So many books, so little time (part 1)

Ever wondered how Devon library staff spend their spare time?  Not surprisingly, many of us relax with a good book!

This is the first in a series of books read, loved and reviewed by staff.  Do you agree with them, or do you have a personal favourite and would like to see included here?

It would be great to hear from you.

An Oldy, but a goody – from Dawlish library

ogre ogreOgre Ogre by Piers Anthony from the Xanth series still makes me smile. I re-read it recently when I was ill and couldn’t settle, and it is still a feel good read. It is part of the fantasy genre, and I love the idea of an IQ vine that can sink into your head to make you smart. I only wish I had really had access to one while I was studying. If you like puns, adventure and romance it has it all, plus giant spiders, giants & heroes. I liked it so much I bought a copy, and it still resides in my bookshelf – very yellow but still fun.

Is there a catch – Darryl, Tavistock Library

My favourite book is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I first read it when I was at school; catch 22I loved its beautifully-written prose, delightfully disruptive non-linear structure, and its thought-provoking anti-establishment themes. It’s the only book I know to use the word “infundibuliform”, which is sadly underused in my opinion. And it features aeroplanes. What more could a boy want?

Can’t Sleep? – Lee , St Thomas Library

I read Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman in a log cabin in Finland mostly through einsteinsa few days of big thunderstorms and heavy rain. Looking over the lakes watching the ripples rock gently the small rowing boats. The heavy pungent smell of Juniper and Birchwood mixed with the fresh rain is something I will never forget. I savoured every sentence of this small book. It is a tiny book with more  ideas in it than any book I have ever read. Not difficult to read but huge concepts broken into small scenarios and stories really makes your brain work. It fictionalises Albert Einstein who as a young scientist is troubled by dreams whilst he works on his theory of relativity. The stories are heart breaking, uplifting clever and intellectually stimulating.

I can ‘see’ every sentence. The vignettes in this book are a mixture of exaggerated true phenomena and the unbelievable. Nearly 30 fantastic tiny stories that will make you think forever afterwards.

Something to pass on – Sharon, Barnstaple Library

One of my favourite books, which is a children’s book is ‘ King of the Copper Mountain, by Paul Biegel. It was first read to me at primary school by my teacher in a story time slot. The book is about the 1000 year old King who is dying and the only king copperthing that will save him is a plant called ‘speedwell’. The Wonder Doctor goes off in search of the plant and tells the king’s aide  – the hare – that the king needs a story told to him every night until the doctor can return with the cure. Each chapter of the book tells a different story, which are provided by visitors who meet the Wonder Doctor on his travels and are directed to the castle to tell their story.

Having had it read to me at school, I bought the book and read it again and again when I was younger. I have since read it to both of my children when they were younger as a bedtime story – one chapter a night.

Oh heck, I’ve got several – Wendy, Head Office

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book I read when I was in my early teens and prideI’ve loved it ever since and re-read it several times. It’s got wit and humour, a love story with a happy ending – lovely. It was also the first book I read that was written centuries ago and the fact that I could cope with the language and writing style and want more made me feel great about myself as a reader.

Then there’s 1984 by George Orwell – not a comfort read for sure, but it made me think differently about the world. Again I read it in my early teens. It 1984opened my eyes to politics and made me realise what a destructive thing power often is.

One of my all-time favourites is The Bone People by Keri Hulme. It won the Booker Prize in 1984. It’s an amazing book which stripped my emotions to the bone and totally engulfed me in the story. Haven’t read it since then, but it really sticks in my mind and just telling you about it bone peoplemakes me want to read it again. In fact I’ve just stopped mid-sentence and logged onto the catalogue and requested it!

