Thursday, 1 December 2011

Keep the sparkle going

On Tuesday night I found myself on the 5th Floor of the Piccadilly (London) branch of Waterstones at a glittering gathering of publishers, writers, librarians (current & former) Reading Agency staff and assorted "literary" supporters. All had gathered to celebrate the publisher & library partnership Reading Partners and to hear details of future co-operation for 2012.

Despite the current uncertainty about, in both local government and publishing, the tone of the evening was resolutely positive and optimistic ( to quote Tony Durcan of Society of Chief Librarians). At least 40 new or significantly re-furbished libraries will open in 2012 and The Reading Agency will continue to be energetic, supporting a strategic reading year with high impact events and promotions. We were reminded that across the UK's public library network there remain over 4,100 library sites and 12 million active borrowers

Reading Partners involves 40 UK publishers and will now embrace Waterstones as a retail partner. There is still room to work with Independent booksellers, many of whom will continue to work closely with their local libraries. It was heart-warming to hear Joanna Prior , Managing Director of Penguin (General Division) state that libraries are a vital partner for publishers and are always considered and included in marketing campaigns.

The short series of speeches was rounded off by novelist Kate Mosse who spoke passionately about libraries role in providing access to the written word and declared "authors and readers of today will not let down the writers and readers of tomorrow".

Yes, everyone there was committed to the future of libraries and as far as I could tell, understood the vital role libraries play in generating readers for writers across the spectrum of publishing. But in these hard times when much of the future seems uncertain, it was wonderfully reassuring, as well as an increasingly rare opprtunity, to meet work colleagues and make new contacts. Fantastic as well to talk to writers such as Hardeep Singh Kohli and Patrick Ness (pictured with me here) who had enjoyed visits to libraries in this region and are keen to return.

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