Books, blogs... and a bacon bookmark at library

Swindon Advertiser: Kelly Saunders at work in Swindon Central Library Kelly Saunders at work in Swindon Central Library

KELLY Saunders works at the Central Library and has a blog.

You might think a librarian wouldn’t have all that much to write about – “Shelved a book, stamped a book, said ‘Shhh’” – but you’d be wrong.

Spend enough time working in a library and you gather a stock of stories to rival some of the tales on the shelves.

Swindon’s include The Horror of the Sinister Receipt, The Mystery of the Thong and The Letter from Lord Lucan.

The greatest of all, though, and the only one Kelly has so far shared with the public, is The Bacon Incident.

Picture the scene: you are a librarian busily reshelving returned books, perhaps in a gloomy corner with nobody else nearby, when you notice something strange about one of them. It doesn’t seem to shut properly. Why could that be? Ah, there’s the culprit – you can just see the edge of a bookmark. A pink bookmark. Better take it out...

Whether the librarian screamed when they put their hand on what turned out to be a moist and chilly rasher of pig flesh is not recorded. Nor is the name of the librarian, which merely adds to the legend.

“The bacon incident,” said Kelly, “was back in the time of the huts, more than 15 years ago.” The Time of the Huts, a fitting name for an era of strange tales, was the long period before the Central Library was built.

Kelly is 31 and lives in Swindon with partner and fellow librarian Tom Blake. The couple have a baby son, Arlo.

“I did a Library and Information Studies diploma at Aberystwyth a few years ago,” said Kelly, “but I’ve always loved coming to the library.

“It says on my library record that I joined on December 17, 1984. That would have been at the old Cavendish Square library, with mum. I used to go twice a day in the summer holidays, replacing books I’d already read.”

Rebecca followed a history degree at Oxford Brookes with a Masters in the same subject before studying for her library qualification, and has been a Swindon librarian for two years.

The blog was an idea she came up with in response to an appeal for suggestions about promoting the service.

“I thought it would be nice to do a ‘behind the scenes’ because so many people have the idea that we say ‘Shh’ and stamp books, and that that’s the grand total of what we do.”

In fact librarians help the public in all sorts of ways. There was the worried customer who approached a member of staff holding her receipt for returned books. As library members will know, the machine prints the titles of the returned books, and the customer’s receipt listed hers. “First Strike” was followed by: “You’ve Been Warned.”

Then there was the time in West Swindon when £50 was found in a book and returned to the last borrower, who simply said: “I wondered where I put that.”

Bacon isn’t the only unusual thing found in a book. A bird care book came back liberally sprinkled with seed, and another volume yielded a pink thong. Mercifully, it was still in its packaging. The title of that book was not recorded.

Proofs of identity submitted by people joining the library have included ASBO orders and letters about trial dates, but staff drew the line at one person who presented a letter signed by Lord Lucan, missing since 1974 after allegedly murdering his family’s nanny. Sadly, the peer didn’t include a return address.

So far Kelly’s blog has covered the mysteries of what happens to your returned book after the machine in the wall grabs it, promoted a reading event called National Bookstart week and even quoted Einstein.

Apparently old Albert knew about a lot more than relativity, and once said: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Kelly subscribes to the ‘Catch Them Early’ philosophy when it comes to readers: “We still get some people who complain that they can hear children, but children are going to be the library users of the future, and if we tell them they can’t come in and have fun, they’re not going to want to come in and we won’t have a library service.”

Kelly’s blog and other librarians’ blogs can be found at swindonlibraries.wordpress.com

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