Posts by Jane Mathieson

And its goodbye from me

Posted Friday 28 August 2015 by Jane Mathieson in Latest Libraries News

So this is it: my last day at work and it feels very unreal. Please indulge me in a little reminiscence.

I have been lucky enough to have the unique and fantastic job of coordinator of a regional reader development network for the last 13 years. It grew out of a training programme led by Opening the Book, which I was lucky enough to attend back in 1996.

I was lucky in 2 ways. Someone else from Manchester was supposed to attend that course but at the last minute decided she didn’t have time and asked me. Also lucky in that the course seemed to finally confirm my real professional enthusiasms; reading led me into libraries from an early age and wanting to extend a love of reading of all sorts of books, was always why I stayed working in public libraries for so long.

On the course we discussed Readers Groups as a model which did exist, but in nothing like the numbers they are now. I started one not long afterwards and am still with it! We discussed reader-centred activities, using feedback as a means of promotion and how to help readers browse, through improved, imaginative and smarter display. All of these, through staff training, became core to improved contact with readers. I owe Wendy, who should have been on that course rather than me, and Rachel and Olive who led the course, a huge debt of gratitude.

From there, a core number of key people in the region kept us working together, until, supported by the then Arts Council NW, a post was created back in 2002 and I was lucky enough to be appointed.

Here I must publicly thank Manchester City Council and its various Heads of Library Service, who over the years not only agreed that I could be initially seconded into the post but who have continued to host it, made it possible for me to stay permanently in it and who are even now working for its continuation. Without their support it may have disappeared years ago.

I have loved many things about the job, chiefly the opportunities to be creative and to work with some really enthusiastic and imaginative practitioners. Regular meetings meant that, as far as I could tell, a warm team spirit existed and the more experienced members helped newcomers generously.

I loved the travel, around the region and beyond. I had 2 fantastic opportunities to go abroad to speak at conferences in Melbourne and Helsinki where I saw libraries using the best library traditions and developing them in new ways.

An expectation of new projects to work with meant that I had to try to come up with creative ideas. Ideas don’t often come out of a vacuum so I had to listen hard and pick up what people might be suggesting or wanting. Thanks to everyone who over the years made some really great suggestions.

Shaping new projects was occasionally worrying but more often enjoyable. There have been too many projects to list, but some real high spots for me were: networking with lots of NW writers to help promote their work, The Big Gay Read when I stood on a stage with Sir Ian McKellen and Armistead Maupin, Pure Passion when we really did have lots of sponsorship to enable us to hold many events and a glitzy award ceremony and Try Reading which saw us working with the “other side of the Pennines” to link reading to the Rugby League World Cup. There were some other biggish events- a sports reading day at LCC County Cricket Club, a History launch in The Bluecoat Liverpool and most recently an evening with comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince. For someone who doesn’t always have nerves of steel, its been as exciting as I could wish for at work!

I couldn’t have done any of it without good people on the frontline of service and I want to give big thanks and acknowledgement to all of you still hard at work . I toast you all and wish you all possible luck for the future!

Jane with group holding wine glasses

Clearly there will be a bit of a gap now in updates to this section of the website. Best of luck to whoever comes after me. I really hope you enjoy this job as much as I have done.

Goodbye from me!


Not the Booker- more

Posted Tuesday 4 August 2015 by Jane Mathieson in Competitions & Prizes

Not the Booker prize

Further to the Not the Booker prize, just under 1,000 people voted and this is the shortlist of 6 titles.

80 votes - Kirstin Innes – Fishnet (Freight Books)

74 votes - Kat Gordon – The Artificial Anatomy of Parks (Legend Press)

70 votes - Oliver Langmead – Dark Star (Unsung Stories)

63 votes - Paul McVeigh – The Good Son (Salt)

61 votes - Tasha Kavanagh – Things We Have in Common (Canongate)

58 votes - Melanie Finn - Shame (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Neither of my choices made it through this year. In case you are wondering I voted for Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud which I believe has been seriously overlooked by all this year's awards. And in a spirit of solidarity with  "northern" publisher and friend to Time To Read, Bluemoose Books, The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden which I am  reading currently. 

I have already read one of the shortlisted titles   and didn’t consider it a prize-winner. I won’t say which. But of course I am now intrigued. Was my judgement wrong? Or am I just not in tune with the sorts of books that make it through to this prize? Dare I say it ? Could I be too old?

If you want to shadow and take part in this process you now have until 5th October to read the 6 titles listed above. There will then be an opportunity to vote for your favourite. If you want to keep up with this process follow the Guardian’s Book pages

ManBooker and/or Not the Booker

Posted Thursday 30 July 2015 by Jane Mathieson in Competitions & Prizes

The longlist for the most talked about literary prize in the UK has been announced and can be seen here

There are 13 titles on the Man Booker long list: I can report that I have read 2, heard 1 on Book at Bedtime (! Does that count as reading?) and on a first trawl there are another 2 that I’d really like to read and will reserve now. That leaves 8 which I remain to be enthused about.Drawing of US wooden house on fire

I’m particularly pleased to note that one of the titles- Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg was one that I picked out to support from a batch of reading I had to do for potential nominees for the Radio 2 Bookclub. I’m not able to say whether or not it got through for Simon Mayo to read and discuss, but I am pleased that my personal critical faculties seem to remain alert to some good writing when I see it.

