Report: Cecelia Ahern at County Hall, Preston 

On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to be able to accompany 3 of the young volunteers I work with to see Cecelia Ahern at County Hall, Preston, an event that was organised by Silverwood Events in partnership with Lancashire Libraries.

Going to any author event is a treat. But going to see an author you particularly admire in an impressive venue like County Hall is extra special. And seeing young people inspired and enthused and then desperate to get home and start reading is the absolute cherry on top. 

Cecelia was in conversation with our very own YLG North West representative and current Chair Elect, Jake Hope, and was promoting her new novel Perfect, the follow-up to her debut YA novel, Flawed, which was published in 2016 and brilliantly received.

Topics discussed on the night included Cecelia’s career so far, the differences between writing adult and young adult fiction, and the ways in which (particularly with the proliferation of social media) people can be so quick to judge others and publicly shame them for their mistakes. This is a central theme in the Flawed series, in which anyone that is deemed to be imperfect is physically branded with an F for Flawed – with the location of the F dependent on what it is they are judged to have done wrong. It’s dark and compelling and the parallels with our own society give real pause for thought.

Cecelia also talked about her experiences of promoting her young adult books and some of the schools she has visited. She talked about how often the pupils that ask the most questions are the ones described by the teachers as the ‘quiet ones,’ and how vital author visits are in showing young people that they can make a living from writing, that there are people out there that have done it and do it every day. 

This was a really well-organised, enjoyable event – Jake has a lovely interview manner and Cecelia was a brilliant speaker – refreshing, down-to earth and funny too. The young people were buzzing about the event on the train home  – and so was I! 🙂


Report: Families – An Open Door to Literacy; YLG Conference 2016

On Friday 7th & Saturday 8th October, a catalogue of children’s librarians, of which I was lucky enough to be one, descended upon Cardiff for the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The conference brings together librarians, publishers, authors and guest speakers for two packed days of networking, talks and workshops and is definitely a highlight of my professional calendar.

One of the best things about conference this year was the breakout sessions. From using sport to entice young people into the library to engaging families with reading through nature (anyone up for the Twig Towers challenge!?) the workshops were full of simple, practical tips and ideas that were no / low-cost, achievable and relatively straightforward to implement.

Twig Towers – perfect for a Stick Man themed session

Tracey Cooper from Scottish Booktrust led an excellent Bookbug session (forget garlic bread, stretchy Lycra is the future!) and showed that simplicity is key when it comes to planning sessions for under fives and their families – it’s not about how many nursery rhymes you know but about the reassurance, security and enjoyment of a shared experience. In fact, repetition of a few well known rhymes often works better than a wider repertoire as carers feel more confident and relaxed and less worried about getting things wrong and so are more likely to engage and interact with their child.

The session with Becky Wells on engaging children with autism was also really useful. Becky showed us a video which showed how overwhelming an everyday experience such as visiting a shopping centre can be for a child with autism. We were then given the chance to talk in groups about some of the things which could be triggers in our libraries and what simple steps we could take to help children with autism and their families and make visiting the library a positive and reassuring experience for them. 

Having been to conference for the first time last year, this time I was much more prepared. By that I mean this time I took a suitcase. A big one! For one of the best things about conference is being surrounded by so many brilliant, beautiful books and being able to take lots of them back home with you. 
One of my favourite bits of the whole weekend is when the publishers each take their turn on the stage to highlight their forthcoming titles and the opportunity to get hold of advance copies of those books is a little piece of librarian heaven. I get so excited, not only at the thought of reading them myself, but also at the thought of the enjoyment and wonder they will bring to the children and young people that borrow them.

Books glorious books!

Other highlights of the programme included Nicky Parker and Laurence Anholt’s discussion on racism and the ways this can be explored and challenged through fiction; learning all about West Sussex’s Communication Library and services for children with disabilities and their families; and the privilege of watching Barroux paint live on stage. Not to mention the presentation of the CKG medals and CILIP Amnesty Honour and the sumptuous gala dinner that followed.

I returned from conference not only with a suitcase full of books but with a head buzzing with ideas and sense of affirmation about the importance of libraries and librarians and their ability to change the world, one book and reader at a time.