I just love the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams! It is, of course a trilogy in 5 parts, so there’s plenty to read. I lived on a boat for about 13 years back in the 70s and 80s. We didn’t have a TV so I listened to a lot of radio and it was the radio adaptation that first captivated me. Really laugh-out-loud funny stuff! Quotes from it now form part of the fabric of my life. Whenever I’m, asked a question that I don’t know the answer to, I’ll often answer – 42! In addition to the humour and Adams’ writing style, it has lots of observations on human nature. Great stuff!hitchhikers

You can find out more about the books on our We Love… Pinterest board.

There are lots of staff who want to share their favourite reads with you, so watch out for part 2 in this series soon.

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New Jamie Oliver book available in Devon libraries

A new cookbook by TV chef and entrepreneur Jamie Oliver is being donated free to all 50 Devon County Council libraries in a move by publishers to make it available and accessible to everyone.

Jamie’s new book, ‘Save With Jamie’, launched today (Thursday 29 August), is in response to public demand for a cookbook about exciting food that doesn’t ‘break the bank’.

It includes recipes, advice and techniques to teach people recession-busting cooking skills, to help families under financial pressure to shop carefully, cook cleverly and to eat well with less waste.

The average family wastes £680 on food a year, says the book’s publishers, Penguin Random House. They and the national charity The Reading Agency have teamed up to make the book available nationally through libraries, as well as available for sale by retailers.

To make the book even more accessible, the Devon library service is waiving the reservation charge, so that people can reserve the book free until Christmas.

Jamie book

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Free Fridays @ Devon Libraries

workclub2Do you need help to use the Internet?  Apply for jobs online? Use the GOV.UK website to apply for housing, car tax etc?  Put together a winning CV?  Well, Devon Libraries can help.

In response to the changes in the Welfare Reform Act and the increased need for everyone to be able to get online and use the Internet, we have launched our Free Fridays service.

This service gives all customers the opportunity to have up to two hours free use of  library computers and the support of our trained staff.

The Free Fridays service is available every Friday at the following libraries:

Barnstaple, Bideford, Dawlish, Exmouth, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge, Okehampton, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton

And from September 6th 2013 at :

Exeter Central, The Hayridge, Cullompton, Passmore Edwards Centre, Newton Abbot

Every Friday, there will be trained staff available to assist you to get online, access the relevant websites, get help from other specialist organisations and search for jobs online.  We have a range of online resources as well as some great books.

Each library also has partnerships with other support and advice organisations in the local area.  At present we are working with JobCentre Plus, Petroc, Adult and Community Learning, Citizens Advice Bureau, National Westminster Bank, Credit Unions, Careers Service, Pathfinders, Rotary and many more.

A selection of Comments from Users and Libraries:

“What a great idea – very helpful to people job searching without access to a computer elsewhere”

“helped me to look through more job sites and apply for jobs I was interested in”

“A brilliant idea, I managed to do a test today for a job”

“Works great for me!  Long may it continue.  I’ll be here every Friday”

“On a jolly note 2 members of the job club got work this week. (Tiverton library)”

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Join the Conversation – Beginners Guide to Twitter

Twitter logoHere at Devon Libraries we use Twitter to keep in touch with our customers and give updates and information that might be of interest to them.  We love to hear from people who love Libraries!

Throughout February 2013 we will be using Twitter to try and encourage more people to join the library. The main focus will be on National Libraries Day (9th February) when librarians will be tweeting from libraries around Devon. If you’ve never used Twitter before, here’s how to join the conversation.

What is Twitter?
Twitter  is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and to read text based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “Tweets” In its simplest form, you read the Tweets of people you follow and your Tweets are read by people who follow you.

Latest figures (December 2012) show that there are over 200 million users around the world.

So, if you want to join them here is a quick summary of how to get an account with Twitter and start using it right away!

Signing up for Twitter is very easy.
To start, log onto and go to the “Sign Up” box. You’ll be asked for your full name, email, and password. Enter your information (you can change this at any time) and you’ll get an email asking you to verify your account. Click on the link in your email and you’ll be asked to create your username.