Alongside the official Man Booker prize process, the Guardian also runs a search for a Not the Booker Prize title. Details of this can be seen here

The prize is a Guardian Mug, so its hardly invested with the razzamatazz of the official prize, but it is a much more inclusive process for readers, which I urge you all to take part in.

Currently 70 titles are listed from a wide range of publishers including many independents ( NB I note at least a couple of the official Booker longlist appear so I guess they are now ineligible here).

If you want to become part of this process, all you have to do is vote for two books from the longlist, from two different publishers, and accompany those votes with a review of at least one of your chosen books . Get voting. The deadline is 23:39 BST on 2 August so it’s a tight process.

Its only realistic to write a review of one you have read, but your 2nd vote could go to Blue cover. Impression of underwater in swimming poolan author (or publisher) you respect. Bluemoose managed to win this once - was it 2013? And I note they have 2 books on the list, this time round, including Colette Snowden’s  title The Secret to Not Drowning which is on my “to read” pile. Last year’s winner was Cumbria-based Simon Sylvester who also appears on our website, so this “prize” has done a great deal for “northern” writing and publishing to date.

Later in the process a shortlist is produced which readers also get a chance to vote on. It’s a bit of fun and an honourable adjunct to the “official” prize, bringing a whole raft of excellent books to our attention.

Borderlines- a personal perspective

Posted Friday 24 July 2015 by Jane Mathieson in Events

 Why do I feel so excited about the Borderlines Book Festival?

I’ve been to many a book festival over the last 2 or 3 decades. I’ve been to Hay, to Edinburgh more than once; I’ve been closely involved with Manchester’s over its lifetime and I’ve attended one-off festival events in a number of NW locations. But to me there seems to be something special about Borderlines.

Partly its because its so new but seems so brave and ambitious.

Many festivals start small and aim to grow. Borderlines started big and seems determined to continue to grow and attract attention. In his introduction to this year’s programme Hunter Davies, Honorary President, acknowledges this. It is now so well established and embedded that it feels as if it has been going for ever…

Last year’s inaugural festival saw over 1,300 people attend events across the city of Carlisle, with names including Alan Johnson, Rory Stewart, Grace Dent and Stuart Maconie entertaining and inspiring visitors. Attendees came from all over Cumbria, and as far afield as Newcastle, Gateshead, Hexham, Barnard Castle, North Yorkshire, Leeds and London, as well as Scotland.

This year the festival is even bigger, with 27 author events and 13 writers’ workshops taking place at the Crown & Mitre Hotel, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle Library, Carlisle Cathedral, Waterstones and Bookcase between September 3rd and 6th.

Another reason that appeals to me is that it seems properly embedded in its location.

green hills in backgroundIt isn’t only trying to attract “celebrity” names with a book to promote, though these always matter to festivals. It is also trying hard to balance local concerns and interests, with writers who will appeal to a wide-range of readers. So this year’s programme includes James Rebanks talking about The Shepherd’s Life and there are talks on walking, climbing and fishing as well as historical topics with local resonance. Sue Allan’s lively talk, Echoes of Old Cumbria: Traditional Songs, Music & Dance of the Lake Counties will be illustrated with both recorded and live music.

There are local celebs; e.g. Broadcaster and writer Fiona Armstrong (pictured) portrait photo against trees who presents Border Life, a current affairs programme for ITV Border. She is a former ITN and BBC News presenter/reporter,  who has also fronted a TV series, ‘Fiona on Fishing’, as well as writing 2 fishing books.

There are national celebs too e.g. Charlotte Green & Roger Bolton, Terry Waite, Owen Jones. Some well-known writers e.g. Salley Vickers, Juliet Barker: too many to list them all so please take a look at the website for all the details.

Appropriate to its Borders location there are events reflecting Scotland as well. I wish I could hear Karen Campbell talk about her book Rise- and have added it to my “to read” list. In a Scotland on the cusp of change, Justine, a desperate runaway, flees the city to wind up in a village in Argyll…sounds topical.

The venues sound attractive: spreading events around the city, gives a sense that the whole place is involved. It isn’t an outlying event taking place on the edge of town. It is properly embedded in appropriate cultural venues; familiar to locals and of interest to visitors.

A final reason for me to be enthusiastic is the breadth of content of this year’s programme.

The best festivals to me, entice you to hear & learn from new writers or about subjects you don’t know already. I wish I could hear Jenny Uglow (pictured)  portrait photo plain background talk about Sarah Losh, a name not known to me. The Pinecone tells the story of Romantic visionary and architect, Sarah Losh of Wreay, Carlisle. Or Cate Haste talk about Craigie Aitchison: A Life in Colour or Esme Whittaker’s talk on Arts and Crafts Houses in the Lake District.

For keen writers there is a whole Writers' Quarter to take part in, as well as a Poetry Breakfast which offers the opportunity for attendees to read their own work.

There is plenty of fun - a Murder Mystery Evening the ever-entertaining raconteur Gervase Phinn and Taffy Thomas,  First Laureate for Storytelling, to enjoy.

And all forms of writing seem to be covered; short stories, poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

The organisers deserve congratulation.

As I hope you can tell, I am keen on this festival. I have booked some tickets and an overnight stay, as I hope many others will. By bringing visitors to the city who will spend money in hotels, restaurants and shops, the event will prove its value in economic terms as well as cultural ones. Long may it thrive!

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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