2nd February 2017
Chris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis.
We’ll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down’s Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink – she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.
Some of the characters’ stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library’s hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It’s one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day.
Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about …
I work in a library, and I’ve always said that if all the library staff wrote their memoirs of their working day it would be a best-seller! This may not be a best-seller….yet but it’s definitely worth a read.
A few weeks back I saw there being a flurry of activity with this book coming in and going out. Curiosity got the better of me, and I looked more closely and found that a large number of library staff I work with had either read this book or had it on reserve. So, not one to be left out, I put my name down! Now books like this, for a library person, are great. I went through so many parts of the book going ‘yep, we do that’, ‘yep, that’s happened to me’ and ‘yep, that’s exactly what I’m like. Notable examples are spotting particular library regulars and finding yourself some very important work to do as far away from the desk as possible so you don’t have to deal with them and getting sidetracked by the books you are supposed to be shelving and find yourself propping up the shelves while you flick through a book!
One of the good things about this book is that it is set in the UK. Also I was very envious about the set up that this library has, especially the facilities team who deal with problem library visitors (yes we do get them!), blocked toilets (you have no idea what people shove down our library toilet) and vomitting children. We have to ourselves ‘evict’ our own problem customers, unblock our own toilets (and mop up the subsquent mess) and clean up after poorly children. This library worker in the book obviously has no clue about working in a proper library!!!
A good book, particularly if you are in this line of work, easily relatable and amusing in parts
Buy it here!
This is Chris Paling’s first work of non-fiction. Chris’s fiction has been praised by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe, Giles Foden, Liz Jensen, Shena Mackay and many others. Chris also writes for the weekend papers and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Telegraph Travel section – and he has recently embarked on playwriting.
His broadcasting career spans radio and television. An acclaimed radio documentary maker, he co-conceived The Village, credited as the first ‘real-life’ soap. Set in the Hampshire village of Bentley, The Village ran for over 100 episodes on Radio 4 before transferring to television. A further hundred or so episodes were then broadcast on ITV and sold around Europe. The format was developed by the presenter Nigel Farrell into An Island Parish, which still scores highly on BBC 2. For the final 11 years of Chris’s Radio 4 career he produced Midweek with Libby Purves.