Friday, 28 December 2012


The knitted neck warmer! My first go at knitting for many a long year. It has lacy bits and a scalloped edge and involved some nifty moves with needles and yarn:one row of plain; then knit two together four times; yarn forward, knit one four times; one row of purl; another of plain ... 

This is me warming up for the new groups about to start in Kirkwall and Stromness Libraries in the New Year. My first effort is not quite flawless but I'm betting the Yap & Yarn groups will sort me out.

They start on: 

Monday 7 January
5.00 - 7.00 pm
Stromness Library

And on:

Monday 14 January
5.00 - 7.00 pm
Kirkwall Library

And will run on alternate Mondays in each library.

If you look closely at my work you will see that the holes don't quite line up and the wavy bits are as uneven as the ribbed sea sand. But it was fun to do and I'm looking forward to learning from Karen and Heather and Kaja how to put right my mistakes when the groups start. 

The groups are for anyone from complete beginners to more experienced knitters. And for people like me who knitted a little bit a long time ago, but never quite got through a whole project to produce a finished article!

Come to either group or both, bring your knitting and have a cuppa. There will be some needles and yarn there for folk who have never knitted before, but if you can bring your own, all the better.

See you there!   

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Winter Solstice!

A Very Happy Winter Solstice to all readers!

And May the Light Return to you all ...

Saturday, 15 December 2012


Santa took time out from his busy schedule to visit the Book Bug session in Kirkwall Library yesterday. Here is one peedie lass getting her present.

Patsy and Louise were dressed for the part too! And is that a festive fez on Steven's napper?

The room was full to bursting - around eighty people of all ages, from babies and toddlers to parents and grand parents. If you look carefully you'll see Louise jingling her bells to welcome Santa!

This wee lad looks happy to be there!

Here is Ruby with her grandad

And this little girl is engrossed in her present, looking for a Book Bug crayon to start colouring.

Below is Jocelyn with her baby Isobel, only two months in Orkney, all the way from South Carolina USA, and they've found their way to Book Bug. Jocelyn told me she used to read to her baby before she was even born!

There are many more photos from the day. You can find them on the Orkney Reader in Residence Facebook Page in an album called Christmas Book Bug 14 December 2012. And in a couple of days they will also be on the Orkney Library Facebook Page.

A Very Merry Christmas to you all!

Thursday, 13 December 2012


There will be a 

Christmas Special Book Bug 

with Patsy tomorrow
Friday 14 December 
at 10.30 
in Kirkwall Library

Songs & Rhymes 
Tea & Juice 
Books & Crafts 
Cakes & Biscuits.

Bring along your babies and toddlers to Catch the Reading Bug!

Jessica & the New Library Card

I was standing by the issue desk in Kirkwall Library when I was caught by the excitement beside me. It came from Jessica Watson, pictured, who was there with her grandfather giving her details for her first library card. I asked her a bit about herself. 

I'm nine, she said, though technically I'm ten, or I will be on the first of January. I like all types of books, fiction and non-fiction. One of my favourite authors is Jacqueline Wilson. I got into her writing when I read one of her Tracy Beaker books.

I used to come here with my mum and I would read while she was using the computer. Now I can come here and borrow books!

After I'd asked for a photo of her, proudly holding up her new library card, she went off with her grandad to browse the shelves. She must have been looking for a particular title, because I heard her grandfather suggest that they look up the library catalogue on the computer to find out where the book was. A good team effort!

Her excitement reminds me of my own, the day I joined Kirkwall library. At that time it was in Laing Street. I chose my book, Russian Fairytales, full of giants and seven league boots, read it that night, took it back the next day and chose another one. 

Do any blog readers out there have memories of the library when it was in Laing Street? Or of the Stromness library, which will soon move to a new building at the pier head? We would love to hear from you if you do.

Short Stories

The display that Steven set up of short story collections is now considerably depleted. I'd love to know who is borrowing them and what they think. But short of hovering beside it all day, or setting up CCTV surveillance, I have to content myself with imagining some folk enjoying books they might not otherwise have come across.

Here is the second part of what Majella who works here had to say of her own love of short stories.

"Among the short story collections currently available for loan at the Orkney Library & Archive are: Furnace by Wayne Price and What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander.  Both collections have received glowing reviews.  Also available is winner of the Best of National Book Awards Fiction Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. 

"My personal favourite remains Dubliners by James Joyce.  This collection of stories portraying the everyday lives of Dublin people has the ability to launch me back to a city which I have come to know and love from many visits to my sister.  It is a city steeped in history and has long been home to writers, musicians and artists.  Just being in that great city can make you feel very much alive.

"The fifteen short stories recount the brutal realism of the lives of ordinary people as they endure the limitations of their banal existence.  Joyce's characters reflect his deep insight into the human condition.  He had the ability to take what may seem ordinary and transform it into something sublime. Joyce was adept at guiding a character to their moment of epiphany.  Despite the tragic undertone to this collection Dubliners evokes the excitement and vitality of a still vibrant city.