Your username is the official name you go by;  it’s a unique name that people can use to identify and find you. It’s what you see after the @ sign (more on that later). Your full name, by contrast, is what’s shown on your Tweets. You can use your real name or a version of your username – for example, the username @funnyquotes9876 can use the full name Funny Quotes.

You’ll be asked to fill in your profile with some basic information.  You can modify this information at any time, so just start with some very basic details that you don’t mind sharing!

Once you have your Twitter account, what can you do with it??

You wanted to catch up on some news. So how do you do that?  First you will need to start following other Twitter users.  You could start by following Devon Libraries! Whenever you follow someone, all of their Tweets appear on your homepage, which is the page you see when you visit You can ‘follow’ by going to their profile and clicking on the Follow button.

Tweets are displayed in chronological order, so as a new Tweet comes in (that is, whenever someone you follow sends out a Tweet) your homepage is updated. This is known as your timeline.

There are a few things you can do with a Tweet:

  • Click on a link and it will be opened in a new tab.
  • Click on the Tweet itself and it will be “expanded” (the image of a Tweet you saw earlier was expanded). You can see additional information when the Tweet is expanded, like retweets and replies.
  • Hover your mouse over the Tweet and you’ll see links for you to Expand, Reply, Retweet, or Favorite the Tweet.
  • Click on the name of the author to see their profile – you can, again, see information about them and follow them from here.

Strange Symbols!
When you first look at Twitter you will see that @ and # are used all the time.  So.. what do they mean and how do you use them?

Mentions @
The @, pronounced “at”, is used for “mentions. If  you’re writing a Tweet and want to mention another Twitter user. You’d write @ + their user name anywhere in the body of the Tweet to “mention” them. When you mention someone in a Tweet, that Tweet will show up on their homepage.

You might want to mention someone if:

  • That person was the source of what you said – often used with news
  • That person did something related to the Tweet – often you’ll just replace their name with their username.
  • You want that person to see what you’re saying – often used when you’re writing about a company, etc.
  • They might be interested in what you have to say – often used when you’re sharing links

Hashtags #
If there’s one aspect of Twitter that confuses people more than any other it’s using hashtags #

A hashtag doesn’t actually do anything. It’s basically a tag, a badge, a label, that acts as shorthand for “this post is about x.”

Let’s say,  for example, that you want to know what is happening for National Libraries Day – how can a hashtag help you find the relevant tweets?

Log in to Twitter and do a search for #NLD13 – the resulting page reveals every tweet that’s been posted using that hashtag. You’ve just unlocked the hashtag’s secret superpower!! It offers a means for multiple people tweeting about the same topic to view and react to each other’s tweets.  A good hashtag will be: descriptive, short ( it counts as part of your 140 characters) and unique.

Now, you are ready to send your first Tweet!

A Tweet is a short message (max 140 characters) that any Twitter user can post. Tweets are the headlines of the web. A Tweet can contain any of the following:

  • Text
  • Links to webpages
  • Links to images/photos
  • @Mentions
  • #Hashtags

A summary of Activites for becoming A Twitter user

1. Visit Twitter and sign up for a free account. Try a few tweets.
2. Visit the Devon Libraries Twitter  page and “follow” us!
3. Search Twitter for anything that interests you to explore how people use this tool.  Try searching for #NLD13
4. If you’re a library member tell us why you love your library using the hashtag #lovemyDevonLibrary

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Summer Reading Challenge 2012 – Devon Libraries’ story

Story Lab banner

The Summer Reading Challenge is the biggest UK reading initiative. It runs in libraries throughout the school holidays creating a real buzz around children’s reading. The challenge is simple – to read six or more library books over the summer. The theme this year was ‘Story Lab’ – a celebration of story and imagination. Story Lab was an official partner in the Cultural Olympiad which allowed libraries to tap into all the excitement.

