Thursday 22nd May 2015 - Part Two
Jen Campbell came to visit us in Friern Barnet Community Library as part of the festival. I've been following Jen on Twitter for some time and it was Jen that introduced me to Mike Carey's novel, The Girl with all the Gifts. Jen is a bit like The Girl with all the Books because she reads at least two a week and has a wealth of knowledge not just about books but about bookshops too. Not just books and bookshops but also the author of bestselling 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' series plus a very interesting Booktube channel.
Jen gave us some examples of the weird things customers say: 'Do you have this children's book I've heard about? It's supposed to be very good. It's called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.'
But behind the fun aspect of Jen's books is the really serious and important message of how books and bookshops educate and inform. The same way as having access to libraries works: for information, other worlds, and a much needed peaceful environment. When a country wants to oppress its people, it often begins by burning books or closing libraries. Jen told us about a bookshop in Kenya that keeps being burnt down, Khaleb Omondi, the man who owns it keeps reopening new bookshops, his resilience is scary, brave and admirable. Book burning becomes emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime which is seeking to censor or silence an aspect of a nation's culture.
We've had a lot of fun meeting such a diverse group of authors and book people, and there's more events happening. We've joked about zombies and book bugs but behind the festival is a serious message that is all tied up with access to books, access to information and why our theme this year is supporting our libraries. Holding events in libraries is sending a message to our council: we love libraries, we use libraries, we want access to local libraries in our community. We will support Unison and librarians when they strike 1st and 2nd June. We will not be shushed.
Also see The Library Debate