Thanks to 2020, there are many jobs we have now learned are ‘essential services’. The obvious ones are the standard First Response like Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade. There are also medical staff, teaching staff, and public transport. One occupation I am ashamed to admit was not on my initial list of ‘essential services’ is Library Staff. Believe me when I say my view has definitely changed! Libraries are absolutely an essential service, and not just for the books. Libraries provide a connection with the community, from books to meeting space and often free classes, such as learning the local language or how to use a computer. They are study rooms for students, social groups for new parents. And during lockdowns around the world, libraries were often the only place some people felt safe and accepted.
This week (April 4 to April 10, 2021) is National Library Week throughout the USA. There are other celebrations for libraries throughout the year, depending on which country you are in. We are looking at National Library Week in the USA but you can use the following ideas to celebrate your local library any time you like. They deserve the extra love.
Make: DIY Library Bookmarks
I was once judged by a friend by the bookmark I was using: a dry-cleaners receipt. Okay, so it wasn’t ideal but it was the closest thing I could find when said-friend was interrupting my reading. Of course, I would love to have a collection of beautiful handmade bookmarks, each matching whatever book I am reading at the time. The truth is, I’m not even reading as much as I would like to, let alone collecting the bookmarks.
A dry-cleaners receipt is not the worst bookmark you can use. In fact, ask any librarian and I guarantee they will have their own horror story. Some of the best (worst?) stories were shared on Twitter a few years back, and the topic keeps popping up on social media ever since.
Dearest patrons, PLEASE stop using cheese as a bookmark. Please. We give away actual bookmarks for free. Or like use a receipt or something. Just not perishables. #librarylife
— Anna Holmes (@annabookwriter) May 1, 2018
Before you start using cheese or banana skins as bookmarks, do your local librarian a favor and use the bookmarks on offer at the local library. If they don’t have any, make your own! And remember to share with your librarian (they will love it).
A few tips for DIY Library-themed bookmarks:
- Start with a template: Most bookmarks are about 2 inches wide and 7 inches long. You can fit about five of these to an A4 page if you want to print more than one.
- Bookmarks stick out: Make sure the top of the bookmark is noticeable over the top of the book. Perfect for pop-out features like dragons or super-villains escaping.
- Images work better than words: You’re reading the book, not the bookmark.
- Make it useful: Add space to note pages/quotes for your book club, when the book is due back at the library, or other books suggested within this one.
- Celebrate your librarians: use a quote directly relating to libraries or librarians. There are plenty to find on the internet, like this list on Book Riot.
Play: Bookbound Brigade (Digital Tales) – Switch / PC / PS4
For every adventurous book I read in my local library, there was a frustrated librarian telling me “SHHHHHH” for the umpteenth time. I audibly gasped when Dorothy’s house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East. I cried loud ugly tears when Atticus shot the dog. I screamed with frustration when Anne refused Gilbert’s help at the bridge. AARRGGHHH!! SHHHHHH!!
Now take all of that energy and roll it into bite-size literary characters who are now fighting their way through some of the most famous books in history (as well as a library). This is the heart and soul of Bookbound Brigade.
Bookbound Brigade is a 2D side-scrolling game with a strong Metroidvania vibe. It is fairly full-on with both the action and progress of the game, which is nothing like a library but everything like reading a great book. Initially, you play as a team of five characters (growing to eight later on). The good news, your team moves as one big mass of multiple personalities, rolling around the literary universe, often arguing amongst themselves as they learn to work together.
The total playable team includes Dorothy Gale, Count Dracula, Robin Hood, Sun Wukong, King Arthur, Queen Victoria, Cassandra, and Nicola Tesla. Each character has a special move or feature, along with a skill branch to build as you play. The tricky part is learning how to manage the whole team as one big playable character. As you progress through the game, it becomes easier to combine various individual skills to create formations, powers, and upgrades for your entire team.
These characters have joined together to restore The Book of Books (BoB), before all books everywhere lose their magic (and memories) forever. To do so requires travel through various works of literature and finding the missing pages to return to the central library.