"I draw great pleasure from reading short stories.  Often they cover subjects that have a resonance for the reader which is very gratifying. A good short story can hold up a mirror to our own life and sometimes shed some light on it.   A remark or comment made by a character in a story can lead us to revisit our actions or words and see them from another person's perspective.

I find short stories compelling as well as entertaining because by their very structure they give the reader a quick and deep insight into another's life.  This skill is fascinating and remains for me the reason why I find the short story genre immensely satisfying."

Thank you for that, Majella. It makes me want to go back and reread The Dubliners. I'll have to wait till whoever has borrowed it brings it back!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Val & Stewart & the Stolen Library Card

Looks like a road trip! And it was. Stewart Bain of Orkney Library took Val McDermid out in the library van for a tour of the West Mainland the day she arrived. I don't know about seizing the moment, but they were certainly grabbing what light there was in the day, so that Val could see something of Orkney before her session and before she flew off the next morning.

They went out the Orphir Road, passed Scapa Flow, then across the Brig o Waithe to Stromness. There, I believe shelter - and some refreshment - was taken in the Flattie Bar. Strictly non-alcoholic!

Scapa Flow from the Orphir Road

From there they went to the Standing Stones and Ring of Brodgar. Val was suitably impressed - if not by Stewart's driving, then at least by the Orkney countryside. She had a lie down in a darkened room before her session in the evening in Kirkwall Library!

Val McDermid's Session

Val clearly has a fan base in Orkney. There was an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd there to see her and listen to her story of how she began to write. It started of course with reading, and she credits the public library system with turning her into a writer. As a child, restricted to two fiction and two non-fiction books a week, she stole her mother's library card and told the librarians that her mother was ill and couldn't get to the library. Thus she augmented her reading to include adult titles and began her career of telling lies. A short hop then to writing fiction, Val maintained.

There was a lively Q&A then after she'd talked for a while, about the sources for some of her dark stories. Her latest book, she says, began with the experience of having her replacement metal knees set off the alarm at O'Hare airport in Chicago. She was held in a perspex box until the source of the metal was verified. Her son, around seven at the time, was made to wait outside. What if ...? Val thought. What if somebody came and took my son while I was detained by Chicago's finest in a perspex box ...? This became the central plot of her new book, The Vanishing Point. All fiction starts with What if...? she says.

Stewart interviewed Val on video for the library and drew comparisons between her career and that of Kylie Minogue! Not many people would get away with that! You can watch it here. I also interviewed Val for Radio Orkney's arts programme, Tullimentan which will air on Wednesday 19 December at 6.10 pm. If you miss it, you can catch it and previous programmes on SoundCloud.

Keep up with the various, sometimes nefarious, goings on in Orkney Library by liking the Facebook Page and following it on Twitter . You can also find the wonderful Stromness Library blog published regularly. Just click the link here. And check out the Reader in Residence's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Monday, 10 December 2012

That Was The Week That Was ...

... Book Week Scotland: Part One

While it was going on there was hardly time to think! I felt a bit like the woman pictured here on a no-hands-free, bad-hair-day! Book Week Scotland was Scottish Book Trust's first time organising a whole week celebrating and promoting reading in all its forms right across Scotland. 

Here in Orkney the library was well ahead of the game. Before this Reader in Residence was even a twinkle in Scottish Book Trust's eye, the staff at Orkney Library and Archive had organised a whole programme of activities. There were events for all ages, from babies and schoolchildren to adults. The library was buzzing.

Book Bug

Book Bug is Scottish Book Trust's project to encourage reading in children by catching them young. Very young! At Book Bug sessions run in different parts of Orkney by Louise and Patsy, Amber and Jane, you will find babies as young as a few weeks old as well as toddlers and pre-schoolers. They bring their parents along too, mums mostly but some dads. And sometimes grandparents. Through songs and rhymes and actions children learn that reading and books are fun. 

In the special Book Week Scotland Book Bug, the room was crowded and it's clear that the sessions are very popular. When you come to think of it, there aren't that many public spaces that welcome large groups of parents with babies and young children, and even fewer that encourage the whole group to sing and recite rhymes and look at books together. But libraries do! The places traditionally associated with stern librarians shutting people up - how cool is that!  

The children love it. Take Cole Mitchell, here on the left with his mum. I wrote about him in the blog a couple of weeks back. The first time I met him was with his granny. He was racing about the library, thoroughly at home. Cole dressed up for the special Book Bug session in a tartan shirt and dungarees with a picture of a tractor pinned to the front. A farmer, then! His granny and his mum told me he loved tractors and that he was always on the move. But when things go suspiciously quiet, they know they will find Cole with his nose in a book.

Monsters and Primary Ones

Every P1 class in the Kirkwall area came into the library for a story session around the shortlisted books for the Scottish Children's Book Award. The three books on the list for the younger age category were given by Scottish Book Trust to every P1 child in Scotland. So the Orkney children came to the library sessions having read them already and were ready to join in when Louise and Patsy told the stories.
One small boy called Jack was so taken with the fact that the boy in one of the stories was also Jack, that he could barely contain his excitement!

