Saturday, 8 February 2014

Batgirl, Borrowers and 'Sticky Books': it's National Libraries Day

Is my jumper too loud for the Reference Library?
I've been absent from here for a bit but I must blog today as it's National Libraries Day!

Since starting as a library assistant, I've found libraries a great source of ideas: I've written poems and short stories on everything from Batgirl's day job to the time the man who hangs around in History came in without his hat! Libraries (and there are some fab ones HERE) lend themselves to the imagination: they contain so much information, invention and passion - the sum of human experience. Their users, too - the 'Borrowers' - have their own passions and predilections. Then there's the library staff: the cliche of the skittish, be-cardiganned librarian, disappointed in love, too tempting to ignore, too tempting not to subvert...

Today I'll be performing some of my library poems along with some by the likes of Emily Dickinson and Charles Simic. My favourite is For St Jerome by Paul Farley. This will all be in Wallasey Central Library at 2.30pm and include two new pieces including this one:

Sticky Books

Here come the sticky books:
puppy books, freshly chewed, gluey
‘How to...’s and kiddies pop-ups, aromatic
from the nappy bag, slim volumes of bitter
poetry smeared with conciliatory chocolate,
novels fluffed from under settees, used, coasterwise
for beer cans, cat books itching with fleas.

Here come the sticky books: fumbled
from crumb-filled carrier bags after nights
at pensioners’ bedsides next to teeth and tinctures.
Gummy on the counter top, a reptile book
reluctantly returned by a man with filthy talons,
along with soiled allotment manuals, and well-thumbed
sex encyclopaedia, tacky to the touch,

Here come the sticky books: fished from
the flotsam of handbags, powdered and perfumed,
travel guides sandblasted, bleached and smelling
suspiciously of coconut, cookery books
dusted with flour, butterfingered, garnished,
eggs on their faces, pages with glazed crusts.

Here come the sticky books:
the coffee-cupped, hair-sprayed, bubble-bathed
and baked beaned books. The snotted on,
sneezed at hard backs, the wept over romances
with their rim of salt. The nautical adventures
and Haynes manuals, all well oiled
with perfect fingerprints for forensics later.

Here come the sticky books:
wanting a buffing with dusters and spirit.
Never lick your fingers in a library. I wouldn’t
like to test for substances between these sheets
– shit and semen, coffee, stamens, condiments
ash and ear wax, cat hair, gum, and dough
blood, sweat and tears - or is that just Bordeaux?

© Clare Kirwan

Don't worry - we do clean them up or chuck em if they come back nasty. And we get fresh new books every week - why not pop into your 'local' today and get the latest titles... but look after them nicely, won't you?


  1. Great to see you flying the flag for libraries, as ever, BB. Also great to see that you still have an active card index in your branch! Good luck with today, and Happy National Libraries Day!

    1. Thank you M! Only in the reference library upstairs. Actually I should post some pics of it...

  2. Good to see you back again. I too had a bit of a fallow period on my blog for most of 2013, but I'm trying to put that right now.

    And I LOVE "Sticky Books"!

    Hoping to hear more from you again soon!

    1. Thanks! It's all about finding the time isn't it? Glad you love the poem. I did read it at the event but bottled out of the last verse when two old ladies tottered in at the moment I was about to say shit and semen and it just didn't seem right! 8-)

  3. Also the interesting items used as bookmarks, as I remember from my far-off days as a library assistant.

    1. Yes!! Paul Farley mentions bacon rashers in his poem. And once only, a £20 note!!

  4. I think ALL these things when I am marking a set of kids' exercise books .... Love the poem.

  5. I quite like the chocolate smears and squashed sultanas between the pages of library books. It's the unidentified smears I'm not so sure about...

    1. Hmmm... best left that way. Sorry if I put ideas in your head! ;-)

  6. I guess the good thing about "sticky books" is that these are signs of them being well-used! I work in education in South Africa and many poor, rural schools (if they have a library) don't allow the children to take the books home because they come back as "sticky books".

    1. That is a shame - but at least the luckier ones get to read them at the library?

  7. Shit and semen - gordon bennett! I've never looked at it that way, but libraries can be really unhygienic. Brill poems by the way.

  8. Quick wipe with a clean warm damp cloth, Is that allowed? I always leave everything cleaner than I found it.

  9. pretty nice blog, following :)

  10. Hello BB My computer has been faulty for a while but not it's up and running again. Hope your day is going well. QW