Olympic torches from Summer Reading Challenge activity

All 50 libraries and Starters and finishers Summer Reading challenge graph8 mobile libraries in Devon offered the Summer Reading Challenge. Over 8000 children took part, 30% more than last year and almost half the participants completed the Challenge.

Continue reading

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Exeter Library LIVE!

Silent Voices, by Ann CleevesDevon Libraries and Cyprus Well (a charity which raises funds to promote reading, writers and literature to audiences around the South West region) are launching a new collaborative partnership programme – ‘Exeter Library Live’ – an ambitious programme which sees a range of exciting new events, writers, talks and exhibitions coming to Exeter Central Library.

The new programme kicks off on Thursday 29th September at 7.30pm with ‘An evening with Ann Cleeves’, the award-winning crime writer who will be talking about her latest Vera Stanhope novel, Silent Voices, and talking about her life as a writer.

The Vera Stanhope novels have recently been adapted as a hugely successful prime-time TV drama starring Brenda Blethyn.

If you would like to come along and meet Ann, tickets are £5 and are available from the Exeter Phoenix Box Office on 01392 667080 or at

Look out for further events in the Exeter Library Live programme…next up will be the Exeter Poetry Festival from 6th to 9th October which will include appearances by Hugo Williams, David Constantine and Laurence Sail amongst others.

Arts Council - Lottery Funded LogoCyprus Well Logo

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Summer Reading Ideas

Beach huts - Exmouth, DevonThe days are longer and the weekends more leisurely making this a fantastic time to read a book!

Whether you’re reading to stimulate your mind, want to loose yourself in a stirring adventure, or to learn something new, here are a few ideas for a perfect summer read.

A few tips before you start:

  • Why not tackle the pile of books by your bed? Sift through them and get rid of the ones you will honestly never read.
  • Look for books that will fit into the time you have available. Consider collections of short stories, essays or poetry if you don’t have much time. Choose some longer or more challenging books if you are going on holiday.

Visit your local library

Your local library will be happy to help you find the right book. If you have read everything by your favourite author, then your librarian can recommend other authors who write in a similar style. Some libraries have reading groups that you could join, and most will have seasonal recommendations.

Use Devon Libraries online catalogue to find out if the book you want is in stock then reserve it from your library or online. You could even borrow an audio book to listen to in the car.


Ask friends for recommendations. They may be able to suggest some hidden gems.

Have a look at the TV Book Club recommendations for summer 2011, for example:

Richard and Judy’s book Club is still going strong and includes podcasts and reviews of the books they recommend.

The Channel 4 TV Book Club has suggestions, book notes, summaries and author profiles that will help you make a decision.

LibraryThing  is a cataloguing and social networking site for book lovers with over one million members worldwide.  You can add your own collection and LibraryThing will come up with recommendations based on the books you already have. You can also find members around the world who have a similar taste in books to you. Checking out their ‘virtual bookshelves’ can give you some exciting new suggestions. It’s really easy to register – you don’t even need to give an email address to sign up.

Goodreads  has over 5 million members and is a book recommendation service. You can join online reading groups (e.g. Stephen King Fans) or browse the service’s top shelves to find more recommendations.  The reviews and recommendations can vary considerably though as they are added by members.

Amazon features books old and new, with reviews, recommendations, top 100 charts, and of course if something takes your fancy – you can buy it! The site also includes reviews of audio books, ebooks and the ability to download Kindle e-books.


There are also websites that designed to generate suggestions based on the books and authors you like.

What should I read next? has over 75,000 titles and is quite fast at offering suggestions. If you are looking for something similar to well loved book – this is a fast and easy site to use.

whichbook? is a quirky site. Instead of choosing from a book list or genre, suggestions are made based on your reading mood using a combination of sliding scales between the two opposites, happy or sad, funny or serious, safe or disturbing, sex or no sex.

There are 20 million different permutations possible, so if you’re not sure what to read this is the perfect solution to help you find something new.

Enjoy your summer reading!

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