Saturday, February 19, 2011

Campaign call

I had an eventful day yesterday.

Early evening, I went to my local library in Barnes to pick up an inter library loan. The book, Snowdrops by A.D Miller (a snowdrop in this case is not a pretty flower - it is a corpse hidden by Russian snow over the winter that comes to light in Spring...).

The librarian asked me to sign the campaign against library closures. "But I have already signed it," I remonstrated. "Please sign it again," she insisted.

I took a deep breath. I'm not one of nature's criminals and doing something twice goes against the grain. But this is important.

So, I signed. And wrote my comment.

'Shame on you David Cameron. Closing libraries is far from the act of a 'Big Society' - it's the act of a 'Small minded Society'. It's worse than Thatcher Milk Snatcher, because you can get milk anywhere for children - but if you close the libraries, they will not come back. Shame on you David Cameron, with three small children to bring up to be educated, curious, achieving and socially minded citizens.'

I signed it as publisher, Marion Boyars - I have never told the librarians what I do as it's not relevant.

"Precisely," said the librarian, "It's all the more shocking as he is a father and knows how important books are to young children. We have a homework club here, internet access for all, we help the unemployed fill out job applications, we have a scheme where books are taken to the elderly, and collected, we are the only free resource left in London. Manchester has already lost its libraries, and only the very new flagship libraries will remain. We do not know if we will survive and we will most likely lose this wonderful place. Please start a campaign."

I took another deep breath. I know how to reach journalists. I could get free press ads with the rubric, "SHAME ON YOU DAVID CAMERON, closing libraries makes your Big Society a Small Minded Society", and I just might manage to reach the man's morals. He has already decided not to sell off our forests.

Should I do it? Will you lot out there - other publishers, editors and translators, and authors, journalists, broadcasters, newspaper proprietors, join?

Campaigning on the streets for libraries is not easy. Most book readers would rather be curled up in a chair reading, especially when it is foggy and raining like yesterday. But I think I should start.

Libraries are more than the books (ever so cheap, as we known us publishers, nothing like the cost of making them), and staff, (people will always want to work with books for modest wages), but it's the buildings, the computer systems, now working so well. My loaned copy of 'Snowdrops' came from Tower Hamlets Library, brand new. It was transported right across London, just for me to read, and then I shall give it back. Like me, a librarian there reads the new fiction reviews, and takes action, so a book gains readers.

Earlier in my eventful day, I was invited to Books for Cooks, 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill Gate, to a demonstration by an Italian Jewish cook, Sylvia Nacamulli, through my good friend Anne Wilk. It was a chance to see Books for Cooks for myself, as although several of our authors have done events there, the redoubtable Clothilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini fame, book and blog, and Victoria Cator and Lucinda Bruce of Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month, I did not go to either event as I did not wish to take up a place which a paying guest would have taken.

Sylvia Nacamulli is looking for a cookery book publisher. She has given demonstrations since 2003, and has a wealth of experience. I look forward to fnding salted capers in Sicily this summer, to make her Caponata (aubergine with capers, and many other fine ingredients). It was fun and I came home and prepared her spinach with pine nuts and sweet white onion. But the real event of the day was my visit to the library.