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LoveReading Library of the Month #3: Gateshead Library

By Liz Robinson on 25th October 2018

We want to highlight the many wonderful and varied libraries to be found in the UK, most book lovers will have a favourite library, a favourite library memory from childhood. A library can be a place of safety, a physical and mental Tardis, waiting to transport you to a different world.

Author Sarah Hilary recently recommended Gateshead Library to us, she is a huge fan and says:

Libraries were my first love, and Gateshead is a wonderful reminder of why. Welcoming, ever-changing, exciting and passionate about the role they play for communities and individuals. Each time I've visited, I've been struck by the energy of the team, and of the readers who attend their events so enthusiastically. Libraries have never been more important, and (unendurably) their status never more precarious. Gateshead is a reminder of why they matter so very much.

Sarah’s latest book in the must-read DI Marnie Rome series Come and Find Me was out in paperback on 4 October.

Helen Eddon the Area Library Manager has answered our questions about Gateshead Library, the answer to the strangest book related question certainly made me chuckle!

Gateshead is a small borough, serving both urban and rural communities. It is probably best known for The Angel of the North, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead (music venue) and the Millennium Bridge that spans the Tyne linking Gateshead to Newcastle’s Quayside.

Gateshead has a Central Library, 7 branch libraries and a Readers at Home service. It also supports 7 volunteer-run libraries. Gateshead Central Library opened in its current location in 1926. While it retains many of its historic features, it was refurbished in 2011 thanks to a Big Lottery grant, creating a new children’s library, a library garden, a library space for young adults and meeting rooms. 

We have a vibrant events and activities programme throughout our libraries with weekly rhymetimes, class visits, an anime group, Job Club, reading groups, author events, a film club, local history talks, code clubs and an expanding programme of digital activities. We hold an annual eDay event showcasing tech and robotics innovations, an annual Anime Attacks, anime convention and Local History month with walks, talks and reminiscence sessions. This November will see us hosting the Northern Children’s Book Festival Gala Day with authors, illustrators, artists, performers and technology. All in all, we offer something for everyone from babies to our older residents in Gateshead.

Describe your library in 3 words

  • Welcoming
  • Creative
  • Vibrant

What is the strangest book-related question your team has been asked?

I wouldn’t describe this as strange but it is amusing. A gentleman came in and asked us if we had any books on “cycle paths”, we took him to the relevant section to see what we had in stock, only to discover he actually wanted books on “psychopaths”.

What has been the biggest surprise about working in a library?

For me, it’s the variety. So many people think that working in a library is just stamping books and shelving books. It’s so much more! In a single day, you could be receipting new stock, answering enquiries, singing songs at a rhymetime, helping someone set up an e-mail account, leading a reading group discussion, dressing up as the Gruffalo and that’s without anything unusual happening, such as family of ducks taking up residence in the library garden! 

What are your Top 3 must reads?

I find this such an incredibly difficult question so I’m going to cheat and recommend my top 3 must reads from this year:

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon – this is just wonderful. It tackles the issue of dementia in a powerful and moving story about 84 year old Florence who has fallen in her flat and is reflecting on her life as she waits to be rescued. Tissues required for an emotional ending!

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor – I thought this might be a bit gory and gruesome for me but it’s certainly not. I’m so pleased I read it and absolutely loved it. Creepy and gripping with a shocking twist at the very end. 

The Girl in the Green Dress by Cath Staincliffe – for me, Cath Staincliffe’s books are just getting better and better. This tells of the murder of transgender teenager, Allie Kennaway and is topical, heartbreaking and touching.

What is your favourite book from your childhood and why did you love it?

I have to say that I did love Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series – the adventure, the picnics and all without adults!

What other services does your library offer?

  • E-books and e-audiobooks from Borrowbox
  • CDs and DVDs to hire
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Photocopying, printing and scanning
  • Rhymetimes 
  • Storytimes for under 5s
  • Job Club
  • Film club
  • Author events
  • Reading groups for adults, young people and children
  • Reading Hack – for 12-18 year olds interested in planning and organising events for young people
  • Coffee mornings
  • Knit and Natter
  • Minecraft club
  • Local studies information and resources
  • Code clubs
  • Books, Bumps and Babies for new and expectant parents to share books and bonding with their baby or their bump.
  • Chess clubs
  • Writers’ group
  • Busy Bees – children’s gardening group
  • Anime club
  • Yu-gi-oh sessions
  • Pokemon club
  • Autism Hub drop-in
  • Poetry readers’ group
  • Health promotions
  • Children’s craft activities
  • Tech taster sessions – microbits, tablets, beebots and so on
  • Story walks for children
  • IT courses e.g shopping online, basic IT skills
  • Foodbank collection point at Birtley Library
  • Gift shop in Gateshead Central Library

Why are libraries such a vital link in our communities?

Libraries are one of the few places that remain free to use. We welcome everyone in a safe environment and cater for the needs of all residents. They’re vital to prevent social isolation in communities, especially amongst elderly people who rely so much on their library and the opportunity to have a chat as well as choose their books. They support people who need to use computers to search for jobs or apply for benefits but lack IT skills to enable them to do. We inspire a love of books from an early age and hope to support children to reach their potential in education. Libraries also have an important role to play in health and well-being, whether it’s providing health information, signposting them to health advice and support or simply providing services and activities that make people feel better. 

To keep up to date with Gateshead Library, follow them on social media:

Facebook: facebook.com/gatesheadlibraries

Twitter: @GatesheadLibs

Instagram: gatesheadlibraries

If you enjoyed this, why not read our other Library of the month features?