Solomon Crocodile was followed by a song involving crocodiles, monkeys and crazy elephants, along with appropriate actions. 

And when asked their favourite of the three books, opinion was divided, but The Day Louis Was Eaten, with its monsters within monsters within monsters tickled the fancy of most of the children who produced drawings of monsters of their own which are still gracing the library wall a week on.

Vikings in Orkney

Orkney has a long and colourful association with the Vikings, so it was fitting that Victoria Campbell should visit and talk about her book to older school children and some adults. There were tales of daring and adventure and tantalising glimpses of a voyage for hidden gold. The story, accompanied by demonstrations of Viking swords and shields, had the P7 children on the edge of their seats.

Next blog will review the events for the big kids - the adults!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Flat Alison

Flat Alison came to us all the way from Collinsville, Illinois, USA. She was sent to Louise by the librarian Alison Donnelly, the original for Flat Alison.

Here she is in the Orkney Archive, getting cosy with the Hudson Bay Company Bear. We thought we would highlight some of the connections between Orkney and North America. 

Many Orkney men - and a few women - sailed to the North West of Canada to become involved with the fur trade and sign up as employees of the Hudson Bay Company. There is lots of information about the connection in the archives and many artefacts in Stromness Museum. 

Facebook & Twitter

Alison Donnelly learned about Orkney Library and Archive from the Facebook and Twitter pages. Here is Flat Alison with Stewart Bain, who keeps the library in the public eye with his witty use of social media. If you click on Orkney Library and Archive's Facebook page here, you might see some more photos of Flat Alison as she gets around in Orkney. 

And if you follow the library on Twitter, you will keep up to date with what's going on.

You can also follow the Alison Miller, Reader in Residence Facebook Page and see lots more photos from Orkney Library. You can follow her on Twitter too.

Orkney and Shetland American

In previous eras, Orcadians crossed the great wide ocean to reach places on the other side of the world. Here is Flat Alison looking at a newspaper produced in Chicago Illinois in 1887. The paper was started by Magnus Flaws, who was probably a Shetlander. He helped Orcadians and Shetlanders who found themselves in difficulty in the 'New World'. You will find these newspapers in the Orkney Archive. They produce a blog too which gives fascinating information about some of the things we have in the archives. 

Fun and Games in Orkney

Flat Alison has been having a high old time since she got here, trying out some of the things Orkney is famous for. Here she is on board a Viking Longship and swimming with seals!

Here she is inspecting the herring catch! Can you see her?

And she had a great time diving in Scapa Flow!

Famous Orkney Writers

She thought some of our most famous writers in the Orkney Room needed cheering up, so she draped them in tinsel. Do you think it worked?

Edwin Muir is smiling, but George Mackay Brown and Eric Linklater look a bit glum. Maybe when they see their photos it will make them laugh. 

What do you think?

Saint Lucy in Orkney

And she's been getting in the mood for Christmas, dressing up with a crown of light like Saint Lucy who is celebrated in Orkney on December 13 in honour of our Norwegian friends who bring the gift of a Christmas tree to Orkney every year. Lucy is the patron saint of blind people and writers. Her name comes from the Latin word 'lux' which means 'light'. 

At this time of year in Orkney, because we are so far north, the days are very short and the nights long and dark. Although celebrating St Lucy isn't an Orkney tradition, all the Scandinavian countries honour her at 'the year's midnight', in the hope that the light will come back the next year.

Flat Alison and the Children from P1

Here are Louise and Patsy introducing Flat Alison to some P1 children from Papdale Primary School. She stayed with them all through the story. One little girl liked her so much, she took her on the tour of the library. At the end of the tour she was missing for a short time, until Louise found her sticking to the edge of a table.

Time to Go Home

It will soon be time for Flat Alison to go home to Illinois. We hope she'll keep in touch with the children here and tell us where she is going next on her travels. Apart from Orkney, she's already been to Africa and India. She has her own Facebook Page too.

Safe home, Flat Alison! Come and see us again.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Orkney Library's Two Mouseketeers

Book Bug in Book Week Scotland

A Very Hungry Caterpillar
A Green Crocodile
To celebrate Book Week Scotland in Orkney Library, Louise and Patsy appeared as Mickey and Minnie Mouse to sing songs and encourage reading in the very young. The babies dressed up too - as characters from books. There were Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a crocodile, various cuddly animals and many more. 

If you're happy and you know it ... 

wave a big fat Mickey Mouse hand!

Minnie & Mini Minnie
Peedie Fairy

Who's been eating MY porridge - er, fairy cakes?  Goldilocks and Two of Her Three Bears

To see more photos of Book Bug in Book Week Scotland, go to the Facebook page of Orkney Library or Alison Miller Orkney Reader in Residence