The game is filled with many other literary characters, including some of my favorite ‘villains’ (read: misunderstood). The 2D animation is made of hand-drawn visuals, inspired by book illustrations from the original literature. While not completely ‘open-world’, there is no set path through the game, allowing you the freedom to explore various chapters and books at your own preference. There were a few moments where I wished I had done this chapter first or that chapter AFTER unlocking a character’s power, but I don’t think there is a perfect way to navigate through.
Bookbound Brigade is definitely one of the most challenging games I have played. While it is fun and exciting to play, I would advise to keep it to those more experienced players and with a bit more patience. It will entertain and test you for hours. If you are looking for a quicker and more peaceful game, check out The Librarian at itch.io from developer Octavi Navarro. It is a gorgeous narrative game with a deeply personal touch.
Watch: The Mummy (1999)
Argue all you want, the best librarian in any movie or television series is Evelyn Carnahan, played by Rachel Weisz in The Mummy.
The Mummy was first released in 1999, starring Rachel Weisz, Brendan Fraser, Arnold Vosloo, and John Hannah. It is a glorious blend of action, horror, adventure, romance, and absolute comedy.
The titular Mummy is the ancient Egyptian high priest Imhotep, cursed and sealed alive in Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. Over 600 years later, we meet Evelyn Carnahan–a librarian and aspiring Egyptologist. Her brother, Jonathan, has found a box and a reluctant guide (Rick O’Connell) who knows the way to Hamunaptra. While Evie, Jonathan, and Rick are travelling to the city, they cross paths with another expedition, racing to the city and rumored treasure. Naturally, they awaken Imhotep and partially raise him from the dead. Unfortunately, he needs to replace a few body parts from the mummification process and he wants Evie to house the soul of his long-lost love, Anck-su-namun.
There are a number of key factors about Evie that prove she is not only a librarian but a damn fine one. To start with, she appears to have learned everything from books. Now, this isn’t a bad thing–instead, it gives her this adorable sense of wonder every time she affirms her knowledge in the real world. Second, she carries a library-worth of information in her head which she can also call upon at any time. This woman rolls with the punches and figures out solutions on the fly, often ahead of the big brave men around her. For example, towards the end, Evie is chased by a mummy in dark lit alcoves and is still able to help her brother read a translation from an ancient text. Final point, Evie knows how to empower her teammates to get the job done. She has the knowledge but she knows exactly the right person to read which book at the right time. Of all the librarians in the history of librarians, I want to be just like Evie.
If you have not seen this movie, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. Well, we can but only because I know it is definitely the movie choice for our next Pizza and Movie Night.
Read: Pages & Co.:The Bookwanderers (Book 1) by Anna James
I have just finished reading Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers with our 7-year-old. I think we were 10 chapters in when I was ‘requested’ to find Book 2 (and Book 3). This is the perfect book for lovers of libraries and literature. It’s almost like reading books within a book, weaving your favorite characters and stories into this grand adventure. Where Bookbound Brigade brings your characters to life in the game, The Bookwanderers bring your characters to life all around you.
Tilly first learns of ‘bookwandering’ when her favorite book character, Anne of Green Gables, comes to life right before her eyes. Tilly is a young girl who lives with her grandparents above their quaint little bookshop, Pages & Co. At first, she doesn’t realize what has happened nor the magic taking place. When it happens again and again, she knows this is something special and finally tells her grandparents–who are also bookwanderers! Thus begins a whole shelf of adventures as Tilly learns about her family and how she can live in both worlds.
There are many stories woven together within the book, just like there are many books within a library. For Tilly, she is slowly learning to bring them all together and understand the bigger story behind her family. And just like Tilly, we often need a librarian to help us bring together the right books to find the answers we need.
Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers is a beautiful story to show us how we, the readers, are the connection between all great books. It is one of those rare books that reignites the desire to read a book for the journey; something often missing in kids who are reluctant readers. After reading the first book, I have this urge to visit our local library and ask the staff just how much ‘wandering’ they do after-hours.
Local libraries are an amazing privilege in our lives, and one we often take for granted. In 2021, it is even more timely to acknowledge our librarians and say “thank you” for the work they do every day. Library Week is only the beginning; Librarians are every day and forever.