Francis Jacobs and Michael Shackleton, which was published in 2007.

We also have an e-book called European Union: Power & Policy Making, edited by Jeremy Richardon, which can be accessed online.

Both books can be found by searching the library catalogue for keywords european and parliament.

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